The Red Sun

The Red Sun

Today’s review has been made entirely possible by Netgalley. As I’m reading from a review copy of this book, please bear in mind that there may be some differences between it and the published novel.

The Red Sun is the debut novel of Alane Adams and is due for release at the beginning of August. It is a fantasy novel which tells the story of a young boy as he battles to rescue his friends from an evil witch. The novel is the first part of the Legends of Orkney series, although a release date for its sequel has not yet been announced.

Twelve year old Sam Baron has grown up believing that he is entirely ordinary. He has lived with his mother since his father abandoned them, goes to a perfectly normal school and likes nothing more than to hang out with his friends Howie and Keely. However, everything changes on the day that his English teacher fails to turn up to class.

Their substitute, Miss Endera, is very beautiful but there also seems to be something off about her. She claims that she got the job by turning their old teacher into a lizard and Sam gets the feeling that she’s not lying. Things get weirder still when a dwarf appears at his house, claiming that Sam is both a descendant of Odin and the son of a witch. As witches are supposed to be unable to have male children, Sam has suddenly become a person of interest for many different magical races.

In the struggle that follows Endera manages to escape back to the parallel world of Orkney, taking both Keely and Howie with her as hostages. Sam follows in the hope of saving them but soon finds himself in grave danger. Orkney is slowly dying, poisoned by the light of a red sun. Some people believe that Sam is the only one who can save them but an equal number think that the curse of the sun is somehow his doing and want him killed. Teaming up with a witch girl named Mavery, Sam realises he has to make a difficult choice. Does he rescue his friends or save the world?

The Red Sun is a very fast paced and exciting read that neatly blends Norse mythology with products of the author’s imagination. Although the tone is occasionally lightened by humorous dialogue, the story is actually far darker than you would imagine. Adams always keeps her target audience in mind and so the novel never felt as though it overstepped any boundaries, yet it did tackle some fairly bleak themes.

Nature versus nurture is the primary focus of the story, with the fate of an entire world hinging on every choice that Sam makes. Throughout the novel, he is tested again and again to see whether or not he will seize his duty towards the people of Orkney or become consumed by his growing dark magic. The answer is not quite as clear cut as you might think. Both sides have severe pros and cons. To take his father’s place on the High Council would mean that Sam’s duty lay in preserving the greater good, which in turn meant that he could not rescue his friends. Siding with the witches would mean that he could save Howie and Keely but would also enviably unleash their chaotic evil magic upon the world. Every decision that Sam makes in the story has dire consequences, making his choice all the more thrilling.

Yet, for all of its promise, the novel just did not work for me. Last week, when I reviewed The Emerald Atlas, I spoke about lack of originality in fantasy novels. This book suffered from the same issue. It’s not that it was a terrible story – it did have a lot of things that I quite enjoyed. My problem was that it offered nothing that I hadn’t seen before. Chosen ones, magical rings, demi-god heroes, characters that were evil for the sake of being evil, plots to destroy the world, elves, dwarves…Because the novel lacked in anything that made it especially unique, it was just instantly forgettable. It’s not the kind of fantasy story that I will keep thinking back over (as I often do with the likes of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Girlgoyle or even Twisted). I can safely say that by the time the sequel is released, I’ll sadly not be able to remember much about this story at all.

Of course, I’m aware that my gripes could well be a personal as I see that The Red Sun has a number of highly positive reviews on Goodreads. If this is the case, please do take my review with a pinch of salt and seek out the novel yourself.

In addition to the lack of originality, I felt that everything in the story just happened too fast. From the moment Endera appears at his school, the novel devolves into one action sequence after another. There is not a chapter when there is not something chasing Sam, or trying to eat him, or causing his dark magic to tempt him. He even gets knocked unconscious on at least four separate occasions. How on earth is he not brain damaged? While this did quickly draw me into the novel, it also started to wear me out after a while. Reading so much action is very tiring. I really did think the story needed a few more quiet sequences in order to help me appreciate them better.

The pacing of the novel also negatively affected the characters as they did not really have time to develop. Leo and Rego barely had a chance to do anything and Keely’s personality fluctuated wildly. She began the story seeming quite nice but after this seemed to fluctuate between being whiny and brave as the novel required. A good example of this can been seen in her relationship with Mavery. Keely initially hates the witchling to the point that she wants to abandon her in the middle of a deadly swamp (a really nice way to treat an eight year old girl) but suddenly the two of them seem to become best friends out of seemingly nowhere. Howie has similarly threadbare character development. There are a few brief scenes where he is show training up giant rats to do his bidding and befriending Endera’s daughter, yet this ultimately goes nowhere in this volume.

And then there is Sam. Oh Sam, how my opinion of you is split. On the one hand, he seemed like a perfectly realistic twelve year old boy. He knows what he wants and is prepared to do anything to get it. While at times this seems a little silly (why doom the world to save your friends? Doesn’t this mean they’re going to die anyway?) I can appreciate that boys his age don’t always think clearly and his loyalty to his friends makes him very likable.

Unfortunately, Sam is also a special snowflake. He is massively overpowered, essentially being two chosen ones rolled into one. Not only is he the first male witch born in a thousand years but he’s also the only known descendant of Odin. Even though he’s never been shown how to use his powers, he still somehow manages to summon them whenever he’s in danger and so therefore never even looks as though he’s losing. He also spends the final third of the novel entirely invincible due to Odin’s blessing. It really removes the tension in the climax when you know that your hero has God Mode activated the whole time.

I don’t have much more to say so I guess it’s time to wrap up this review. While The Red Sun is not a bad novel, it’s unfortunately fairly standard fantasy fair. It’s plot relies on many established tropes and its characters don’t get much development. Fans of the genre might get a kick out of it but there are far better novels of this sort out there.

The Red Sun is due for release on 4th August 2015 and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. aentee @ read at midnight
    Jul 23, 2015 @ 00:08:59

    Wow, what a thorough review. I don’t mind Gary Stu or Mary Sue type characters too much, a bit of wish fulfilment is OK IMO. But the lack of originality will probably steer me away from this one even though fantasy is my genre. Thanks for reviewing!

    Reply

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