Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: The Second Siege by Henry H. Neff

No, I did not get run over by a bus. Yes, I have been brain-oozing-out-my-ears busy. Give me another week and I'll get back to some regular blogging. Pinkie promise.

For today I want to post a book review that I've been meaning to write for a long time. And in just a few sentences we'll get right to the review of Book 2 of The Tapestry Series. But first there's some back story to this review, so if you're a new-ish reader you may want to click over to my review of Book 1: The Hound of Rowan (warning: it involves a heavy layer of snark) and then over to Part 2 (where the author popped by and remarked on the scathing, snarky review). And Part 2 is really the only reason I picked up The Second Siege. So, without further ado...

The Second Siege by Henry H. Neff

My biggest problem with The Hound of Rowan was the almost freaky similarities between Neff's story and Harry Potter. I don't know if those similarities were just coincidence, or if the author heard that criticism while he was working on The Second Siege, but in the second installment of The Tapestry series the story jumps the Hogwarts Express track and goes in a completely, can-there-be-anything-less-like-Harry-Potter direction. Perhaps a little more like a Mad Max direction, which took me completely by surprise.

And it was way better. *applause*

I'm not going to give you a rundown of the entire plot, because that's kind of boring and it's just easier for me to cut and paste the back cover blurb.

Grave Forces are converging to seize control of the Book of Thoth, a hidden artifact whose pages hold the key to creating—or unraveling—the very threads of existence. Under the care and tutelage of Cooper, Rowan’s most lethal Agent, Max McDaniels and David Menlo embark on a quest to protect the book from the demon Astaroth, who would exploit its secrets with dire consequence. And with Astaroth free after centuries of imprisonment, the world outside Rowan’s gates has already become hostile. Far from home, cut off behind enemy lines, Max and his allies must journey across Europe, descend into the fabled Frankfurt Workshop, brave the tangled corners of the Black Forest . . . and cross beyond the veils of our very world.

That's some good copy, eh? If you really want to know more then you can just go read the book.

So for my review I'm just going to start by giving Neff a big, hearty slap on the back. (Um, a nice "Way to go!" kind of slap. Not a "What were you thinking?" slap. Just to clarify.)

The characters were more fleshed out, although I still want to know why David knows all this and how he's a sorcerer. *And feel free to take notes, Henry. I don't mind :)* The Second Siege has a bunch of witches, an ancient curse, old magic, celtic mythology, the Sidhe (I mean, how can you go wrong with them?) and some nice apocalyptic shivers, along with a dash of sci-fi and a twist ending that's not all fluffy bunnies and dancing through the tulips. And there's a big fight at the end between the good guys and the bad guys where they actually fight, with actual consequences and hard decisions. They don't just talk it out and walk off in such an anti-climactic non-battle that the reader screams and throws the book across the room. *cough* (Read Breaking Dawn, anyone?)

Unfortunately, the creepy hag Mum still plays a part, but I like her better in comparison to her creepier sister. Max's dad is still bumbling around, but you can easily ignore him. Agent Cooper still rocks and you learn the answer to a mystery in Max's life from the first book. And again, Neff didn't take the fluffy bunny way out of that resolution, either.

I would recommend The Second Siege and look forward to the next book in the series. It's just too bad The Hound of Rowan came off so much like a Harry Potter copy, because The Second Siege is so much better. I'm afraid some readers may not give it a chance.

Oh, and the illustrations were pretty cool, too.

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