Friday, March 1, 2013

REVIEW: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2) The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the awesomeness that was book 1 — read my review for book here, I held high expectation for book 2. Woah did I regret doing that. Book 2 exercised my suspension of disbelief hard. Immediately, there were signs portending disappointment. Towards the ending, they bloomed like prickly weeds, and I was left with a rather bitter taste as if I literally ate a weed.

+ the protagonist
Jaron bugged me. He was rude to the people who didn’t deserve it. No, I did not care it was intended to distance and shield them from the danger of being around him. It was juvenile and short-sighted. The times when Jaron was kind, he was kind mostly to the people who didn’t deserve it. They should have been killed for the sake of his life and the relief of my great annoyance. Goodness was I annoyed! How many times does someone have to try to kill you before you accept the fact that they don’t just like you? Honestly.

I stopped thinking Jaron was clever and started seeing him in full display as a Gary Stu. The plot forced itself to portray him as clever when in reality nothing he did was actually clever but instead was reckless. He succeeded only by an incredible amount of luck. So much luck that I swear I could hear the story’s internal logic cracking like an elephant on thin ice. How Jaron overcame obstacle after obstacle, each more seemingly insurmountable than the previous, was difficult to digest.

+ Roden
For 99% of the book, I could not understand for the life of me why Jaron insisted on obtaining Roden’s loyalty when Roden did nothing to earn it. Nothing at all. Roden was homicidal towards Jaron and not to mention useless. I was waiting for Roden to die like the expendable villain that he was. What happened to Jaron and Roden towards the end left me flabbergasted and steamed. When Jaron revealed his reasons for why he wanted Roden at the end, I immediately called bullshit. Utter, utter bullshit. I seriously questioned Jaron’s competence to rule as king. Hell, I questioned his intelligence; I think all that fighting and blood loss Jaron went through obliterated some brain cells.

+ the pirates
The book spent an inordinate amount of the plot developing the bad dudes’ fearsome reputation. When the reader, via Jaron, finally met them, they turned out to be less fearsome than the countryside robbers Jaron encountered in the middle of the book. These pirates respected and protected their female servants. They adhered to a pirate’s code and kept their promises like honorable knights. They weren’t greedy as they were said to be, because if they were they would have tortured Jason until he confessed the location of the kingdom’s treasury. They were basically good guys in bad guys’ clothes who were no more bloodthirsty than the average soldier.

The only actual bad guy in the bunch was the leader of the pirates, and how things ended with him, so ridiculously contrived, made me want to slap somebody. It seriously discredited the leader as a swordmaster and cracked the plot’s internal logic some more.

+ the love triangle
I didn’t really believe there was a love triangle in book 1, but to my disgust book 2 proved me wrong. Imogen and Jaron like each other but can’t be together, because Jaron is a king and Amarinda is promised to be the king’s wife. The romance between Imogen and Jaron was about as convincing and real as a flying pig, and as terrible to read as if that flying pig shit on my head. I felt I got shit on some more when I read how the issue resolved itself.

Isn’t this book supposed to be a Middle Grade? I know I tagged it Young Adult, but the publisher list the book as Middle Grade. Love triangle in a Middle Grade? Has Young Adult been infested by a nearby genre with its laziness?

+ Amarinda
I felt really bad for Amarinda. No one wanted her. Hell, it seemed like even the series doesn’t want her. She still played an important role in book 2, but barely. As the story progressed, it was getting to look like the character was introduced in the series as an afterthought.

Book 2 never developed her beyond the tragic princess from some far away, forgettable kingdom book 1 established her to be. For all the talks about how Jaron’s kingdom was in danger and they have no allies, why did no one ever ask Amarinda’s kingdom for help? Why couldn’t Amarinda or Jaron break off the engagement? “Because the story said so” is not an answer, but that was what essentially was given. Did anyone ever bother to tell Amarinda’s kingdom that the dude she was supposed to marry, Jaron’s big brother, is dead, and Jaron is now her new fiance? If so, what did they think? Where were the political ramifications? Too many questions, and none of them answered.

Once I started examining Amarinda’s backstory, I saw how poorly it was developed. I saw the lack of a strong reason for her character. I started cynically thinking the only reason she was in the series to make for a ridiculous, shitty love triangle.

In Conclusion

I rate The Runaway King 3 stars for I liked it. Surprised? Me too. In spite of all the issues, I managed to enjoy the story...somewhat. The pacing was fast so I never had a long moment to dwell on the issues as they popped up. There was a good twist, some wrapping up of loose ends, and great progress made in the series overall. I didn’t even mind the cliffhanger ending, though half of that was due to the lowering of expectation and subsequent loss of anticipation for the next book. One thing was for sure, I wasn’t bored at least.

Fair warning. That 3 stars is provisional. I will downrate if book 3 sucks ass because how the series is overall affects my very subjective ratings. Hell, even book 1’s 5 stars rating is provisional.

Goodreads | Amazon

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