Monday, January 14, 2013

Avalon’s Lost, by Ryan Clapper: A Review

I am going to use my blog post today for something different: a book review. Here is my review of Avalon’s Lost, by Ryan Clapper.


I am not a young adult, and it's been a long time since I was one. So it's not easy for me to know what kind of book a young adult today might enjoy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this, and I reckon some of you "young folks" might enjoy it too.

It is a fast-paced, well-written tale, with three main protagonists, Nick, Erica and Mel (male), three teenagers who set out to discover what has happened to Erica's older sister. They find themselves caught up in a series of perilous adventures, entangled in the world of drug dealers and gang wars. The story is told in the present tense and in the first person, from Nick's perspective.

The three main characters are well-drawn, with sufficient depth and complexity to make them real. Nick's artless narration is honest and straightforward, the voice realistic, the range of emotions convincingly expressed. The secondary characters are also well-drawn: most of the "bad guys" are fleshed out in three-dimensions, and we are able to see the other side of many of them. The main exception to this is Brian Edgeworth, an unrelentingly nasty villain. I am happy to permit the author one such character.

The story is well-paced, with fast action sequences interspersed with periods of relative quiet - time enough to fill in some of the back story, get to know the characters and enjoy some bantering. For the most part, the author succeeds in creating the right level of jeopardy and suspense, when necessary. I did occasionally have difficulty knowing how much time had passed, and was sometimes surprised to learn that it was, for example, still only 10.30 at night, when they seemed to have been running from one adventure to the next all night long. This was exacerbated by the fact that the parties they had already attended by then probably wouldn't even have started much before midnight - correct me if I am wrong kids.

It is a challenging task to write a novel of this length (it is around 95,000 words) entirely in the present tense. I like this, because it gives an immediacy to the action, and places us alongside the protagonists - we go through it with them. Nevertheless, this is difficult to sustain, and I detected a few places where this faltered.

The main issue with the book is the number of errors. At first, I noted them down, with the intention of providing a list for the author; but after reading 15% of the book I gave up. There were simply too many. Otherwise, the book was well-written, the language good and appropriate, and the point of view and voice of Nick consistently maintained.

I give this book 4 stars, and am happy to recommend it to young (and even not so young) readers. I also strongly recommend that the author has the manuscript proofread and corrected - this will greatly improve the experience for the reader.

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