Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Powerless: The Shadowing by Jason Letts

Rating: 4.1 out of 5

“Heroic? The only heroes are the people who happen to get it right when everyone is watching.”

When we talk about heroism, about doing the right thing, are we doing so because it’s honorable or simply to be rewarded for doing something we think to be so? What does it mean when we look inside ourselves and find out we really don’t know who we are, that those we trust are less than trustworthy, that those efforts to gain acceptance through the previously mentioned gallant acts are meaningless? Do we let the pain and suffering define us, or do we rise up against the torrent of doubt and push to define ourselves rather than allow the situations we’ve found ourselves in to define us? And which way is the correct one?

These are some of the core questions asked in “The Shadowing”, the second book of the “Powerless” series by Jason Letts. It is the tale of Mira, the lone girl with no special abilities in a world where every other person has a superpower of one type or another.

This novel begins where the previous book, “The Synthesis”, left off; with the students, fresh off their confrontation with the baddies who attacked Mira’s house, saying goodbye and ready to head off to become “shadows”, or apprentices, in order to further learn to become experts with their powers. (As a side note, I did have a bit of a problem with this method of beginning the story. I felt there should have been at least a month or so gap between events. The way it's written seems a little rushed. Luckily, however, this awkward tone dissipates quickly and the story picks up steam again.) They disperse, heading off to learn their craft and ready themselves to fight in a war that is their mutual destiny.

It is in these training sequences that this particular novel shines. The teachers are all fresh characters, and to see the way the main protagonists – Mira, Aoi, Vern, and Will – change is accomplished with clever plotting and more than a trace of subtlety. The rancher who guides the hotheaded Aoi, for example, is a man of such calm that at times he seems to be a pillar of stone in a raging windstorm. To see his affect on a girl whose temper and angst had previously ruled her life was to witness the birth of a woman from a little girl. It was achieved with sensitivity and respect for the characters, which for a writer is sometimes very hard to do.

But it is the changes that occur within Mira that are the crux (and heart) of this tale. She heads off to find the only individual she thinks can help her – Flip Widget, the author of the science manuals that have guided her life, whose name is both humorous and, as you glance deeper into his character as the story progresses, deeply prophetic.

She is put through trials she barely survives, given information that rocks the core of her world, and in the end discovers a supposed truth about herself that causes her to question her place in the world – which, as for any of us, always comes down to our place within our own families, because when it comes down to it, our families ARE our worlds.

Seeing the change in Mira as this chapter of a much larger tale reaches its climax is heartbreaking. This was a girl of such innocence and drive, and when the innocence is ripped from her, the remaining ambition is driven in murky and sometimes unforgivable directions. And yet we can understand the thoughts that run through her head, the anger she feels, because each and every one of us has been betrayed at some point in our lives. Each of us has felt the slaughter of our self-definition and the desire to lash out at those who’ve wronged us, even if they aren’t around. And by the last page, as Mira is gazing at the sky, crying and wondering whatever she did to deserve the torment forced upon her, we are right there with her; disbelieving, cynical, and, more than anything, sad.

I have to say, for a second installment in a series, this book goes to some unexpectedly dark places. I appreciated it so much. In that way, it’s a step ahead of its predecessor. However, in other ways it lags behind. A sensation of innocence prevailed over everything in the first book, and the dialogue suited that tone. In this one, however, it becomes a bit stilted at times; robotic, almost like reading one of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” scripts. I assume this was because the writer had a difficult time transitioning them from adolescence to young adulthood. It is an awkward transition, and for this reason I am willing to overlook it. Just as the characters are learning about themselves, author Letts is learning about them at the same time. I have a feeling that come the next installment, this issue will have been worked out, and all will flow smoothly. After all, it was simply something I noticed, not a distraction.

One other thing I feel I must mention is the writing style. Once more, this is a book told in third person omniscient. As I’ve stated over and over again, this can be more than a little distracting and maddening, and those who are sticklers for point of view must be forewarned. Now, being that this is my own brain, I can choose to ignore the things that annoy me if I think the story itself is good enough. On the other hand, as a reviewer I have a responsibility to the reader to point out the flaws, and so I will.

Despite this, however, I still loved the book. It’s a wild romp through the treacherous maze of the teenage mind as adulthood lurks right around the corner. It’s about desiring to choose the right path and being able to forgive yourself if you fail to do so. There is pain, there are fleeting moments of joy, and behind it all there’s the growing portent of an evil that will surely swallow these brave young people whole if they don't rise up to the challenges ahead of them.

In all, it’s a book I enjoyed very, very much. I feel adults will get as much out of it as the YA crowd it's written for. I look forward to the next book, and can’t wait to see whether Mira and her friends can overcome the horrors that await them. I have a feeling that the losses will only mount as the series moves onward. In that way, whoever reads this book should cherish those innocent moments that still exist, because in all probability, they aren’t going to last long.

Yes, this books gets a resounding, “Go and buy it!” from this humble reviewer. So do it already!

Plot - 9

Characters - 9

Voice - 7

Execution - 7

Personal Enjoyment – 9

Overall – 41/50 (4.1/5)

Purchase The Shadowing for the Amazon Kindle

1 comment:

J.M. Pierce said...

Great review. I'm anxious to start the book myself.