Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: The Vyne

Daniel Walls
Young Adult Fantasy
388 pages
Two Harbors Press
Available Now
Received via Teen Book Scene
for Review

Asher Meadows has spent the whole of his young life in one little town. Fearful and resentful of the special gifts he possesses, he dreams of leaving his lush of a father behind and finding a place to belong no matter how unlikely that dream seems.

Fate has other plans for Asher though, and as soon as young, amnesiac Scar shows up, irreversible events are set in motion that reveal Ash to be a vital part of an ancient prophecy regarding the fate of the world. As a vicious enemy begins to execute his plan for the transformation of all humanity into a drone army, Ash and company set off in search of the Hidden Ember, the first piece of the prophecy's puzzle.

En route, they run into both friend and foe, and Ash struggles with his feelings for Scar as she's a wanted fugitive and a potential thief who no one trusts save him alone. Though unsure he's ready for his destiny, Ash fights for Scar and his friends, and discovers that understanding his abilities comes a very high cost.

The Vyne is a story for those who love a journey, where each page is another step forward along a path lined with mystical abilities, ancient prophecies, and bizarre creatures with constantly shifting allegiances depending on the price for their support. It's not a quick or light read, and we are weighed down, as we so often are with fantasy novels, with an intimidating amount of information and a large cast of characters all vying for our attention. The beginning is tedious and slow, and as with a physical puzzle, Mr. Walls starts his literary puzzle in the corners, building the foundation of the story and assembling the borders that will be our guides as we work inward piece by piece until everything aligns and the larger picture is finally revealed. In this case, however, we are not dealing with either a one hundred or even five hundred piece puzzle, but rather we find ourselves attempting one with thousands of pieces, our patience tested as we struggle to figure out how everything fits together, and we often need to step back to regain focus and shore up our resolve before continuing onward.

Once the beginning third of the story is behind us, the journey begins to pick up speed as Ash and his companions finally set forth on the mission that has been so meticulously outlined for us in the previous one hundred and fifty pages. Mr. Walls's world is incredibly imaginative and deeply complex, appealing to that part of us that craves the challenge of embracing and understanding the unfamiliar while keeping the wheels in our minds constantly in motion as we try to solve the various riddles surrounding Ash's curse and the destiny hidden from him for so long.

Though the story does begin to accelerate and we are transported from one fantastical location to the next, the relationship we form with the characters is lacking in intensity. Reluctant hero Ash often shows the immaturity that accompanies his young age, whining about a destiny he wants no part of and inexplicably pining for a girl who possesses few attractive traits. His affection for Scar is instant, and for how thoroughly all the other elements are explained–at times so much so as to be detrimental to the overall story–we are given no solid reason for her appeal other than she's someone new in a town so familiar to him. Additionally, several characters with whom we are relatively acquainted are killed with little fanfare, their sacrifices glossed over quickly as the entourage of Ash and his misfits moves ever closer to their destination. This story is one where the flesh and bone are thoroughly established, but the heart is regrettably missing, a noticeable vacancy for those of us who thrive on our emotional connection to the story and live for the individuals that make our hearts beat faster as they carry the intangible weight of our feelings with them every step they take.

The Vyne will surely appeal to lovers of fantasy who expect and appreciate a taxing and arduous voyage, and who revel in the sense of accomplishment of seeing the journey through to the very end. For those like myself who love a good adventure but not necessarily at the expense of those characters who are undertaking it, this story will be a bit of a challenge to muddle through. Mr. Walls is a talented writer and storyteller, but his strength appears to lie more in the creating of the world and the outlining of a prophecy than in the forging of delicate bonds between character and reader which, for me, are the most vital part of an engaging reading experience.

Rating: 3/5


  1. This sounded interesting until you go to the said the beginning was tedious. Just not in the mood for a "taxing and arduous voyage". Though I'm wondering if Scar's appeal is because she is new, finally something different and possibly not afraid of his gifts (I'm guessing at that last bit).

    Great review, I'm stealing that "taxing and arduous" line for when I have to explain to the older students what I mean when I think a book is tedious.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  2. The Vyne reminds me of LoTR trilogy since you described it as a journey. Character development is important for me, which you say is sadly lacking here. But I think I would like to give it a try.

  3. Great review Jenny. I tend to struggle a little with fantasy. And if the characters a lacking a little depth and connection I don't think this book is for me.

  4. Gorgeous review darling. You write so lovely.

  5. Oh, I love your review for this, Jenny! I've been wondering about this a lot lately because the premise seems right up my alley. The fact that it has a really slow start definitely turns me off a bit though. Hmmmmm perhaps I'll wait to add this to my pile. Great review though! :)

  6. While I have always loved a good fantasy your discussion of an arduous voyage and a whiny protagonist has me hesitating. I also have trouble if the story does not take off quickly. Your review however, is lovely as always so well written. Thanks

  7. Jennifer - I often find fantasy a bit taxing, so I think readers who love fantasy and expect a complicated world will enjoy this one much more.

    Misha - I would put it on par with LoTR in terms of being a complicated journey, I had a difficult time getting through those books at times as well even though I love that story.

    Nic - As do I, and I need the characters to help me wade through all the fantastical elements and they were a bit lacking for me in this story.

    Juju - Thank you!

    Melissa - I had to force myself through the 1st third, it was a kind of a jumble of information, but the remaining thirds moved a bit quicker and were much easier to get lost in.

    Jan - There's a lot going on with this one, and though I think it's well written and he tells a good story, it was a bit slow for me.

  8. I gave you an award over at my blog! Here's the direct link to my post:

  9. Thanks for that in-depth review. I have this on my TBR list and have been wondering about it...I might still give it a try but no rush...:)

  10. Awesome review, Jenny! :) I love complex fantasy worlds (LoTR are some of my favorite books), though not that this one has a whiny protagonist and not much 'heart'. Character relationships make a book for me, too. Might check this one out anyway, if I can find it at the library.

  11. Mariya - Thank you!

    Tina - You're welcome:)

    Kat - Thanks! If you're a fan of fantasy you'll probably enjoy this one a little more than I did, I'd be interested to see what you thought!

  12. I don't think this one is for me. I love world building but it is the characters you journey through the book with. So glad you reviewed this one. I've been so curious about the book.

  13. Great review, Jenny! I hadn't heard of this one before.

  14. Thanks for reviewing this. I have been wanting to read this book and well I just could not bring myself to pick this book up. Something about it always made me change my mind.

  15. Melissa - Since the characters didn't grab me, I just had trouble getting into this one.

    Leanna - Thanks, glad you enjoyed!

    Savy - If you decide to pick it up, let me know, I want to know what you think!

  16. Probably not fofr me as i like stories with more action and adventure.

  17. I think this would be something that I might really like as I feel like I'm a pretty patient reader. Shame about the lacking character development though.

  18. It sounds like it takes time for things to start happening which I don't mind but combined with a lack of emotional connection to the characters, I'm not sure this one is for me.

  19. Jenny - I do as well, and this one just moved at a different pace.

    Aylee - If you have patience and like fantasy, you'll probably like this one, I think it has potential:)

    Zahida - That's what I most had trouble with. I can deal with a slow story if I'm invested in the characters, but I just wasn't with this one. The world building was very well done though.

  20. Another book I haven't heard of before. Hmm while this sounds interesting and I love the main character's name, I'm not sure if this is for me. I'm stunned (as usual) by your amazing review. The puzzle analogy is brilliant. I think I'll hold off on this one.