Friday, February 28, 2014

Summoning Forces Beyond Your Control

Expected Publication:  June 24th, 2014
Summoned (Redemption's Heir #1)
By: Anne M. Pillsworth
Tor Teen
ISBN-13:  9780765335890

When the Elder Gods extend an invitation, be wary of the strings attached.

While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895.  Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests that applicants reply by email.

Sean's always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology.  Against his best friend Edna's ("call-me-Eddy-or-else") advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it's a clever hoax, but hoping that it won't be.  The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago.  To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless by useful familiar -- but Sean's ceremony takes a dark turn, and instead he accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep.  The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain.  But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham.....


     I thought that the premise of this one sounded pretty cool.  A boy answers an ad for a wizard's apprentice, to find out the secret behind the authentically aged piece of newspaper containing it.  The mystery is there, because the ad mentions email which was not invented until over 100 years after the ad was taken out!  I thought to myself, okay, here we go.  A book with some humor and mostly about a modern teenage boy training to become a wizard's apprentice.  I even speculated that it involved time travel (that interesting me slightly more than just a wizard character who is centuries old), which would have been spectacular.  I was unfamiliar with the term "Cthulhu Mythos god" and was sincerely hoping that I would have it explained to my satisfaction, or be so minor to the plot that it didn't matter what it was.  None of my expectations were met in a way that I wanted them to be.
     Being that I am not really a horror aficionado, I can't really compare the mythology in this book to that in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.  But I can tell that the author draws heavily from him, on the basis that in her book's world, Lovecraft was part of a secret society in the know and just writing the truth.  That is a cool concept and I would have loved it - had I already been a Lovecraft fan, and been in on the history.  The whole plot of this book relies on prior knowledge of terminology and ideas from a mythology that I was not the least bit familiar with (at least in my opinion and reading experience)  and it wasn't really fleshed out in the novel.  I felt like it assumed prior knowledge, and because of that the terminology was vague to me - something that I was never really able to picture all that well in my mind.  Something that might have made this book a better experience for me would have been highly developed and sound characters.  I love characters that are so real they could walk off the page and share a drink with me at the local coffee shop.  That, or a plot that surpasses my need for intimate connections with the main characters (it takes an extremely special kind of book to accomplish this feat).  Keeping that in mind, me being on the outskirts of this very plot driven novel, with characters whose whole lives seem to revolve around the plot, it never really connected.  
     Eddie was only there to scold Sean for contacting some "creep" on the Internet and to annoy the heck out of him.  To be the one-dimensional best friend (although their strong bond is showcased when later on she knows exactly where to find him when he's missing).  I believe the friendship, but it does nothing for me.  Sean's Dad is the "concerned single parent" who also restores stained glass windows.  That's about all there is to him, other than him being a widower who doesn't date and a skeptic of all things magic/supernatural.  His role is parent and skeptic: check mark.  Most of the other characters are fleeting, just there to move along the plot.  Redemption Orne, arguably the most important character other than Sean, is nothing more than an Internet presence, of someone who might be a mentally deluded weirdo just playacting.  Sean is the typical hero, just goofing off and doing things out of curiosity - until it gets him into real trouble and the shit hits the fan.  I never really got to know him as a character though, outside of his mission to bind the servitor, find out the truth about Redemption and become "serious" in regards to messing with the supernatural.  The message of this book seems to be, don't play with fire unless you're ready to be burned.  And it's not a subtle message, with the very serious consequences of Sean's actions on a pet-killing spree across the neighborhood and sucking his own blood.  The action was spotty, the plot dragged in it's odd pacing and the novel was mostly set up for a series.  The disappearing pharmacy and its quirky pharmacist felt like they belonged in a different novel altogether, the one I had initially thought I was going to read (and its not a coincidence they were my favorite part/little fantasy quirk).
     That said, a lot of people would probably adore this book beyond belief.  I am not by any means stating that this book was bad, or does not have its audience somewhere out there.  Hell, Pillsworth probably has a built in curiosity audience in all the Lovecraft fans lurking out there, waiting for a book like this.  It's modern, approachable for a younger audience and has a very dark, science fiction edge to it.  But as someone who self-proclaimedly prefers fantasy to science fiction it just wasn't the book for me.  I thought it was a fantasy book and was highly disappointed.  But I did finish the book and was interested in the resolution of the whole issue Sean caused, so Pillsworth did manage to draw me in regardless of my slight boredom.  Overall, a decent book but not my thing.  Lovecraftians take notice and add to your to-reads.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is June 24th, 2014.*

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