Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: The Labyrinth Wall -- More Maze Runner than Hunger Games

The Labyrinth Wall (Obsidian Series Book 1), Emilyann Girdner, Luminous Words Press (2013)

Until I received an email from the author’s publicist, I had not heard of Emilyann Girdner or The Labyrinth Wall. But the offer of a free book piqued my interest. Reading the book description and several reader reviews heightened my curiosity and I felt compelled to enter this labyrinth.

The first chapter places the reader inside the labyrinth and introduces us to the protagonist, Araina, a teenage girl who’s only been alive two years. She’s a Mahk. This strange land has two types of people: the Creators, who live in the castle in apparent luxury, and led by the villainous Simul, and the Mahks, who live in the labyrinth. Their life is hard. Survival is the goal. Trust is absent. Hope is unknown.

One day Araina is defending her life in a fight with Darith, another Mahk, when they see a strange man emerge from the labyrinth wall. Determined to find out who this man is, especially since he seems to have the power to heal, these two form an unlikely alliance and embark on their quest.

Gardner fills the book with adventure after adventure, with a fast-pace that keeps the reader engaged. From Simul’s castle to the blood caves and onto the pit of snakes, the journey carries Araina into numerous dangers from magical attacks by the labyrinth itself to various creatures, such as saber toothed mutts and cannibals.

Despite the thrills of the quest, there are some problems with the book. Perhaps it is the pace of the plot, but the characters seem superficial. They could have been developed more. Without much history, the Mahks have little back story and we find out scant information about them. Even the villains remain distant, mysterious.

Then there is the suddenness of each episode. Darith disappears from the plot and is all but forgotten. Others emerge unexpectedly. And there seems too little credible connection at times.

Another problem centers on the loose ends and questions remaining at the end. There are so many questions that were popping into my head throughout. Who is Simul? Where did the Mahks come from? Why were they created? What is the labyrinth? Who is the mysterious stranger? Why were the Mahks created with different ages? With each new chapter it seemed new questions emerged. But very few got answered. I understand that this is book 1 of a series but I was hoping for more resolution.

There is little hope in the labyrinth, at least at the beginning. But the theme focuses on this concept, and as the story moves toward climax, we find hope emerge in a small band of characters. And their exposure rubs off on Araina, so that by the end of he book she has become more likable, someone I cared about.

In the book description, it says the book is “perfect for fans of adventure filled and imaginative favorites like The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games and the Hobbit”. Having read all the books in these three series (including Lord of the Rings), I entered the book with high expectations. I found it less like the Hunger Games or the Hobbit and much more like The Maze Runner. Simul is no President Snow, at least from what we see in this book. And Araina is no Katniss. The Hunger Games has better character development and a stronger plot. But being comparable with the Maze Runner is no mean feat. This one is worth a read if you’ve finished those other books. And I am hoping for more character development in book 2, and certainly want some answers to my questions.

*I was given an eCopy of this book, from the author, to read in exchange for an honest review.