Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

The Basics:
Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
Delacorte Press
Book One in the Seeker series
YA Fantasy/Science Fiction
Published February 10, 2015
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads

Why I picked up this book:

That gorgeous cover promises all kinds of fantasy-goodness.

The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.

As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.

And she'll be with the boy she loves--who's also her best friend.

But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.

Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.

And now it's too late to walk away.
My thoughts:

Seeker is a curious book. It's been compared unfairly to other series, comparisons that don't do it justice and that really aren't supported by the unique texture and atmosphere of this book. Certainly a lot of the Goodreads comments about it right now are not pleased by an appeal made to readers of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. This book is not those books. It's an unusual melding of fantasy and science-fiction, set sometime in the future, on Earth or a version of Earth. With no clear time to pin down how far in the future it takes place, and weak on world building in general, Seeker doesn't make it easy for the reader to ground themselves in those terms. Instead, it requires the reader to exist within the bubble of the novel's conflict: a complex power struggle between families, friends, lovers, between doing what is good, what is right, what is best for the many, between loyalties, promises, oaths, training.

The story revolves around four teenagers - Quin and Shinobu who are fifteen when the book begins, John who is sixteen, and the Young Dread, Maud, whose life has been stretched but who is roughly fourteen years old. It was easy to forget at times, that they are so young. Though there's a community nearby, they seem to have been kept very isolated through their childhoods and early teenage years. 

The love triangle that develops might have irked me for being the predictable choice in a YA story except that I think the way that these kids have lived, it's a viable outcome. Certainly, everyone could have seen each other as faux-siblings, but given the lack of other potential romantic partners, I think the love triangle worked for me. 

That said, for me, John is very one dimensional. While he's got some great motivation and a clear goal, I felt that beyond those things and his love for Quin, there was nothing of substance to this guy. His role is to remain focused on these things through the book and while I think that the questions and ethical dilemmas he faces (or refuses to acknowledge) are some of the most intriguing of the book, his obsession is just too strong to allow for other traits.

Quin and Shinobu have a bit more depth, which is mainly granted by the opportunity they have to live outside of the Seeker life for a brief period of time. I think this allows them to develop beyond their training and the focus of their childhoods on becoming Seekers and so on. They're also easier to empathize with, I think, though John has a pretty compelling back story. I just wish his story in the present was more nuanced. 

Maud is tricky because the Dreads - characters who seem to exist to supervise or monitor the Seekers - are such big question marks through most of the book. I'm intrigued to know more, and wasn't really satisfied with all the information we were given about the Dreads.

There is a good balance of thought-provoking, often ethics-related questions and of action in Seeker. There are plenty of pauses to really consider what's at stake, what the potential outcomes are, what motivates each character and so on, but there's also lots of action to keep things moving. 

The biggest lull for me occurred during the Interlude section. While Maud's chapter provided some necessary background information about the Dreads and the tension between them, John's sections gave us scenes that we already knew the outcomes of - I felt like we'd already been told these scenes, and now had to see them as well. It was an unnecessary step back in time, for me. 

What I would have liked more of is Seeker lore, so that we had a better sense of what it was Quin expected to do as a Seeker. There's also a lot of evidence given that there are other houses of Seekers - what happened to them? Why does Quin have a sense of expectation, having heard stories about the wonderful things done in the past by Seekers, but never question why they haven't been taught a more specific history of Seekers? She and Shinobu have both researched their family lines to determine the degree to which they are related (not very) and it seemed a bit odd to me that in the context of that, they didn't learn more about being a Seeker or the history of the houses themselves. Many of my questions really end up returning back to the weak world building in the book. Seeker has some great concepts, and I like that the world is this combination of Scottish rural countryside and drug-infested Hong Kong, with a dash of aircars and morphing whipswords for good measure. Oh, plus telepathy and time-hopping and... yeah.  There's lots of really cool elements brought together here, but the sum of it all feels like a big question mark to me. 

Do other people know about Seekers? Are there other telepaths in the world? What other futuristic (as in aircars) technologies exist?

Hopefully book two in the series will tackle some of these questions.

Bottom line:

Seeker is an intriguing book, with a mixture of fantasy and science fiction elements that are tied together around some really tough questions about family, loyalty, justice, revenge, and the overarching "What is the right thing to do?" issue. I think it fell flat on a few fronts, but there's a spark of something really compelling here that I hope is fleshed out more fully in book two. I think this is a book that grows on me the more I think about it, but that was just shy of the mark of being *amazing.*

3.5 stars
For fans of modern fantasy, science fiction, sword fights, love triangles 

But don't just take my word for it! I grabbed a few links to other blog reviews of Seeker:

The Obsessive Book Nerd

A Book Obsession

Writing My Own Fairy Tale

Once Upon a Twilight

1 comment:

  1. I will have to recommend this to a friend of mine. I had never heard of this series and this would be right up her alley.