Pages of Awesome

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Venom and Song - Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper


Well by now most of you have heard about the two books by authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. They have scaled bestsellers lists, won awards, and have been acclaimed by readers everywhere. I read and reviewed Curse of the Spider-King (book one of The Berinfell Prophecies) and my review is still number one "Most Helpful" on Amazon.com

Anyhow, I was lucky to recieve a copy of the second book through Booksneeze.com, Thomas Nelson's blogger website. However, because I wanted to support the authors I also bought another copy.

The book was well worth the money.

From the Back Cover
Now in the strange realm of Allyra, the Seven young lords confront a traitor in their midst, a creature-infested forest, teenage fears and doubts, inexplicable mysteries . . . and the Spider King himself.

In a rigorous training program that makes boot camp look like Disneyland, the Seven must quickly learn to harness their own powers, work as one, and elude the Spider King's spies. But as the ancient Berinfell Prophecies are revealed, the Seven soon discover their training might not be enough. To stop the Spider King they must also unravel the secrets of the Rainsong, travel to a creepy, trap-infested fortress to find the legendary keystone, and lead the Berinfell Elves in an attack on the Spider King's own turf. An epic adventure with powerful messages about true strength, forgiveness, and working together as one body that will grab the attention of intermediate readers.

Plot
As I expected, the plot was very interesting. The authors balanced slow and fast scenes, emotional with battles, etc. The story was very much different from the first book however. Whereas the first book grabbed me in the beginning and dragged me through to the end, this book grabbed me in the beginning and through me to little sections. Basically, it didn't absorb me nearly as much as book one. Part of the problem here was that the story lacked the element of mystery that Curse of the Spider King was drenched in. Venom and Song became, very quickly, a questing novel. Not that I don't enjoy those kind of stories, because...hello who doesn't?, but I was expecting something more...original. However, the story was very fast paced.

Highlights of the plot include: the elves' training, very exciting, an interesting land of Gnomes, and the entire second half of the book. Once I crossed over into the second half, the authors had hooked me for the long haul. The book ended in one of the best ways I've seen done. A masterfully frustrating cliff hanger that literally had me holding my breath. Well done.

Characters
As with the first book, there are several main characters. Seven main protagonists and a ridiculous amount of side characters. This doesn't bother me like it does some readers. The authors developed each of the main seven well enough. Most of the character development, it seemed, was to be gleaned from the first book. The other thing I liked about this book was that a main protagonist seemed to rise above the rest. As was my hunch in reading Curse of the Spider King, Tommy Bowman becomes the real main character.

Aside from Tommy, my favorite character was likely the Spider King himself. I must commend the authors highly on the writing of this character. Excellent, excellent, excellent. The first time we are introduced to him took place in one of the best scenes these authors have ever written. And every time he showed up in the story, it made it 10 million times better.

As for emotional connections, there were a few scenes that I knew I should be feeling for the characters, but I really didn't. I understood the emotion, and recognized that it made sense, but overall...there were just too many characters for me to be brought to tears or something. However, during the second half my heart and soul was connected to the movement of the story.

Writing Quality
This is the biggest downfall for this book. Starting very early on and following throughout the course of this book you will find several cases of the following:

Description in Dialogue - this may or may not be an error, but it bugs me. What I mean by this is that the dialogue will follow as: "Look, what's that over there?" "It's a man!" "Yes! And look, he's wearing white!". Somehow, this doesn't sit right with me.

POV Infractions - The book is written in an omniscient, third person limited, point of view. That's the best I can explain it. The way it goes, is that you'll be reading one paragraph in a character's POV and then the next will be in another character's head and then the next is in another's mind and so on and so forth. This wasn't a cause for confusion except on a few points where I had to reread the paragraph to figure out who's head I was in. However, this is a flaw that I also noticed in the previous book.

"ly" adverbs - Quickly, hesitantly, happily, etc. These words abound in the manuscript. They are easy to get past and do not kill the reading experience but were they changed into description, made to show and not tell, the story would have been many times better.

Also, there was a major-ish contradiction in the story. There was a scene during the training part of the book where a character was only allowed to speak "Yes" and "No". If he said any word besides those two they whole group was to go without food for a long amount of time. However, throughout the course of this scene....he says several things besides yes and no. Had me pulling my hair out.

But I shouldn't be so hard on them. Apart from these points the writing was beautiful, detail was vivid, action clear, and very well done. The voices of the two authors merged quite well, though I could guess who wrote certain chapters. I don't think anyone that's not a writer would notice any problems. The dialogue wasn't contrived, save maybe one point, and everything flowed quite well. All in all, just some technical stuff.

Theme
This book has several themes: leadership, teamwork, deliverance, acceptance, sacrifice, etc. It also deals with issues of prejudice and more. Definitely a Christian book. Ellos, the God figure, is discussed far more than in Curse of the Spider King and plays a much greater roll. If you're looking for Christian Fantasy, this book is for you.

Conclusion
The story ended with a major cliff-hanger. Like I said, one of the best I've read. The final battle scene was loaded with twists and turns and thrills and chills. Tons of foreshadowing for book three flocked the pages.

Basic Positive Elements Include: sacrifice, camaraderie, honorable and loving adults, clearly defined good and evil, respect, honor, and more.

Basic Negative/Objectionable Element: young romance (though I thought it was handled well)

I enjoyed this book. If you read and liked Curse of the Spider King, definitely read Venom and Song. It is well done and you'll enjoy it. If you didn't enjoy Curse of the Spider King, depending on your reasons, you may or may not like Venom and Song. If your issue with COTSK involved the POV changes, I think VaS will effectively solve that. Because most of the main seven are together at most times, it reads smoothly. If you didn't like the writing, it's practically the same.

All in all, a good book. 4 outta 5 stars.

Be sure to check out:
The Curse of the Spider King Book Trailer
Wayne Thomas Batson's Blog
Christopher Hopper's Blog
The Book Series Website

To buy the book from Amazon.com click here

I'll be giving this book away, along with Curse of the Spider King, here shortly! Stay tuned!

To the end,
Nathan
"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."