3.5 stars out of 5
The Talisman of El
is a GOOD book but it could have been so much better. It's got an interesting plot and the writing style is pretty neat (witty one-liners throughout the book made me chuckle out loud in several places), but these two alone do not a great novel make.
Where the books fell short for me was in -a) The character development :
Or lack thereof. As in, there was none of it. At all. We start off by meeting Derkein who, we are given the impression, is not on good terms with his dad. Why?
Something about him neglecting Derkein because he wants to bring Derkein's mom back from the dead. And that's it. No back-story there. (Also, Derkein's sullen and whiny behaviour in this scene made me think he was in his early teens, but it turns out later that he is, in fact, 27 :-/ )
Cut to, immediately, to Charlie, who, somehow, has ended up in foster care (under Jacob, who is first shown to be a damaged but caring man who has taken in a kid to fill the void his dead wife left in his life, BUT THEN, OUT OF THE BLUE, we are told he is a mean and conniving thief with no heart and isn't above threatening and using kids to do his dirty job for him)
Absolutely no background about Charlie's family or his childhood is given except for a couple of flashback scenes which don't reveal much about anything at all and are present for the sole reason of some very contrived foreshadowing.
Charlie has strange dreams, hears things, can talk to animals, can see the future, can understand and speak several languages without having learnt any and is all-round awesome at everything (Is there anything he can't do!). Why? Because he is the re-incarnation of a superhuman being who was the King of the world (which his mom somehow knew BEFORE SHE GAVE BIRTH TO HIM), that's why.
Wait, what? Why? HOW?
Just accept it, don't ask questions!
Then we meet Alex, who seems to be the only interesting character in the book.... until she is reduced to a touchy, lovelorn, jealous teen like every other garden-variety YA female character these days. Again, not much info is provided about her or her family apart from the fact that she is Spanish (half?) and her mom is bipolar.
And WHERE do I begin with Richmond?? He was absolutely NOT necessary to the plot AT ALL except to round out the number of kids in the book to the YA norm of three. So, here's how it goes in the book - we meet Rich in, say, page 10 where we learn he's hiding in a shack in the woods because he's run away from foster care (Because you can't have kids with parents who are ALIVE for a change in YA books - it cramps their style, yo!), and by page 12, he's bunking with Charlie and nobody feels the need to even address how they agreed upon that arrangement and what happened in between. And for the rest of the book, he says and does pretty much nothing except to help Charlie show off his superhuman powers to everybody present. Who is Rich? What happened to him? How did he end up in the woods? What is his role in the book?
I doubt even the author knows/cares.
Same goes for the Arcadian characters as well. They are introduced, physically described and abandoned as minor background entities. All the characters come across as one-dimensional - there's no growth across the book whatsoever. b) The plot development :
This was also a bit lacking and inconsistent as pretty much most
of what happened in the book wasn't explained properly as well as the scenes kept jumping from Point A to Point Z, and back, unexpectedly, and it annoyed me to no end that we were just expected to go along with it. It's like the author just wanted to tell a story and wasn't too fussed about what story she wanted to tell.
That saddened me as the book could have had so much potential.
HOWEVER, the story was interesting enough that it kept me turning the pages and I am considering picking up the sequel(s) to see where things go because I KNOW this CAN get better! I just hope the author figures out who her characters are, and what she wants her book to be about, by then.ARC provided by NetGalley and Centrinian Publishing.