Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Review: Sons of Macha

Sons of Macha
Sons of Macha by John Lenahan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the first two books in this series on Podiobooks.com, so as soon as I knew this was coming out I preordered it from Amazon. I was very glad I did.

If you haven't read [b:Shadowmagic|3061457|Shadowmagic (Shadowmagic, #1)|John Lenahan|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1228868317s/3061457.jpg|3092362], you should start there, because the three books form one continuous story. This one would benefit from a bit of a "Who are these people and why are they fighting?" refresher at the start, although to the credit of the author I quickly remembered who everyone was.

As I was reading through, I was thinking that the punctuation was a little rough, and I found at least one homonym error ("recanting" where he means "recounting"). For an indie book, the editing is good. For a small-press book, average. Imagine my surprise, then, when I reached the end and found it was published by Harper-Collins.

If you imagined very much surprise, dial it back, because Harper-Collins has by far the worst editing of any major publishing house. This is at least the fifth book of theirs I've read that's made it to my "needs-editing" shelf on Goodreads. Shame, Harper-Collins, shame.

There's another language thing that has annoyed me throughout the series. John Lenahan shows signs of knowing a little Gaelic, and so he must know that "banshee" means "female fairy". Yet the banshees are one of the several tribes (along with imps, fairies, elves, brownies and so forth), and they are male and female both. It's a small niggle, but it bugs me.

I'll give this four stars for language, despite that and the poor editing, because Conor, the narrator, is consistently funny in a Spider-Man kind of smartass fashion. That gets him into exactly as much trouble as you would expect. "I know it's wrong to enjoy seeing a fellow human being suffer, but - you can't be right all of the time," he says at one point (demonstrating the ropy punctuation as well as the humour). And "If we made it out of this alive I promised myself I would buy everyone new underwear. If they were anything like me, they were going to need it."

The plot moves along well, no Chekhov's Gun remains unfired, and a lot of the time Conor wins by being smart rather than by fighting (which I always like). His woman troubles provide amusement and eventual resolution. We see triumph and tragedy, though I didn't feel strongly emotionally engaged by the tragedy for some reason (perhaps the lack of character depth I'm about to discuss). Four stars for plot, probably four and a half.

Even though I could easily remember who the characters were after a long gap, they were a little bit one-note. I didn't see a lot of depth in any of them, and there wasn't a whole lot of character change going on. There was also an inconsistency early on with Ruby's age. On one page she was described as a seven-year-old, and then a couple of pages later she was referred to as being twelve (which remained the line from then on). I suspect a late change. She certainly talks more like a seven-year-old than a twelve-year-old to my ear. Three stars for character.

Finally, setting. The Land is a wonderful setting, with original touches like the talking trees with different personalities (some of them dangerous). The two magic systems are fun, and used imaginatively. I liked the nod to Roger Zelazny's Amber in the rune ordeal. An easy four stars for setting.

Again, if you haven't read the first book, do. Better yet, get it from Podiobooks, because the author narrates it with a wonderful gusto, and you'll get to hear how the names are pronounced.

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