Friday, July 22, 2011

Review - Quest for the Scorpion's Jewel

Title: Quest for the Scorpion's Jewel
Author Amy Green
Pub. Date: July, 2011

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosQuest for the Scorpion's Jewel is a Christian-based, high fantasy novel set in the fictional lands of Amaris and Da'armos. The first book of the Amaris Adventures series by author Amy Green, Quest for the Scorpion's Jewel follows Jesse, a fifteen-year-old boy with a bum leg, as he sets out on an adventure he could only have dreamed about before.

Every five years, Selen, the king of Amaris, gathers together the bravest of the brave, the smartest of the smart, and the most dedicated young citizens (ages 12-18), seperates them into squads of four, trains them up, and then sends them out on a dangerous mission for King and Country.

Jesse is not one of these Youth Guard members, but when three of them (one of them gravely injured) show up on his doorstep late one night, that is when Jesse's adventures begin.

I can't say I loved this story. It was good. Enough that when the second book is released, given the chance I'll
give it a look, and not only because of how this one left off. The storyline was original enough, the world was really well developed, but I couldn't really connect with the characters.

When I read, I like to get so engrossed with a story that the characters seem almost real to me, if that makes sense. At least for the span of that book, almost like I am a part of the story, though I am just there to observe.

With Quest for the Scorpion's Jewel, while I could watch the characters just fine in my head, I never felt that "realness", not that the characters, for the most part, weren't believeable. They were, though at times I felt they were undermined by one of the main themes.

As I said before, this book is very Christian-based. So, naturally, one of the major themes would be religion—more particularly, Christianity, and the Christian God.

Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with these themes. There are ways they can be done right, and fit into the story. While I think the God-themes fit into this story—everyone questions what they believe at one point or another. If they are a self-proclaimed non-believer, sometimes they will pray to a god they don't believe in, in hopes of a desirable outcome—possibly, even, becoming a believer if such an outcome is met. And some are so steadfast in their beliefs, everything that happens is just further proof (positive, or negative). These aspects, I think, were addressed nicely.

What I didn't like, was how the author seemed to stress the idea that if you believe in God, pray to God, seek God, things will work out for the best (ok, that's fine), but if you don't believe in God, if you don't seek His help, you will fail, and things won't turn out right. That, in my opinion, is a bit harsh for a YA novel.

There's this one scene, shortly after the three Youth Guard members arrive, when one of them is talking to Jesse. He says Jesse reminds him of his brother (who, I assume, died, at some point before the story), and goes on to say:
"My brother lived his life denying God, believing that he was good enough, strong enough and clever enough to save himself. Do not make the same mistake he did."
When Jesse says that his father once told him they didn't need God, and could take care of themselves, this charcter responds:
"That's what my brother said, too."

As an author, you have every right to put your beliefs onto paper, into your story. But when you threaten a character with God like that, in my opinion, you're threatening whoever reads that story, as well—especially when that thought is revisited upon several times throughout the course of the book. To do that in a book targeted to children, to young adults, is just wrong.

On top of that, the author then goes on undermine her own characters with her beliefs.

One of the characters (a 'bad guy', who "had never been one for idle superstions."), towards the end of the book says of the main characters:
"The way everything had worked out so perfectly for them was impossible. Not miraculous, of course, just odd-defying luck."

Perhaps it's the fact that I'm not Christian; perhaps I'm just used to fantastical stories, but that statement, to me, totally detracts from the author's character building. I could see these characters accomplishing these tasks without divine help. To say that it was impossible for these characters to be able to do these things—why would any author wish to detract from their characters personalites and talents like that?

Of course, I could be completely off base here. That could just be the opinion of a frustrated, stubborn character who didn't succeed in his mission, didn't get his way, and now had to face consequences, and I could just be blowing it all out of proportion—but it didn't feel that way.

All things said, I liked the story. Quest for the Scorpion's Jewel was an entertaining, exciting tale, and I'd like to see what happens next. I would give this book 2.4 hearts, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys good storytelling.


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