Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: The Ancillary's Mark

Daniel Cohen
Paranormal Young Adult/Fantasy
244 pages
Black Rose Writing
Available Now
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.

Rating: 3/5


  1. Seems like I have been seeing this book everywhere. Yeah, this one sounds like more like a legend seeking adventure than romantic story, and it is probably not for me, but I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. Thanks Jenny.

  2. I've never heard of this story before. I like the library angle. It definitely sounds adventurous. I love quirky characters and mysteries. Great review!

  3. This does sound interesting but I don't think it is for me. I like to get emotionally invested in a story and sounds like this isn't that type of read. Great review Jenny :)

  4. Sounds like a great adventure!But like you said, connecting to the characters is very important for me. If that's not there, I think I might give this book a miss. Thank you, Jenny!

  5. Great review! I really enjoyed the whole seeking stuff. And of course I like the library part reminded me of a movie.

  6. Ive never heard of this one! I think I may need to check it out for my middle grade reader. She's in that hard stop where middle grade is to immature and some of the teen stuff is to sexual...Thanks for the review!

  7. This sounds good but not quite there. When you say that this one asks us to suspend belief, do you think it succeeds? The best fantasy books (think Harry Potter) present the unimaginable in such a way that it seems entirely plausible. Or a good vampire book that makes you think that vampires might actually exist.

  8. I really enjoyed this book a lot, and I thought Jacob was a fantastic character. Sophia, however, I felt fell a bit flat. Loved your review, and I'm glad you enjoyed it, Jenny! :)

  9. Missie - Definitely more adventure than romance, I'm just such a sucker for romance, that I wish there was either a little bit more or none at all, this one just hovered in the middle and seemed unnecessary.

    Julie - This one certainly has some quirky characters, they were fun to read about even if they were a bit flat at times.

    Nic - I'm all about emotional investment, I have to be involved, if I'm not I can still enjoy the story as I did with this one, it just doesn't stay with me.

    Misha - I think it will work a lot better for younger readers, being almost 30 I'm probably not the target audience:)

    Savy - I thought the legend aspect was fabulous, really enjoyed that part!

    Tina - I think a middle grader would enjoy this one for sure:)

    Alison - Exactly. Lots of promise, I just wanted a little more. I do think it succeeds with regard to the Ancillary flower myth, that part was very intriguing and I didn't find it necessary to question whether or not something like it could exist, it was easy to just go with it. The character relationships were a bit harder to believe.

    Melissa - I enjoyed Jacob, he was so awkward and funny, but I could have done without Sophia, or done without his attraction to her-it just didn't work for me.

  10. Nice review Jenny. Sometimes I like a good story where I don't need to bleed for the characters.

  11. This reminds me a lot of Bastian and Mr. Coriander from The Never Ending Story. It does sound like something younger readers would like, would it be a good Middle Grades book?

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  12. Thanks for honest review, it def sounds like I should try to read soon.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  13. Tori - Me too, I just wanted a little more from this one:)

    Jennifer - Definitely! There's a little violence, but not much and I think the adventure part of it would really appeal to that age group.

    Brandi - You're welcome:)

  14. Sounds like an interesting read for younger readers. Maybe not my thing, but I enjoyed reading your review, as always!

  15. I don't think this book is quite for me. I think if you have to suspend belief too much and want more information on things, I get frustrated. Great review!

  16. Awesome review, Jenny! I don't know how I hadn't heard of this one before now. The premise sounds interesting, but it kinda makes me sad that the character development isn't as strong as the story itself. Is it supposed to be a series or a standalone?

    My Teaser Tuesday

  17. The premise sounds really interesting... But I don't know if I could read it knowing that I would feel little to no emotional attachment to the characters...

    Thanks for the great review!

  18. Leanna - Perfect for younger readers:)

    Melissa - Me too, but that didn't bother me so much in this case, it was more the characters - I wanted to be more involved with them:)

    Carissa - Thanks! This one is a stand alone, it flashes forward at the end to where he's older, so I don't think there's anything more to tell in his story.

    Avery - Emotional attachment is my thing, I have trouble getting into a story if it's lacking!

  19. I've never heard of this one but YAY for libraries and even old librarians! ;)

  20. Great review. It sounds like something I would pick up, but after reading this, I may just have to stick with getting through my TBR pile instead.

  21. It sounds like a good story so I'll add it to my wishlist to consider in the future. Jacob sounds like a cute, slightly geeky character to me :)

  22. While I did enjoy the adventure, I was never totally engaged with the characters, and the villain was too was too over the top for me. Still I think Cohen has talent and expect to see more from this author.

  23. I'd never heard of this one. I'm such a sucker for characters who are big readers :) Great review!

  24. Hm, this one does sound good, but...I'm not sure. It does sound like it has a bit of a "close but no cigar" thing going on with the character and plot depth. I'll keep the book and your review in mind. Thanks!

  25. Mollie - You're hilarious:)

    Midnyte - It might be a good one to pick up once you make a dent in the TBR:)

    Zahida - Jacob was cute, I have a thing for geeks:)

    Jan - I agree, I just didn't connect to them, but I thought the legend was impressive.

    Juju - Me too! And even though he was cute and nerdy, I wanted more from him:)

    Small - It is a close but no cigar situation, at least for me. Lots of potential and I would read more of him in the future.

  26. You know, I find that I can actually really enjoy this kind of book. I love the high amounts of action and adventure and mystery. The romance angle doesn't need to be as emphasized for me to enjoy a book (which isn't to say that I dislike books that are heavy on the romance either).

  27. I've seen some mixed reviews for this one and I'm still on the fence. With a TBR as extreme as mine, a book needs to be really good to be added. As someone who loves characters more than anything else in a story, I may have to pass on this one :/

  28. The Ancillary's Mark is a great book for anyone and everyone because it doesn't rely on one factor to draw readers in. It's interesting because of the story, but mostly because of the characters. For those of you seeking a good thrill, this is the one for you. I was captivated from the first sentence and surprised by every twist. If you have the chance, be sure to pick this one up.