My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'll be honest with you, this was a hard review to write. Not because I didn't like the book, or even because I did, but because I saw what this story wanted to be, and it just wasn't quite there. This is the story of Caleb Holden, his discovery of the supernatural world, and adventures there-in.
The fact of the matter is, I enjoyed this book. Sure, it's just one more generic urban fantasy child of destiny going to save the world story. That's fine, I like those stories.
Here's the problem: I feel like it was a setup. A little background here might help. I love The Dresden Files. I think that Avatar: The Last Airbender is one the best shows to grace television. I share the author's feelings on Twilight, think that diversification of were-things is a good idea, and am all for hidden histories and supernatural secrets. I grew up in San Francisco, have actually jumped from rooftop to rooftop (although, honestly, it's usually more step and less leap), and think that forests are crazy cool.
So as far as the ideas go, I'm right there with you. I got the inside jokes, rolled my eyes at the cheesy lines, and generally had a good time.
And yet, there were issues. First and foremost, the exposition. Don't get me wrong, there's a time for a nice romp through the main character's mind and memories... but that time is not "always." Worse, despite being dragged into Mr. Holden's head and having to fight the urge to skim over his musings on any given situation, it didn't actually help me get to know him any better. Time and time again, I was confused by the choices made or the decisions reached, and it was rather frustrating.
Issue two: the suspension of disbelief. Specifically, where was it? Caleb is portrayed as being a streetwise, practical young man who has learned to get by on his own in tough situations. And yet, when confronted with supernatural things, there's no coming to terms with it, no rationalization, no grand moments of revelation where all of his past experiences suddenly make sense. He was just okay with it, and that was that. It honestly felt like a letdown. And it didn't stop with him! So many characters take major things on faith or word of mouth that I was left wondering what kind of Kool-Aid they were all drinking between scenes.
Issue three: the length. It was just plain longer than it needed to be. And most of the action was in Caleb's head. I get that the author was trying to create an excuse for why his main character would be capable of decisive action under pressure, but it seems like adding actual plot could have accomplished this while still adding non-trivial development, especially to the secondary characters. It's not a good sign when unexpected aid shows up for the last battle and I have absolutely no idea who they are. Had the story been shorter, or had the important side characters been fleshed out a little more, that would not have been the case. Maybe ease off on the descriptions of high school bullies who we'll never see again or dragons who never appear in the real world, and focus on adding personality to the main character's were-creature friends or creating a situation that highlights what an awesome guy the head of the orphanage is.
I don't know if it was just a problem with the file I was reading, but there was some formatting wonkiness. If italics are going to used, use them consistently. Sometimes they denoted internal dialogue, and sometimes someone would just be speaking in all italics. At one point an entire chapter was in italics, and all it accomplished was making me wish I could turn them off.
Despite all that, I liked this book. It may have been a simple plot with occasionally confusing and often frustrating events, but the ideas were all there. If you're a big fan of urban fantasy, if you love teenage protagonists who have lived hard lives, or if you just think that I'm an overly critical bastard for writing a review like this about a book I claim to like, give THE SEVEN a read. It's got a glimmer of greatness, and I look forward to one day seeing the author shine.