THE ANCILLARY'S MARK
Paranormal Young Adult/Fantasy
Black Rose Writing
Received from author for review
Jacob has always been a voracious reader. He spends most of his free time in the library reading fantastical stories at the suggestion of the old librarian and a man he considers his friend, lost in worlds that promise fun and adventure. Little does he know he's about to embark on an adventure of his own.
When the old librarian regales Jacob with a tale of the Ancillary, a mythical flower thought to grant unbelievable gifts to those who come in contact with it, and informs him of his role in the ancient legend, he couldn't be more excited.
Soon he, the old librarian's grandaughter, and a hulking bodyguard set off for Tibet, the flower's probable location. What Jacob finds is an exhilarating voyage, an unusual town full of individuals with unique gifts, and a villain seeking the Ancillary for all the wrong reasons.
A quick read full of fantasy and mystery, The Ancillary's Mark is a story that asks us to suspend belief, bury our questions regarding plausibility, and just enjoy the journey. It doesn't require us to reach deep inside ourselves to find an emotional connection, instead content to skirt around such complexities and just focus on presenting a tale of ancient prophecy and myth, entertaining us as a fairly lighthearted hunt for famed mythical treasure unfolds. This story is certainly not without its darkness, but overall it introduces us to characters who are odd yet joyous, misfits who are outsiders yet are extremely accepting of others, and individuals who are humorous yet seriously dedicated to the well being of those around them.
Though the story is nicely paced and enjoyable, we can't help but want to feel a bit more attached to the events and revelations divulged from one page to the next. This book begins darkly and cryptically–a man scribing his dying thoughts into the ground as the strength leaches from his body–and while we eventually come to understand the fate of this soul when the details of the legend are gloriously revealed, our curiosity about this individual and others like him sparks to life with such intensity in the beginning only to wane as the myth of the Ancillary remains shrouded in vague text passages and rhymes. For the instant reaction the first page elicits, we read on with the wish for more history regarding the flower and those who bear its mark, as their stories, much in the way the opening passage does, could exponentially increase our overall involvement in this quest by giving us a touch more information to ground ourselves with as we settle in to wander out of the darkness and into enlightenment with Jacob and company.
As with the story, the characters leave us with the feeling of wanting just a little something more. Mr. Cohen has created a beautiful foundation, a solid mystery, and quirky characters, but our attachment to them is only superficial–not the bone deep connection that binds us to them permanently as their strengths and flaws embed themselves in our memories from the moment we meet them onward. Jacob is all youthful zeal, social awkwardness, and infectious enthusiasm, and while we laugh at his antics, we aren't entirely invested in his story. His romantic interest in Sophia is sweet, but again not the spine-tingling, skin-flushing, and nerve-wracking relationship that holds us transfixed as we suck in air during every interaction and hold that breath at the slightest hint of innuendo. In all fairness to this story, the romance is clearly not meant to be a prominent storyline, but it is alluded to often enough to have us wishing for that extra spark to make our hearts skip a beat as we read.
Overall, The Ancillary's Mark is an interesting tale that will inevitably appeal to younger fans of mystery and adventure who read mostly to be entertained and aren't necessarily looking for the same level of characterization and emotional attachment as I am. Mr. Cohen has written and created an impressive legend in that of the Ancillary flower, and I expect more of his intriguing fantasy tales will no doubt find their way onto blank pages and become published works.