“I was dozing when I heard the scream. It pierced my head like a morta round, doing terribly befuddling things to my mind, as loud and terrifying as though it were all happening right there and then.”
So begins, The Finisher by David Baldacci. My awareness of this book came from a conversation I had with…someone. I’ll have to beg forgiveness as I can’t remember, but they noted that Baldacci – a popular writer but not someone who typically writes fantasy – had written a YA fantasy series that they had enjoyed and so I put it on my list.
In brief, this story takes place in the isolated town of Wormwood. So isolated, in fact, that it’s the only town known to exist, encompassed by a little known – but very deadly – Quag in which various violent beasts live. Vega Jane is a feisty teenage girl of little consequence, caring for her younger brother John and working diligently as a finisher of handcrafted goods. When someone she knows escapes into the Quag, however, secrets begin to emerge: hidden books detailing the Quag, mysterious passageways, and strange artifacts (like a length of chain that gives Vega great strength and the ability to fly) all begin to point to a world that the Wormwood Council doesn’t want their people to know exists. A world in which Vega Jane seems to play an increasingly important part. She is, perhaps, not a girl of little consequence after all.
So I’ll begin by pointing out that there are some unoriginal tropes here that put me off this story right away: young girl, full of personality and hidden abilities as a warrior; oppressive, secretive government; hidden secrets; etc. (very Hunger Games-like, even involving a deadly contest at the end in which Vega is forced to take part). Add to that some shallow world-building (it was never clear to me just how large Wormwood was, how many people lived there, how exactly its economy worked with such limited resources, etc.) and a bizzare writing style (see the opening lines for a taste) and this one just wasn’t for me. There were a few interesting characters and clearly lots of unexplained things going on to set the stage for the rest of the series, but in the end I didn’t care enough about it all to further my exploration with book 2 (of 4).
|Violence||2||There’s definitely some fighting here, mostly of the brawling sort, and one flashback (forward?) to a battle scene involving magic and flying beasts, but little in the way of gore or graphic violence.|
|Sex/Romantic Themes||1||For the most part, sex and romance is left out of this story, though there is one oddly out-of-place scene where Vega’s friend Delph (male) lingers over Vega’s body while reading a map she’d secretly drawn on her stomach and legs (don’t ask about the map…wierd).|
|Miscellaneous||While not yet overtly stated, it’s implied that Vega is a sorcerer or something akin to it.|
NOTE: For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here.