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Review of Bound to the Abyss by James Vernon

Review of Bound to the Abyss by James VernonBound to the Abyss by James Vernon
Series: Bound to the Abyss #1
on April 3rd 2014
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 350


Book One of a Two Part Story Arc and the First in a Series Ven Khilada is a land of magic and gods. Settlements abound, both large and small, each with a life of their own and hidden secrets. Except Rottwealth. A backwater village, surrounded by mountains and ignored by most, nothing of merit ever leaves the valley. Aside, of course, from the mystical plant which shares its name. A plant that can heal even the most dire wounds in a matter of moments, and flourishes within the swamp that takes up part of the valley. Ean Sangrave, a disgruntled Healer’s apprentice barely in his twenties, wants to escape and start a new life outside of the village that hates him. If the village ever discovered Ean’s ability to summon creatures from the Abyss - like his closest friend, Zin the imp - judgment would be swift and punishment final. When an unconquerable monster takes residence in the new mine, the mayor’s oldest son, Bran Erikson, is given the task of traveling to the capital city Lurthalan to seek help. To the surprise of the entire village, he chooses Ean to accompany him. But with a connection to a taboo god and a power he barely understands, can Ean fit into the world outside of his secluded village, or will the stigma that has been placed on him since birth follow him the rest of his life.

This was a tough book to review. The plot was pretty simple: There’s a bad monster in a tiny village and 3 youngsters set off to find help. When I say youngsters, I mean between 18-20 year olds, but boy did it feel like they were younger. I’ll get into the characters in a bit, but first …

The world was nicely laid out for us. The town we start in was rather small and recluse, so the world outside was more mysterious in the beginning, but as we travel, it became apparent that it’s a simple, standard fantasy world. What was different was the magic and creatures that live in it. Those were what kept me reading.

There appears to be a few different types of magic in this book. Some of them are not explored in detail, which helps set us up for some answers in the following books. The magic we get to know intimately was Ean’s ability to tap into the Abyss. His power to summon creatures added some pretty neat monsters to read about. I found that to be the most entertaining part of the book. Then again, I like me some different monsters. It’s also a dark force with some nasty repercussions that we come to learn about as the story progresses. Those were just as fascinating.

The traveling and the majority of the book was entirely too descriptive for my taste and had me skimming often. For those who like detail, this will be a great book. I found myself quite bored sometimes with the day-to-day walking, talking, and scenery input. I would have enjoyed it much more if it’d added some character depth, if I felt that perhaps it had a purpose, but I never got that satisfied feeling. What scenes did contain character musings felt redundant. I will mention at this point that this book has gotten some great reviews and has a nice overall rating on Goodreads. Just goes to show how picky of a reader I am.

Now, about those characters … Well, I guess it comes down to what I’m looking for in a book. The dialog, interaction, and actions of the three main characters felt very immature for their age. I guess when I think of a book set in these times, most often people 18 and older are settling down, doing more on their own, even married. And if that’s not the case, they still talk and act a certain way. Ean, 18 years old, is bullied—like take-your-lunch-money bullied. I always imagine this being reserved for younger children, and the dialog and the way it happened made it feel very middle grade instead of young adult. It set the tone and, to me, made the characters seem way younger than their actual age. And of course there’s the all too familiar “I love her but she doesn’t love me and is with that other guy” trope that seems to be in nearly every young adult book I’ve read. Love triangles set my teeth on edge.

The bullying happened in the first chapter so my interest was already waning. Ean had a tough childhood, and the way he’s treated made me feel a tinge of sympathy for him. After all, I do like a character that’s had a rough beginning. But the way he treats his “closest friend” zaps whatever sympathy I might’ve had. Again, he felt very immature, more toward 12-13 years old. The other two characters were not as developed and also acted younger than their age. Now, it’s been a while since I was in my teenage years, so maybe I’m being harsher than I should, or perhaps remembering things in a brighter light, so bear that in mind while reading this review.

I think this straddles a line between middle grade and young adult. Some say it’s dark fantasy, but I’ve read some dark books, and this didn’t strike me as one. Sure, a few people died, but I didn’t find it overly gory or traumatic. Now, keep in mind, my dark books were very dark and I like my gore very gory.

So, overall, I suggest reading a bunch of reviews before you decide to pick this up. Based on Goodreads and Amazon, tons of people love this book. For me, it was just too … young.

About James Vernon

James R. Vernon was born and lives on the planet Earth. He holds a degree in teaching mathematics in junior and high schools, which has zero influence on his writing. Instead he has spent as much time as possible, from a time when he could handle somewhat complicated words, reading and enjoying fantasy novels.

Often stuck in long commutes for his job, James’s imagination was free to create new worlds and stories. Through the assistance of family, friends, and some generous backers, James has been able to pursue his dream of sharing his stories with more then just the characters he has created.

When not writing, he can usually be found with those he holds most dear, teaching those that put more white in his hair every year, losing money playing poker, losing time in a good book or song, or completely lost in his own mind.

Oh, and obviously he tries to enjoy life as much as he can.

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