Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch by Ashland Menshouse

Title: The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch
Author: Ashland Menshouse
Length: 10309 Kindle units
Rating: 2 stars

The Plot

Aubrey finds his ordinary high school life hard enough to deal with, what with the constant bullying, his father’s lack of understanding, and his mother’s illness. He could really do without the complications of a ghost haunting his room, a mysterious woman appearing in town, and who knows what kind of trouble popping up below the local dam. But if Aubrey wants to get any sleep at night – and avoid getting sent away to military school – he and his friend are going to have figure out what all these things mean, before it’s too late for everyone.

The Good

So first off I must give props to The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch for including characters of varied racial backgrounds. Anyone who reads YA books knows that the genre tends to be about teenaged white girls. This does not make them bad in and of itself, and on some level it’s understandable. After all, white girls are the primary readers of YA fiction, so it makes sense to write books to them. We just end up with a chicken-and-egg scenario where we don’t know if it’s the content driving the audience or vice versa. Regardless, in The Last Seer, one of the main characters is Native American, and another is black, and it was nice to see some diversity for a change.

I’m going to come down pretty hard on this book in the next section, so I want to say here that the base story of The Last Seer is actually quite good. Once you see how all the pieces of the story fit together, it’s really unique and interesting, particularly the mythology surrounding curses. There was even one part where the characters were exploring a buried house that was seriously creepy. I generally don’t like it when books scare me, but I have to give points to the author for evoking the emotion.

Also, now that I have read it and look at it again, I really like the cover. It’s a good depiction of what goes on in the book.

The Bad

The Last Seer was definitely not the worst book I have read for this blog, but it was the hardest to get through. At over 10,000 Kindle units, it’s also the longest book I have yet reviewed. As I said above, the story itself was pretty good, but it was muddied by swathes of unnecessary text. There were long meandering descriptions that served no purpose to the plot, but then when something relevant actually happened, the chapter was cut short, sometimes to be picked up days or even months later. I think the idea was to make the tone dramatic and suspenseful, but in practice, every scene ended just before something interesting started, so I had no idea what was going on. And there were some scenes that were purely unnecessary. There’s a whole multi-chapter boat race that reminds me of nothing so much as the pod race from Star Wars Episode I in that it was a 15 minute bathroom break in the middle of the movie. But I don’t need a bathroom break for a book.

Also, I never thought I would find a boy getting bullied to be unsympathetic, but it turns out he really can. Aubrey gets threatened by the bullies and immediately just does what they want without even trying to stand up for himself. I mean, if they actually beat him up once, or, like, threatened someone close to him, then I could see him caving. But without any attempt on his part to combat the unfairness, I found myself agreeing with Aubrey’s father that he needed to man up. Magnos the bully actually ended up being a far more interesting character than Aubrey.

The Romance

There is not much in the way of romance in The Last Seer. Some of the characters go to Homecoming with dates of dubious quality, and there are hints that two of the characters might end up together at the end. But mostly everyone is thinking about other things, like not dying

Will I read more?

I really feel like getting through the entirety of The Last Seer was an achievement on par with reading Paradise Lost for my 12th grade summer reading, except without having a work of classic literature on my repertoire. I do not think that my brain cells could handle sifting through more of the extraneous descriptions. Of course, if the second book were like Paradise Regained – by which I mean significantly less than half the length of the original – I might be persuaded to give it a try.

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