I submitted this book to my book club and it won the election. I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! We all hated it. I'll give a short summary as to why, but I could go on for pages:
The narrator did a fine job; the author did a terrible job. The main character (Oscar) always takes the stupidest reactionary course of action. Throughout the book he gets tons of people killed by running around like a crazy person, ignoring orders, and using his powers with minimal creativity.
The powers that people can have are fairly interesting, but the execution was rather slap-dash. We see hydromancers using their powers to create torrents of water and freeze things/people solid, but when they go to fight Oscar they just dehydrate him - which is very uncomfortable! Elementalists at the beginning of the book can create powerful elementals from available fire, water, air, or earth, but after the first encounter the elementalist will wait for fire or water to appear on the battlefield before making one of those two kinds of elementals. Why not use earth or air? You know.. the elements that are always available?
Throughout the whole story I was thinking: "What is wrong with all these characters? Why are they all so stupid?"
I will say that the moral quandary of how a government would deal with a percentage of the population manifesting super powers like raising the dead was interesting. The ethical questions generally got pushed onto the backburner while Oscar makes friends with other-dimensional creatures. He then goes on to say things like "these creatures are nicer to me than any people here!" after several people are very nice to him (Truelove, Downer, that other guy).
I have plenty of other complaints, but I'll end with the one about the author seeming to be fairly ignorant of military stuff. Oscar starts out the book as the leader of an army detachment that tries to capture renegade magic users. He is also the helicopter pilot for his team. What? Really? So he's gonna be the leader by dropping them off and flying away? Don't give me any lip about him viewing the battlefield from above or using the helicopters' weapons to support his team. There's a word for the guy in the chopper and it's pilot.
The list goes on and on - but do yourself a favor and read Codex Alera by Jim Butcher instead.
There are many interesting facts spread throughout the book. The subject matter is dry and information I consider pertinent is surrounded by sports analogies and asides.
I would recommend this book to patient readers that are very interested in a long overview of the subject matter.
If you like this sort of book I recommend The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr.
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