So Children of Fire was a book club pick. As the title says, it wasn’t one I would have picked up ordinarily, but I was actually intrigued by the premise. And unlike some book club picks (*coughDunecough*) I actually read this one the whole way through.
The premise is this: big evil fantasy villain guy, banished to some kind of parallel universe/dungeon thing, wants to come back. So he uses chaos (the magic) to sow four seeds (lol): four children that are ‘touched by chaos’ and will bring about his return, the end of the world, blah blah. Also some people think there will be a Chosen One who will save them from this big fantasy evil guy. So far, all basic fantasy stuff. But I really liked the idea of four potential magic-spawn instead of just a singular chosen one.
Unfortunately, the premise was wasted. It ended up being a lot of cliches–in language as much as plot/character–and not much depth. And pretty soon there was really only one contender: the most boring of them all, bland as mayonnaise Keegan, who is super powerful and has a tragic backstory and just all-around sucks in the style of most Chosen Ones. It could have been Cassandra, taken on by the apparently-evil-but-maybe-not-all-that-evil “Order” of monks and brainwashed to think like them. That would have been a great twist. Or it could have been Valor, heir to a line of seer kings and queens, who lacks any magic himself. That would have been a better twist! Or it could have been Scythe, who also doesn’t have magic and whose basic character trait seems to be Hot Sexy Female Lead. That wouldn’t have been a twist, and probably wouldn’t have made for much of a story, but also it says a lot that Scythe is actually one of the more interesting characters.
On the whole chaos thing: my husband came into the room where I was listening to the audiobook during the climactic fight scene and it took him all of 20 seconds to start laughing at how much the word ‘chaos’ is used.
My main problem with this book (beyond the cliches) is that it committed a classic sin: it started like a million light years before the story actually started. We did NOT need tons of episodes from the lives of these four, from the POV of people related to them who mostly end up dying or vanishing from the story by about 1/3 of the way through. A skilled writer would have started with them as adults and fed us the little we needed of their backstories to give the characters some actual depth. Alas, Drew Karpyshyn is not a skilled writer.
I listened to this one on audiobook, and the narrator was particularly unsuited to attempting female voices. Or any voices at all, really. His own was too distinctive. Also because I listened to this on audiobook, I have no idea how any names are actually spelled.
Which brings me to another main problem: one of the characters is named Jared. Or some variation thereof. I’m sorry, but Jared or any version of Jared does not belong in a fantasy book. It’s as bad as Paul and Jessica, yet somehow worse. Behindthename.com tells me that actually, Jared comes from Hebrew and was used as a name as early as the 1600s, but to me it just screams “American white male born between 1970 and 2000”. Sorry to any Jareds out there, but since I’m pretty sure you’re not a cliche martial-arts monk in a badly written fantasy book by a video game writer, I don’t think you should take offense.
And yet, it still wasn’t as bad as Dune.
Review 3/? in my attempting-to-write-some-reviews-before-the-end-of-the-day.