James Trumpis asked me to read "Welcome to Harmony". It's about a werewolf boy with human parents moving to a new town where he meets other supernatural folk. I will examine plot, characters, and polish and then assign a grade.
There isn't much of a plot. While there is a single plot thread that connects the events together and forms a satisfying climax, it does not inform the meat of the book. Therefore, Slice-Of-Life is more appropriate to describe this story. One chapter is about werewolf training, another is about a school dance and a third is about hanging out with a ghost from the sixties. I like this for two reasons; 1.) It makes for a intriguing mundane fantastic setting and 2.) It's anti-epic.
The world building for Harmony is fascinating. Mr. Trumpis creates societies for the supernatural elements in his story. For instance, vampires are organized by elders and their territories ('regions') and they are policed by the Red League. I'd like to see more of that in future books. Second, there's backstory. For instance, Harmony has so many supernaturals because a family of mages founded it as a gathering point for their coven. If Mr. Trumpis ever writes a prequel for their immigration from the old world to Harmony, I'd read it. Both of these are under a masquerade but there never seems to be a fine line between the supernatural and the mundane; it's just one more culture among many. There's lots of other stuff mentioned or started in one of the chapters but it was never developed enough for me. Indeed, the only problem with the world building is that there was never enough of it. I wanted to see more.
The book has an 'anti-epic' air in that the story events are low-key. Vampires do not stalk the night and eat people (usually). Instead they obtain blood from willing donors like someone ordering a speciality drink. Werewolves fight monsters on the town's borders but consider this a routine chore to defend their territory. The climax is the most emotionally charged and high stakes affair in the story and it's SPOILERS!
There are also things that I do not like about this plot. They are obsession with reader identification and that the Slice of Life events are a flash in the pan.
Significant time is spent making Dillon 'relatable'. Aside from page number 1, the first twenty or so pages are about the mundane everyman aspects of Dillon. There is talk about how Dillon's parents don't understand him, and how they are obsessed wotj being a normal sociable etc family and Dillon indulging in things like World of Warcraft and dealing with boring classes and bullies etc.This veneer broken by accident which leads me to assume rule of drama. On one hand this helps to establish the 'anti epic' tone stated above but all too often this is used in some lame plot device to get the reader to identify with the protagonist and pretend to be them. It's easy to get the wrong idea and become bored in the first two dozen pages or so.
The story events come and go quickly. Many of the chapters are short and so they do not feel fully formed. The Valentine Dance is one such example; it happens without mention or preamble, introduces a conflict, and then ends. One could argue this is more realistic but it still comes out of nowhere and feels like an Aborted Arc because it drifts into an unrelated plot point. Other examples are not like this; the ghost house for instance has a formal beginning middle and end complete with the introduction and resolution of conflict.
There is a curious split in characterization between the mundane characters and the supernatural characters. The former are bland and the latter are better rounded.
Because of the mundane opening and first person narration, Dillon feels like a bland everyman for a good chunk of the book. The first arc is about him as a featureless narrator with parent problems. Then the next several story events are his introduction to the various supernatural elements of Harmony which make him an Audience Surrogate. By the end of the book this is no longer the case and I came to like his personality but the start remains bland. Miles is little better; scrawny, socially awkward, spents a lot of time with video games and in short a stereotypical nerd. Like Dillon his personality is better developed and rounded by the end of the book but at first he feels like a complimentary everyman to Dillon.
The same is true with their parents; I can't tell Dillon's parents apart because they act and think in the same way. Miles' Dad sounds like a red neck and and his mother doesn't have any personality at all.
The Sullivan family, on the other hand, are great. The twins have their sibling bickering but are not defined by it. They have werewolf traits but they are not defined by those either. Their father has more personality then Dillon and Miles' dads put together (Reasonable Authority Figure, Good Dad, fan of the Rolling Stones). Their mom is similarly developed. I could say the same for Kessler (the vampire Elder) and his two vampire wards or for Gabby and her sorcerer family.
It makes sense to avoid wasting time on unimportant characters but because the mundanes are the first ones introduced it was a turn off for me and the split bothered me.
I didn't notice anything in the way of spelling errors but the rest is more complicated. First of all, this is a first person narration so the punctuation will be different; no one thinks in perfect grammar but personally, I don't like it.
Another issue is the teenager voice. Another reviewer stated that Mr.Trumpis speaks the 'tween' language and I am suspicious of any adult that says another adult can talk teenager. I left Dillon's age group a decade ago and even I think it's dated. However, Shawn is proof that Mr.Trumpis is aware that teenage slang changes over time. Shawn was a teenager in the sixties and hasn't aged since then because he's a ghost so he speaks differently then Dillon and Dillon notices the difference.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Welcome to Harmony" a B.
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