Monday, March 28, 2016

LibraryThing Review: Seer's Blood

Author: Doranna Durgin
Genre: YA
Pages: 310
Warnings: Death, torture
Rating: 3/5

Doranna Durgin's novel "Seer's Blood" follows feisty mountaineering outcast Blaine who follows enigmatic newcomer Dacey on a daring coming of age journey to save her family and her home. Blaine has been haunted by troubling dreams when she sees a large group of strangers camping out near her family's homestead. Not too long after a curious man, Dacey, brings warning of an ancient enemy. Blaine, armed with the incomplete knowledge of the long-lost seers, eventually allies with Dacey and his frankly awesome dogs, they learn, grow, rally their strength and lead an epic ass-kicking charge.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. It had a shadowy, possibly novel magic system, a straight up awesome villain, a solid heroine and a good dynamic between the two main characters. It had dogs, written well! So much potential, and instead of doing anything revolutionary Durgin meandered through the plot. Which is to say the climax was well done, but I was a little upset because it could have been so much more expansive in scope.

Like I said, there were things I liked a lot. The most fantastic part for me was the realistic portrayal of the rural setting. Durgin wrote about collecting greens several times in this story and the attention to detail (use of an herb garden, references to the greens wilting in less than a day, etc) was excellent. I felt confident that she either knows exactly what she's talking about or has a fine eye for detail. I felt the same way about the characterization of the dogs throughout the book, and especially the mutual affection between Dacey and his pack. It's realistic and adorable. I also liked how the main characters, Dacey and Blaine, built a richer relationship organically over the course of their adventures. I personally struggled a little with the local dialect all the characters spoke in, but I think that worked effectively to make the setting in the story distinct and believable. In fact, most of the character interactions in "Seer's Blood" both felt real and effective in moving forward the plot.

My biggest frustrations with this book were what I saw as missed opportunties. This book has several elements of solid storytelling, and a premise ripe with mystery. There's an extremely non-standard villain type with a novel form of consciousness, for cripe's sake! So, here we have the makings for a truly epic showdown between two ancient powers, like "Return of the Kings" epic. However the finale for this story was (no spoilers provided herein) good, but commensurate with "The Fellowship of the Ring". I read the ending and was so convinced that it was part of a series I googled "Seer's ring trilogy", and only after about the third website confirmed this book was stand-alone did I accept it was true.

Additionally, and I admit this is just me, I wanted to see more made of the villain. The Annektah are a multi-minded being that can exist without physical form, but prefer to override body's consciousness and experience it's host's emotions. I was really hoping that Durgin would take advantage of the opportunity to create a legitimately alien mind, kind of like the Oankali from "Liliths' Brood" (a good round-up of the themes and a description of the Oankali here). Instead the Annektah come off as incomprehensible to humans, not because they have a foreign ethical system, but because their cruelty reaches mustachioed kidnapper levels.

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