Monday, February 4, 2013

REVIEW: Trickster by Jeff Somers

Trickster Trickster by Jeff Somers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For a book that has blood magic, human sacrifices, and explosion scenes, it was not highly exciting as I had expected. A book of master storytelling as blurbed it was not.

The story largely consisted of the good guys running away, from one place to another that made me think poorly of the characters and flashbacks that were so seamlessly written that it took me a few seconds to realize a few of them were flashbacks. The book kept my attention, but it was under a fog of boredom.

The Characters

+ the protagonist
I liked Lem in the beginning but his White Knight Complex quickly wore me down. First, it was annoying; the damsel in distress trope is overused in Urban Fantasy. Second, it was inconsistent with his occupation as a Trickster, a grifter who uses blood magic. I was having a hard time reconciling Lem having ethics with Lem being a grifter.

Overall, the biggest issue I had with Lem was that he was yet another Urban Fantasy protagonist who had great power but didn’t use it because of “reasons” which in this case was Lem’s fear of succumbing to power-hungriness. His reason was valid, but he and his companions were in a desperate situation that strongly called for desperate measures. His reason no longer held water.

It frustrated me how Lem missed many opportunities to be clever or ruthless or showed he was more capable than standing up (foolishly) to bad guys. He should have done something other than running away, or if he was going to be an outright coward, he should have thrown away the White Knight Complex. I hated his noncommittal attitude.

+ the sidekick
Mags as a dimwitted, brawny sidekick was more than stereotypical, it was slightly offensive. The character seemed to have special needs. There was no doubt Lem love Mags like a true brother but that didn’t excuse Lem’s negligence. Many times I was angry at Lem for involving Mags in dangerous matters.

+ the damsel in distress
Surprisingly, Claire wasn’t annoying. I liked how she wasn’t going to let herself become a damsel in distress and took an active part of rescuing herself from her predicament with Lem and co. I give points for the book making the main female character a strong, capable character. I would have given more points if her character wasn’t someone with a bad past like everyone else in the story.

+ the bad guys
While the good guys were found lacking, the bad guys were great. They were somewhat stereotypical but they weren’t flat. Unlike the infamous Countess Bathory of history, Renar has real and powerful magic, and her ritual to immortality would work. Her prodigy, Amir, is equally ruthless and ambitious, though he could work harder at hiding his backstabby streak.

The Writing

+ the pacing
The pacing was too slow for a book full of supposedly exciting things. It wasn’t slow in a mind-numbingly way; it was slow in the “this can be edited further” way.

+ the magic lingo
I didn’t like the magic lingo. I found its usage a tad excessive for an Urban Fantasy, and it was unevenly explained. The vernacular would have been sufficient and made the story an easier read.

+ plot hole
Why did it never occur to Lem to take normal jobs like non-magical people do? It was told many times that being a Trickster was hard and risky, but it was never really explained why anyone would become one. It was strongly suggested to me that being a burger flipper was more lucrative than being a Trickster, not to mention the lack of danger. I can partially understand if an amoral person becomes a Trickster, but Lem was someone with ethics and supposedly with common sense.

+ the worldbuilding
It was gritty as advertised. The book sucked at maintaining a strong sense of suspense, but it did at least maintain a strong sense of place. Lem and his companions moved around a lot, and never once did I get lost as to where they were and where they were going.

In Conclusion

I rate Tricksters 2-stars for it was okay. The good guys were meh, the plot — disappointedly meh, and there was a plot hole. Book 1 was a subpar start of the Ustari Cycle series. If you are up to date on all your favorite Urban Fantasy series and looking for another promising series, try Tricksters.

Goodreads | Amazon

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