Saturday, September 3, 2016

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Rating: WORTHY!

This audiobook was read appropriately by Kristin Condon, who failed only with some of the the male voices (making them sound obnoxiously fake as some female readers can do I'm sorry to report). Otherwise she was very easy on the ear and got most of the voices spot on for me. I liked this story out of the gate for the fact that it was humorous and quirky, but after a while it started to flag. It was nice to get that good feeling to begin with though, because I haven't had a lot of success lately with audiobooks. I have to say that I tend to take more risks with audio than with other books, since I get them for free from the library and I'm willing to give anything a try for some good company on a longish commute to work each day. The downside is that I tend to fail a greater portion of audios than I do print or ebooks. In this case, this one made it under the wire!

I can see a lot of ties to the Harry Potter series here, which might irritate some readers. I could see Professor Snape in the Evil Queen, who is a teacher whose sister is also in the school and is a trouble-maker and a bully, so I guess it's more of a cross between Snape and Malfoy. Also, it was a boarding school (in this case a reform school), which featured rooms and hallways that changed - apparently randomly - like the staircases in Potter. There was also a forest from which the students were forbidden and which houses giants and "Pegasi"!

The author evidently doesn't realize that Pegasus is an actual name in Greek mythology; not a species, but a god sired by Zeus himself! If you want a species name, then maybe it should be something along the lines of Equus volantem. In short, there was a lot of copying and this author made no more effort to make it make sense than did Rowling. Why for example in Potter, was a children's school situated near a highly dangerous forest? Why was there no magic keeping kids out? Why do hallways randomly appear and disappear? As with the staircases in Potter, what was the point other than to put a weird quirk into a story of a magical world? Of course this is exactly what it was for, and younger readers don't have a problem with it. Older ones might.

The characters also bore similarities. There was a flighty female like Luna Lovegood, and she even had a name ending in 'a': Kayla. The main character is Gillian or Jillian. it's impossible to tell with an audio. I shall employ the latter spelling for now. She was sent to Fairy Tale Reform School for a third strike theft offense. The third leg was a 'jack-me-lad' kind of a guy whose name was actually Jax (or jacks, or something like - short for Jackson), I'm sorry to have to report.

That name (Jack) is way-the-heck overused in fiction. Normally that's a deal-breaker for me because I expect my authors to have more imagination and inventiveness than to go immediately to a stock character name like that. I flatly refuse to read any more novels which have a main character named Jack. In this case I let it slide because he wasn't the main character, and he wasn't too irritatingly competent and macho. Also I really liked the warped take on fairy-tale land which the author had concocted here, and I loved the wry view of life the kleptomaniacal main character adopted.

The magic was illogical, which may sound strange thing to say of a book about fairy-tales and magic, but if you're going to create a world where everything is apparently free - as in a magical world - then there's no reason at all to have impoverished characters. That always stuck out like a sore thumb in the Potter series. Why was Ron's family poor when they were excellent at magic? If they could transform a goblet into a rat, they sure as hell could transform lead into gold, yet they were always down at heel! Why were Ron's clothes shabby when it was so easy to do some sort of reparo spell and fix them? Why did anyone work when they could get everything they wanted from magic - and at no cost? None of that made any sense at all!

The alternative is to have rules - to make spells only work in a certain way or entail a cost to perform, and that didn't seem in evidence here any more than it did in the Potters, but Jillian's family had no magic, and resented those who did - who could, for example, magic up several pairs of shoes which her father would normally have made - so he was robbed of the work. This at least gave Jillian her motivation for theft. Additionally, some of the teachers seemed a bit on the stupid side I have to say! Why, for example, did they believe Jillian's lie that Jax was sneaking out of an upper storey window after curfew, on the flimsy excuse of looking for Jillian's lost Journal out in the grounds? The lie was so obvious and so out-of-left-field given Jax's actions that it made no sense they would let such a bogus claim slide. That kind of thing aside, I did enjoy the opening sequences: they were funny and a bit different, and made for an enjoyable listen. I liked this one and intend to listen to the second in the series.