Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: The Battle of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

So guys...I have a bit of a confession. And it's kind of embarrassing. You know how I wrote two entire posts about just how freaking amazing Ranger's Apprentice is and how I couldn't wait to read book 10, and how the books didn't get worse as they went along?

Well, book 10 has been out for a few weeks...and I only just now finished it. It was significantly less good than the others (still good enough- just not up to the standard that the rest of them set). It doesn't help that book 9 was possibly my favorite of the entire series (other than book 1).

The humor that I've always loved was still there, and general Ranger cleverness was still there, and the characters are still great and everything, but the writing disappointed me. There were many things I read and thought "That is not the way I'd have phrased it," or "that doesn't make any sense," or he'd use the same word twice within a paragraph without employing parallelism. There were also silly typos ("Or course," said Alyss), so maybe it was just poorly-edited.

He also brought in several characters that haven't been mentioned at all for several books (book 1 in one case, and book 7 in another), with very little explanation as to who they were. It'd have been nice to have a little bit of a subtle "hey, remember him?" paragraph rather than just assuming we did (because I didn't).

Then there's the plot (SPOILER WARNING). It's one thing to pit two hundred lumberjacks against an army Samurai who have been training their entire lives but the lumberjacks win because they're using Roman fighting techniques the Samurai weren't prepared for, but it's quite another thing to have an archer shooting at the emperor and have someone randomly just grab the arrow out of the air right before it hits him. There is no precedent for him to have that ability. It even says he didn't know how he did it and never would be able to do it again. I believe that's called deus ex machina, and deus ex machina is not a good thing.
Oh, and then there's this massive cat/leopard thing that all of these Super Strong Warrior Guys are terrified of. The cat has killed 17 of them. And who takes it down? Two girls, neither of whom are particularly well-trained.

The end, at least, made me very, very happy/

So a message to John Flanagan: Dude, you're awesome. I love your books. I usually read them within 24 hours of buying them, and that's usually on release day. But what happened with Nihon-Ja? 

(I've actually met the author, and he is nice, funny, and well-researched. I talked with him about my own novel for a few minutes while he signed my complete set of his. So that was cool.)

Star-rating withheld due to lack of impartiality from the influence of the rest of the series.

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