Book Review: The Boy from the Burren by Sheila Gilluly

24310187Aengus, a hard-bitten young thief with a gift for sand painting, expects a fine new life of adventuring when his drunken father sells him to Bruchan, a wandering storyteller.

But instead of illustrating his new master’s tales at fairs, Aengus finds himself embroiled in a desperate secret war. For Bruchan is the leader of an embattled religious community which is fighting to keep alive its hidden knowledge and ancient way of life. Threatening them are the fanatical Brotherhood of the Wolf, servants of the Wild Fire, who ruthlessly hunt all such heretics.

Schooled by his master in weapons, arcane art, and the proud history of his people, can the boy from the Burren find a way to save himself and all he has grown to love, or will one spill of the colored sands unleash the ravaging Fire? (synopsis from Goodreads)

Rating: 1/10

I couldn’t finish this book. I have quite a few problems with it, so I will only talk about my three major issues here.

1) I did not like how it was written.

I have a problem with fantasy and adventure books that are in first person. I feel that it takes a lot of the drama and excitement away from the events, especially when the character is telling the story after it has happened. Obviously they live or they wouldn’t be telling this story. Unless they are telling it from the great beyond, in which case the book should be thrown across the room and then singed. (I do not condone burning books, but I will accept singeing them. Maybe a little spot on the corner.) I digress.

The POV was my main concern on the writing, but not the only one. I wasn’t a fan of the characters voice. There were many times when if felt inconsistent and his attempts at humor were forced. I also was not a fan of how the character would reflect on events in a way that would tear me out of the story and remind that this already happened. Like this section:

“but now, as a healer myself, I will say honestly that if I had such a patient as Geri in the same circumstances, I could have done nothing for him.”

I don’t want to hear the reflection, I want to see the growth that lead to him realizing this. I don’t want to be told that his feelings changed. I want to see his feelings change. This sort of thing happens multiple times in the half that I read.

2) I got halfway through it and nothing exciting (at least to me) happened.

Seriously, nothing happened. There were a few spots where there was a fight of some kind, but the character was never involved in the fight, so we don’t actually get to see the fight occur. There was a part with a snake that was probably the most exciting thing that happened in the first half of the book and that was mostly him spending, apparently hours, moving very slowly toward a bucket so as not to startle the snake. (I won’t tell what happens next since I try to make this a spoiler free blog but it’s not much.) There is also a scene with pirate dwarves that goes nowhere. Yes, a scene with pirate dwarves was somehow boring. I know. I didn’t think it was possible either.

3) The premise seemed a little boring and also a little unclear.

So, I got halfway through the book and couldn’t figure out why it was that being a painter was such a big deal or why Aengus was apparently a part of some prophecy. This wasn’t explained in the whole first half of the book. From what I can tell, the painter is just the guy that stands behind the bard and creates a scene the depicts something from the story the bard is telling. Never was it explained why Aengus is more important than any other painter (other than a prophecy) or what this skill has to do with anything other than making cool pictures. Were his paintings somehow magical? Why is Aengus important? What exactly is the prophecy? There were so many questions that didn’t seem like they were going to be answered anytime soon, and I wasn’t willing to put in the time to figure it out.

I feel like this had some potential in it, but there were areas that really should have been fixed and worked on that weren’t. Sadly, I am not going to but this on any recommendation lists.


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