Monday, June 28, 2010

The 13th Reality-- The Blade of Shattered Hope

James Dashner is awesome. There, I said it up front. He just is, and there's no getting past it. He simply doesn't have it in him to write a bad book, and he is one of the brightest new faces on the YA scene. His 13th Reality books have always been top-notch, with the second volume, The Hunt for Dark Infinity, being one of the better books I read last year. I approached Book 3, The Blade of Shattered Hope, with extreme trepidation. Is there any way in which Book 2 could be topped? Such a feat seems impossible.

Don't worry. The 13th Reality-- The Blade of Shattered Hope is good. Very good.

Atticus Higginbottom, he of both unfortunate name and extraordinary circumstances, has been shaken by recent events. The discovery of his true powers has left him with a need to refine, to prepare. Because it's not over yet. Not even close.

Mistress Jane is back, sporting a new look for her face that really shines (pun intended), and she means business. You know, like she didn't before. Her plan involves the kidnapping of Tick's parents and something more sinister than anything I would have expected from Book 3 in a five book series. Tick is going to need to use all the resources available to him to save the world-- not one of them, but all of them.

It's epic time.

I'm surprised at this new wave of YA fantasy, perhaps the most aggressive since the onslaught of Harry Potter. This is the age of Erec Rex and The 13th Reality, where the authors aren't afraid to throw in some huge revelations fairly early on in the series. I for one think this is a great approach, as it allows for some really interesting character-building moments due to the fallout of these earth-shattering events. And there was some huge stuff that happened in Book 2.

The Blade of Shattered Hope felt almost a little too packed for me, if that's possible. In many ways, this could have been the sort of climax reserved for the last book in the series. I mean, there's an army, and I can't honestly see how the stakes could be any higher (I expect to find out in the as-yet-untitled Book 4). The opening action feels just the slightest bit forced, and the book could have been allowed to breathe just fine without it.

That said, the opening is short, and I was pleased as punch at the events that unfolded in the remaining 400 pages. There's action, suspense, and some nice character development. I was especially thrilled with what Dashner did for the character of Sato. In this one volume, as he did everything else, he turned one of my least favorite characters into one of the strongest and most compelling. It takes talent for that.

The ending is one of those I-can't-wait-until-next-year-why-can't-Dashner-just-write-twice-as-fast kinds, with some fantastic and explosive setup for Book 4. I honestly am not sure where Dashner is going, and I eagerly anticipate the last volumes. Good work yet again.

My rating: 9.5/10

Coming Soon: Frenzy and more.


Okie said...

I keep hearing good things about 13th Reality and about Dashner in general. I really need to pick him up and read him one of these days. :)

The Writer said...

He really is. He's dipped his toes both into fantasy with 13th Reality and dystopian sci-fi with The Maze Runner (arguably his best, very Lost-ian at points). He does a number of unusual things, big things, early on which promise series finales to be INTENSE. And for a YA book, that makes it pretty special. Also, he's got some fairly complicated riddles throughout all his books. Dashner's just talented.