Lionboy: The Truth

Lionboy - The Truth

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

Lionboy: The Truth was first published in 2006 and is the third and final instalment of the Lionboy Trilogy. It was written by the mother/daughter writing team of Zizou Corder and is preceded by Lionboy (2003) and Lionboy: The Chase (2004). The novel carries on from exactly where its prequel left off and therefore you have to read the other books first to fully appreciate it.

Now that Charlie has been reunited with his parents, it feels as though his adventures are finally over. The lions have been returned to their pride and the evil lion tamer, Maccomo, has been brought to justice. However, he is still in great danger. His parents escaped from the Corporacy but the High Chief Executive wants them back.

It is not long before Maccomo escapes from his lion guards and manages to capture Charlie. He leaves Morocco for the Carribean, intending to complete Rafi’s original task of handing him over to the Corporacy for a reward. Although both Sergei and Ninu stowaway with Charlie, they discover that it will take far more than an alley cat and chameleon to free him this time.

When they realise that Charlie is missing, his parents, Claudio, the King of Bulgaria and (of course) the Young Lion and Elsina set sail in order to get him back. Their voyage takes them all the way to the Corporacy’s base off the coast of Haiti where they finally have a chance to stop the evil corporation once and for all.

It feels as though it’s been a long time since I first looked at this series but it’s nice to finally conclude this set of reviews. As with the rest of the saga, however, I’ll just start by saying that I don’t really consider these books to be young adult novels. While the authors’ website states that they are aimed at both children and young adults, I think that it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the case. Corder’s written style did feel as though it had matured a little in this book but I think it’s still too simplistic to appeal to anyone over the age of twelve. I would target it at 8-10 year olds however there are a few passing comments, including a brief (and misquoted) reference to the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze and cameo from Fidel Castro, that would fly over the head of a younger reader.

My first though on picking up this novel that it was a somewhat unnecessary sequel. Lionboy: The Chase could have easily been the end of this series as it did wrap up both Charlie and the lions’ missions quite nicely. However, as I started to read the book I did start to see why it was a necessary conclusion. The threat of the Corporacy largely sat in the background of the previous books as the main focus was on Charlie’s journey. Because of this, it never really occurred to me that one major plot thread – the Allergenie cats – was left hanging. As soon as I realised this, I admit that I was left curious as to what exactly “the truth” was.

Unfortunately, the novel didn’t really deliver. In fact, the title is incredibly misleading. There is no real truth to be uncovered, no big secret behind the organisation. We knew why the Allergenies were being produced right from the first book. The rest of the Corporacy’s plot is only alluded to. Charlie believes that they might be trying to engineer perfect slaves but this is never actually confirmed within the story.

The novel is also incredibly slow to get to this lacklustre revelation. For the first half of the story, Charlie is held prisoner while we are shown every other character (including some pretty minor ones from earlier books) rallying to save him. The novel doesn’t really start moving until Charlie encounters the other kidnapped children which is around 130 pages in. By this point, I have to admit that I’d almost lost interest. My curiosity was briefly peaked as I wondered exactly why the Corporacy had gathered children with a selection of pretty useless superpowers (as a side note, hair braiding foetuses are joining phantom ninjas and anthro roller coasters on the list of the strangest things I’ve read about for this blog). This curiosity was short lived as the roll these new characters played in the novel was largely insignificant.

The novel also pushed the boundaries of disbelief until they snapped. I’ve criticised this series in the past for being childishly written and that has never been so true. I can suspend my disbelief to accept that a boy can gain the ability to talk to cats because of a leopard scratch (just about). However, this novel brings in a chameleon that can talk to any creature (including both humans and computers) in order to serve the purpose of instantly removing any obstacle that stands in Charlie’s way. Yes, this is a book for children but that’s no excuse for lazy writing. Just because children aren’t as discerning as adults doesn’t mean that they should just be forced to endure plots that are full of holes and a complete lack of any explanation or closure.

You may recall my dislike of the ending of Lionboy: The Chase (which virtually ended with To Be Continued). This book official has the worst, laziest ending that I’ve ever come across in a middle grade novel. It actually ends with a bullet point list which summarises what happened to every character following the climax. I really wish that I was joking about this. Really, I do wonder what the authors were thinking here. I can’t begin to justify it in any way. It’s just awful.

The inclusion of the immense secondary cast in this story also felt like a bit of a misstep. Virtually every character that had appeared in the earlier novels also got a cameo in this book. This might have been nice if I’d actually cared about any of them but I couldn’t even recall who some of them are as they did not make much of an impression. Other than the King of Bulgaria, of course, who is very hard to forget. Because the characters were all crammed into this story, none of them really got a chance to do much. The only character in the story that contributed to the climax at all was Aneba (Charlie’s Dad). Everyone else took a back seat, including the lions who barely had any impact on the plot this time around.

The bad guys were also really bland. In the last books at least we had Maccomo and Rafi – a cruel liontamer and a teenage slaver – who were shallow characters but still ever-present and very easy to hate. This time around our big boss is the Corporacy’s High Chief Executive – a man who has very little impact on the story, never seems threatening and is essentially defeated due to the fact that his computer breaks down. Not a really impressive note to end the series on.

The one saving grace of the story is Charlie. Looking back over the series now, I can really appreciate how he’s grown as a character.  Charlie started out as a little boy – making many silly mistakes and taking comfort from sleeping with his cuddly tiger. Yet he really grows from his experiences and seems much more mature because of it. It’s kind of nice that Charlie largely brings down the Corporacy through his own ingenuity. In the early novels he had to rely on the lions to protect him but now he’s more than capable of saving the day on his own.

I could talk about this novel all day but I guess I’ve got to end this review somewhere. All in all, the Lionboy Trilogy really wasn’t for me. While I liked Charlie as a protagonist, my interest in the novels pretty much ends with him. The story is weak and full of holes, the characters have no development and it lacks any kind of tension. However, I can see on Goodreads that I’m in the minority here and so I will accept that perhaps there is just some appeal to these books that I just don’t understand. If you liked the series: good for you. Personally, I’m just really glad that I don’t have to review any more of these.

Lionboy: The Truth can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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