Most helpful critical review
Didn't live up to the hype...
on January 11, 2005
Okay, so if you were snooping around in the fantasy circles circa 1995, you are indubitably aware that this trilogy generated an enormous buzz. That in itself was surprising, since The Baker's Boy was Mrs. Jones' very first novel. In addition, it was published by Aspect (Warner Books), an imprint not particularly renowned for publishing bestsellers.
In any event, to a certain extent taking the market by storm, the series was an instant success. The three volumes were all national bestsellers, which is quite unusual. They all topped the Locus Bestseller List. Okay, so it's not the New York Times, but it is still quite an accomplishment for a new author.
Like a lot of people, I bought the books when they came out. Unlike many, I didn't read them yet. The hype was too strong, and I didn't want it to influence me when I read the series. Of course, I didn't really expect to wait nearly 9 years before reading them, either! For some reason, even though Mrs. Jones wrote 3 more novels since the publication of Master and Fool, she never did create waves the way The Book of Words trilogy initially did. Now was the time for me to see what the buzz had been about. . .
As is usually the case, the series did not live up to the expectations the buzz had created within me. Hence, I'm happy to have waited before reading the novels. Otherwise, I would probably have been VERY disappointed by this series. With the enormous number of books I've read over the years, I'm afraid that I have become definitely hard to please. . .
But although the trilogy suffers from several shortcomings, in all objectivity I must admit that it is still a relatively good read.
My main problem with the series is the fact that it appears to be aimed at a younger crowd. In my mind, it seems to be aimed at readers who are under 18. Being 30 (yes, I AM getting old!), I couldn't quite get into it. But I am persuaded that if I had read the series when I was 16 years of age, I would probably have loved it. There is a certain innocence inherent to the characters and their views of love, honor, obligation, etc, that makes the whole thing not ring true to my "adult" perspective.
The biggest shortcoming of the series, however, is the fact that the characters are far from being three-dimensional. As a matter of fact, they are not "real." The author fell into a popular trap, namely creating "cliché" characters: the innocent boy with immense potential, the beautiful and spoiled young woman who turns out to be stronger and more courageous than she believed herself to be, the evil mage, the power-hungry prince, etc. And some characters are just caricatures, case in point being the Archbishop Tavalisk. And yet, having said that about the characters, they are still a likeable bunch. Which, in the end, helps you enjoy the books.
Several plotlines had a lot of potential (the knights of Valdis, the Seers of Larn, Jake's parentage, etc), but they were not exploited to their fullest. Had they been, this series would have been much better. Mrs. Jones took the easy road instead. . .
In light of all this, I have to admit that I nevertheless like J. V. Jones' writing style. She has a witty way to write, which I truly enjoyed. I think that she must challenge herself a little more with her storylines, and explore a bit more those concepts that she creates. It would certainly give ner novels more depth, which in turn would make them more enjoyable.
I believe that J. V. Jones shows great promise and could be a bright voice in the fantasy genre. Hopefully her other novels will show just how much potential she truly possesses. . .:-)
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