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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

Scattered across the wilds of the Expanse, House Abascar is growing restless of the ramblings of their supposed king, Cal-raven. They are tired of hearing him talk about the invisible Keeper and the disappeared Auralia. Soon Cal-raven and Tabor Jan turn to House Bel Amica for help. House Bel Amica is the rich kingdom by the sea who give their glory and praise to the moon-spirits, as they are directed by the mysterious Seers. Cal-raven believes that Queen Theresa's daughter Cyndere is the only Bel Amican who can be trusted because of her actions toward Auralia. As House Abascar makes their way toward House Bel Amica for help, Cal-raven encounters many strange circumstances that cause him to question what he formerly called truth. The Keeper is still a mystery, and Auralia, the only person he thinks has any answers, is missing. The Seers are waiting to take control of Abascar because of all this doubt, but few can stop them.

As if Auralia's Colors and Cyndere's Midnight weren't hard enough to decipher and understand, Raven's Ladder is harder. Jeffrey Overstreet's cryptic and abstract writing style does not convey correctly the story he wants the reader to understand. I know this because there is a What's Gone One Before chapter at the beginning of Raven's Ladder, and what it says makes the first two strands of the Auralia Thread useless because the reader cannot draw from these two books what Overstreet portrays at the beginning of this third book. Therefore, Jeffrey has wasted another work of fiction with his nonsense.

Cal-raven is a strange guide to the mysterious and abstract world called the Expanse because he is a mental case himself. He sees things that other characters cannot see. His viewpoints of the plot are a random string of nonsensical scenes that only serve to confuse the reader and muddle the book. There are many other characters such as Jordam, Krawg, Cyndere, Tabor Jan, Ark-robin, Say-Reesa, Luci, Madi, Margi, Ryllion, Theresa, Emeriene, and Wynn who are all undeveloped and half-used because there are far too many characters. Jeffrey did not spend enough time on each individual character and their subplots because there were too many other characters to think about. The Seers are interesting enough villains, but once again, are not expanded upon for the same reason. Jeffrey has a lot to learn about character development, clearly.

There are many interesting otherworldly elements such as triplets who can thought speak together, a healer who takes on the person's illness in order to heal them, and people who can mold stones like clay, but none of these align together to form a plot. Jeffrey throws them all onto the pages of this book without bothering to form a plot with them. I suppose this is the book's biggest problem: there is no sturdy plot. Between all the characters Jeffrey must juggle, Cal-raven's abstract visions, and Overstreet's lack of background or description about the Expanse; there is no plot. There are many interesting ideas stuck to the pages of this book that could be used by a better author in a better way, but Jeffrey Overstreet is clearly not the man for the job. Throughout the book, he seems to be trying to convey an interesting foundational idea having to do with finding the real Keeper, the God figure of this world, but these questions are not answered in the end but rather compounded, making for another wasted book in this underachieving alternate world series.

There is a fourth book in this series coming out soon in which Jeffrey will have to answer some of the questions he's been dancing around for three books now.

Even so, Jeffrey has a lot to learn about writing fiction. He needs to grow out of his abstract writing style and actually write some real fiction.

1.5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that I disagree with this review. Although against my usual rules, I have followed this series since the start. I don't generally begin a series of books before its finished because I get impatient for the storyline to be resolved, but Jeffrey Overstreet has drawn me so fully into the Expanse that I don't mind waiting for the next book. I find its mysteries to be engaging and I look forward to finding out whether or not my theories are correct. While waiting for the next release, I busy myself with re-reading the books I already know and I'm delighted to discover new details each time.

    Perhaps that's your point though; it tends to demand a second read. In my opinion, a good book is one that can be read many times and still be enjoyable. How anyone who enjoys getting lost in a fictional book could avoid getting caught up in Mr. Overstreet's world is a mystery to me. Just like Auralia's brilliant cloak, this masterpiece is NOT complete without the last thread. I ask that you give the series another try, and maybe you, too, can come to appreciate Mr. Overstreet's vivid style.