Book Review: The Rise of Nine, Pittacus Lore (2012)

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Doesn’t live up to the potential of I AM NUMBER FOUR.

three out of five stars

* Warning: moderate spoilers follow! *

The third novel in the Lorien Legacies series (there are also three novellas, each published between books two and three), The Rise of Nine begins where The Power of Six ended. After successfully beating back Mogadorian soldiers, Six flees Spain with Seven, Ten, and Crayton. Their destination: India, the suspected hiding place of a fellow member of the Garde. Meanwhile, John is back in West Virginia, recovering from effects of a Mogadorian force field. With him is the increasingly obnoxious Nine; goofy, lovable Sam is still in the hands of the Mogs. The story follows these two groups as they attempt to make contact while evading the Mogadorian hordes – not to mention, the increasingly hostile US government. Eventually they (re)unite in a government facility (conveniently constructed around a Loric ship!) in New Mexico. Naturally, their party is crashed by archenemy Setrákus Ra; the scene for the final battle is set at book’s end. I find myself apathetic at best.

While I quite enjoyed I Am Number Four, the later books in the series have been rather disappointing. With a focus on action over storytelling, the constant skirmishes – from which our heroes almost always emerge unscathed, despite overwhelming odds – are at times repetitive and boring. While their shared heritage links them, the seven remaining members of the Garde have lived vastly different lives – yet, the author can’t seem to get a feel for their disparate voices. Through each subsequent book, the characters remain two-dimensional sketches, mere outlines of what – who – they could be. I had hoped that the writing would improve from I Am Number Four onward, but…not so much.

As with The Power of Six, this story is told by multiple narrators, namely John, Six, and Seven (Marina). Although I was less than impressed with this technique when it was introduced in the previous novel (preview chapters suggested that the POV was changing from John to Marina; consequently, the sharing of narrative responsibilities felt like a nasty bit of bait and switch), I think it’s both a necessary and effective strategy in The Rise of Nine. As the members of the Garde begin to assemble for battle, they travel in two groups: Four and Nine and Six, Seven, Eight, and Ten. Multiple narrators help to tell their separate but converging stories simultaneously. Even so, it can prove confusing at times. The change in narrator is marked by different fonts – easy enough to distinguish when there are just two, this becomes a more challenging task when there are three or more fonts to keep track of.

The mix of magic and technology, fantasy and science fiction, becomes increasingly complex (in a straining credulity kind of way) as the Garde’s most formidable Mogadorian opponent, Setrákus Ra, appears to them in visions. They discover special communication devices in their chest – corresponding transmitters and receivers – that allow the members to contact one another…in the most inefficient way possible. (And the Mogadorians? Still able to track these communications!) Loric stones are revealed to be teleportation devices. For reasons not fully explained, John becomes convinced that he’s the next coming of Pittacus Lore. And so on and so forth.

Cheesy elementary school romances abound as the remaining Loriens meet. It seems a female Legacy can’t meet a boy without developing an instant crush – and vice versa. (Apparently gay people don’t exist in this fantasy universe.) The love square between John, Sara, Six, and Sam was annoying enough; keep this up, and by story’s end we might very well be treated to a love octagram! Unless it becomes one huge “free love” polyamorous relationship, thanks but no thanks.

(Also, I love how these kids are teenagers – sixteen, seventeen – but they speak of “making out” as though it’s some huge thing. So quaint! Either the authors are being overly cautious about teen sex, or this is a peek at what sheltered, lonely lives the members of the Garde have lived. Since the author lacks such subtlety, my vote’s for option a!)

Marginally more interesting than The Power of Six, The Rise of Nine is a fun enough read, but not much more. Borrow it from the library for your next trip to the beach – or see it in the theater, assuming the sequels ever make it to the big screen.

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Book Review: The Power of Six, Pittacus Lore (2012)

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Eh.

three out of five stars

* Warning: moderate spoilers follow! *

Having recently read – and thoroughly enjoyedI Am Number Four, I promptly ordered the three other books in the Lorien Legacies series (The Power of Six, The Rise of Nine, and The Lost Files). Much to my disappointment, The Power of Six proved underwhelming at best.

Book #2 in the Lorien Legacies picks up where I Am Number Four left off. It’s several weeks after the epic showdown at the high school. John, Sam, and Six are in hiding and on the run from both the US authorities (which has labeled them terrorists) and the Mogadorians. They flee, they fight; they flee and fight some more. They hide and train. After learning that Sam’s father was an ally to the Garde – and may have stashed valuable information and supplies in an underground bunker – they return to Paradise, Ohio, to retrieve the goods. Unsurprisingly, both the FBI and the “Mogs” discover them; after another skirmish, during which John loses his Chest to the Mogadorian soldiers, John and Sam are apprehended by the police and jailed. Another skirmish, this time with the Mogs laying siege to the police department. After escaping, John and Sam separate from Six in order to retrieve his Chest – most likely stashed in Mog HQ in a West Virginian cave – while Six travels to Spain to help who she suspects is another member of the Garde, under attack from the Mogs. (Now that John and Six have hooked up, the charm is broken.) In the process, John loses Sam but finds and rescues Nine – and Six comes to the aid of Seven, now short a Cêpan.

And…that’s about it. I’ve never had so little trouble summing up a book’s plot before!

The “teaser” chapters included I Am Number Four hinted that the story’s narrator might change – from John to Number Seven, otherwise known as Marina. In hiding in a convent in Spain, Marina’s Cêpan has long since abandoned her duties, succumbing instead to the certainty and comfort provided by devout religion. Holding out hope that the Garde will one day reunite, Marina scans the news for any signs of her fellow Loriens – including John Smith. This is how we meet her: a lonely, forsaken young girl, just coming into her abilities, trying to connect with her brethren. Though they share much in common, Marina’s journey has been vastly different from that of John Smith. Through her eyes, a fresh perspective; her words offer a new story.

Alas, only half of The Power of Six is narrated by Marina. The voices alternate between John’s and Seven’s, sometimes changing chapter by chapter, other times more quickly, usually to impart a sense of urgency. This was a rather disappointing surprise (though not altogether unexpected), as I was looking forward to a new storyteller – perhaps with a slightly different tale to tell, and from a female perspective, at that. I think one could argue that allowing a different member of the Garde to narrate each successive book in the series is an interesting, fresh, engaging strategy. We already know John Smith’s story; why not let Six or Seven pick up the torch?

(More below the fold…)