Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Answering Review Request: Ambrose Beacon

Alena Gouveia asked me to read "Ambrose Beacon". It's about demons attacking this family because one of the children is the Chosen One. I will evaluate plot, characters and polish before assigning a grade.

The prologue is fantastic. It delivers exposition and plot points without bogging down the plot, it has quick and effective characterization, and it is exciting and engaging. However, this made me worried. Whenever I see an excellent prologue, the rest of the book is poor. I don't know why this is this but it generally happens and that is the case here.
After the prologue with Fair Folk and demons and End of the World stuff there is a long stretch of mundane life with the Ambrose family. It works for characerization (I'll get to that in the next section) but it feels so out of place that it could be a separate story. This lasts until chapter nine. Getting there was difficult and the plot did not pick up at that point.
This is because the plot consists of the children running back and forth between their country home and their neighbor's (about 5 miles away)  and always chased by endless numbers of nameless demons that they ultimately kill anyways because another ally shows up or another Ambrose kid develops superpowers. The finale differs only in that it takes place somewhere else. I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over again, complete with someone saying "I'm More Hero Than Thou."

I'd say my biggest problem with the plot is paranoia, mistrust, and a general refusal for all the good guys to get on the same page and cooperate. You'd think that if all you need to do to create a superpowered savior was to create some half-elves, then there would be a dating service or something a thousand years back. On the other hand, this process is implied to be a crapshot and also that there's a long history genocidal-level bad blood between the two species.  On a third hand, you'd think the Fair Folk would get over it after two thousand years.

 However, there are some aspects of this plot that I liked.

I like how the Adults Are Not Useless which is normally not the case in stories like these. Indeed, one could argue that Harper, the children's uncle, is The Hero of this story because of his greater importance to the plot, protector status, and greatest character development. Jerry and Larry, two mundane police officers, take down just as many demons as the superpowered kids.
I also like how Arianna, the children's mother, dealt with the problem of 'which one is the Chosen One'. It is a delightful twist on this kind of plot line and to talk further of it would be spoilers.

As said in the Plot section, chapters 1-8 do not advance the plot. This is because they are devoted to character development. There are a dozen characters to introduce and most of them are plot significant so the story takes a time out to develop them. It is successful there. By the time the demons show up, all the characters are sufficiently individualized: Billie is the cutie, Louis the class clown, and Jerry is the father trying to balance work and parenting and tolerating his brother-in-law etc.

The problem is two fold: 1.) it's boring and 2.) it feels out of place.
After the mage vs demons thing in the prologue it felt like a let down. There's a plot line about a school dance, school bullies, parent-child relationship problems, and other things. It was a struggle to get through this stuff because it was boring. I don't pick up a fantasy book to read about this sort of thing.
I like to see character driven plots and that is the case here. Every event is driven by character decision (except for one Contrived Coincidence via Exact Eavesdropping) and we can see that thought process taking place. The problem here is that seeing many people's thought processes about many events bogs down the plot. Another problem is the all the ambrose kids and many of the adults have the same reactions to things, so it all muddles together when they fight demons, which is constant.
This book does not require proof reading; there are no spelling or grammar errors. It does, however, require editing.
As elsewhere in this review, a lot of stuff bogs down the plot. The PDF I read was 404 pages total and very little happened in that time period. Instead of rapid page turning (which I assume is the intention) I feel like I'm sloughing through it. Thinking of it as a Tv show, I'd say there's four episodes worth of plot material here; five tops. When you have a 400 page book, I'd expect something closer to 12.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Ambrose Beacon" a C

Click here for the next review request: Out Of The Grey

Click here to read the previous review request "Blade Song"

This was a free review request. I received nothing for this review other than a free copy of the book.

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