The Riddle by Alison Croggon
Publication: Candlewick (August 8, 2006), Hardcover, 512pp / ISBN 0763630152
Genre: Fantasy, YA/Teen
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Read: November 2009
Series: Book #1
I said in book one’s review that the story moved slowly but the fast, action-packed bits made up for it. In this book that’s no longer true, and I think it’s because it’s more focused on internal conflicts than external. There’s still some fight scenes, but I’d definitely say the majority of the action happened in Maerad’s heart and head.
Is that bad? Not really, and I actually think it made the story flow better than the first one. But on the other hand, Maerad is so much in denial about certain things that it takes her a while to realize what she’s doing to herself: the more she denies who she is and what she’s feeling, the more she’s locking away her Bard powers. It gets so bad she can’t even do magic for a while! She gets better, though, of course. But it’s a slow journey, and it’s not always an interesting one.
Summary from Amazon:
Maerad is a girl with a tragic and bitter past, but her powers grow stronger by the day. Now she and her mentor, Cadvan, hunted by both the Light and the Dark, must unravel the Riddle of the Treesong before their fractured kingdom erupts in chaos. The quest leads Maerad over terrifying seas and vast stretches of glacial wilderness, ever closer to the seductive Winterking — ally of her most powerful enemy, the Nameless One. Trapped in the Winterking’s icy realm, Maerad must confront what she has suspected all along: that she is the greatest riddle of all.
I still like this book. I like that it forces Maerad to look at herself deeper than she had been, and though she annoyed me sometimes with her unwillingness to just look at her actions and accept them for what they are, it’s understandable. And it actually does make for a good story– the best part for sure is when she finally breaks her shell around her heart and starts looking at herself like I wanted her to in the first part of the book.
But! Though the emotional journey with Maerad was nice, I also couldn’t help but feel like the book was sort of…deliberately trying to manipulate me in ways I didn’t want to be manipulated. See, I was already sympathetic with Maerad: I understood what sort of person she was and how she reacts to certain things. I didn’t need the book– okay, the author— to pile on this, like, teenage girl weeping into her diary kind of crap. It was just too much, and I think I said elsewhere that it was bordering on purple prose-ish.
(Like, I know Maerad’s sad because she thinks her brother died, okay? I don’t need her to go on and on about how the light of her life was extinguished, over and over and over again.)
I hope I explained that well enough because it really did bug me (though it seemed to slow down in the second half of the book).
The second thing that bugged me about this book was how it pretended certain people were dead when I knew they weren’t and that they’d pop back up again later. (They all died off-screen– never trust off-screen deaths.) By pretending they’re dead you get a lot of reaction from Maerad, of course, but it’s much less effective to me, the reader, because I know they aren’t dead. And because I know that it made the BIG REVEAL! at the end somewhat ridiculous. (But I was still glad there was a BIG REVEAL because that character needed to be revealed, okay. That character was my favorite character!)
So, in conclusion: a bit too manipulative, a bit slow, a bit emotional but still somehow satisfying. Though I do feel a bit exhausted, lemme tell ya. I’ve got the third book and I think the main character changes then, so I look forward to seeing how that is.