The problem with reviewing a series is that the longer into the series, the harder it is to discuss the book without giving away important plot points from earlier books that are essential to the describing the story for the later books.
I am going to still be vague here, but I may give up on that by the next book. My short version review is that I have very much enjoyed this series so far and I stayed up until 2 AM earlier this week to finish up The White Thread.
KB Hoyle continues to play with young adult fantasy conventions and leave a ton of references to other books for the readers that are probably a bit older and more widely read. The White Thread is ultimately a quest book like most fantasy stories. But in that quest there is a clear reference to the third Narnia book as well as the Odyssey and other quests. As some point I want to ask the author if she is dropping in these references intentionally to lead the reader somewhere or if she is writing the story and some of the reference sneak in initially and she just goes with it. I would guess that these are pretty intentional. But I have read plenty of interviews with authors that have suggested that many of the references that others read into their books were not put there by them. (In response to this review, KB Hoyle and I had a good conversation about references and allusions in writing. I am adding a paragraph at the end of the review because of that conversation.)
At the end of The Oracle, Darcy was forced to pay a price for the answer to her question, that price was significant. She spent the whole year at home trying to figure out how she might solve the problem. But there are two other problems that develop at home. First at the end of the Oracle, the boy at camp that knows about the magical world, but is not with The Six because he appears to be a supporter of the evil ruler disappears. Darcy gains a new level of empathy for him because she observes his father beating him.
And the other thread that is significantly part of this book is a potential romance between Perry and Darcy. Yes, the prophecy says that Darcy and Prince Tellius will get married, but there is at least a chance that that assumption is is a wrong reading of the prophecy. While at home, Perry and Darcy communicate and that communication develops into a budding romance.
The problem is that Sam, Darcy’s best friend, has had a crush on Perry for years. And because Darcy knows about that crush, she does not talk about Perry to Sam. So that lack of communication compounds the problems surrounding the romance between Darcy and Perry creating a separation between Sam and Darcy because of the hiddenness of Darcy and Perry’s relationship. But also, Darcy does like Tellius, at least as a friend, and maybe more.
I am not a young adult. So as much as I do enjoy reading young adult novels for a variety of reasons, the bad decision making, the lack of awareness of how short term decisions will impact long term issues, the inherent self centeredness and the assumption that others just do not understand, do wear on me a bit. This series completely reads as an honest portrayal of young adults to me. But as someone that is around the parent’s age of these teens, I want them making better decisions and being more aware of the others around them.
I followed The White Thread up immediately with Akata Witch, a contemporary young adult fantasy book set in Africa by a native African author (who now teaches in the US). It is interesting to see where these two books come together and where they diverge. I did not intentionally read them in sequence, but it was a good exercise.
Update: I read ‘How to Read Literature Like a Professor‘ (I was going to say last summer, but I just looked and it was three years ago). One of the things that wasn’t really new in the book but I hadn’t heard expressed in these words was how authors are intentionally referencing work, not just for parallel concepts, but to bring about ideas and feelings from those previous works.
I remembered How to Read Literature when I was talking to a friend about The Force Awakens. He didn’t like Force Awakens because ‘I already saw the original Star Wars movie’. But that felt to me like such a weak way of reading Force Awakens. The parallelism of the stories, is not just a retelling but shows the reader what is important by inference and shows the differences by separation.
KB Hoyle is writing YA books that are sophisticated in its story telling. It isn’t just a flat surface story, but has both subtlety and something under the surface that will help the book have a longer life and meaning. Many younger readers will not see the allusions and references to other books, but more experienced readers will. Those depths of meaning are more than ‘easter eggs’, they do something inside the reader that is aware of them, by referencing previous emotions and understanding into the current book.