SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Debunked: Volume One of the Terravenum Chronicles, by Dito Abbott
Admin out of the way first- This review reflects my own opinion and not those of other members of Team Escapist.
Now for the review …
Overall, I have to say, this was a damn funny, quirky, interesting and entertaining book. But a few things put me off. The fact that it was plot driven was probably it’s biggest issue. For a world with such rich and unique characters, it is a disservice to have the story be so heavily plot based. And at times, the quirkiness and strange descriptions and banter could feel like a little too much.
Done very well througout the story, were the plentitude of progressive complications woven into the plot- chased by Skhaar, accidents with the ship, malfunctions, dangerous winds and territory, unreliable ‘friends’.
But … yet …
Although, being an entertaining book is spectacularly important, some other elements were amiss. As this is a review for a scifi writing contest, criteria was looked at beyond what a typical read would entail. Therefore, as my judging standards have thus been, I had to take a deeper dive into the mechanics of storytelling to base my opinion. And this is where I found some issues. As a YA story, this book was loaded with interesting, captivating, humourus characters. And the adventure taken by the two protagonists is exciting and interesting. But YA or not, certain criteria and elements still need to be present in the story to make it work. As a YA reader, I would have loved this book to no end. As an adult judging it, albeit using YA criteria, there are some flaws keeping it from being an all ‘round excellent adventurous, steampunk, story. I say steampunk because there are airships and googles. Aren’t those staples of steampunk? And yes, steampunk falls under scifi.
To begin … I found this story to be a cross between Jumanji, Baron Von Munchausen, and any other fantastical, whimsical story I’ve read or seen on the screen. But, as much as I found the characters bordering cliche, I can see how a YA audience would find them endearing, humorous and lovable. Dito is a word-smith. His flare for humorous, witty dialogue and descriptions are highly entertaining, but sometimes it can be a little too-much and it can feel forced.
Yes, all the weird and wacky and oft times humorous banter of the characters keeps you entertained, but the bread and butter of steampunk- scifi/fantasy that doesn’t have to explain itself or make sense- leaves an author open to all the possibilities of an imaginative world. So when the story ends up being about a missing grandfather leaving a mysterious journal full of clues for his grandkids to follow and save the world, it seems kind of unimaginative; follow the clues, save the world. Characters and situations better be spectacular if it’s using a hardened trope, or it falls victim to ‘been there done that’. Sometimes, Debunked fell into this catagory.
And athough the pacing was okay, and action was abundant, there was no agency for Alex or Ozzy.
To the book’s disservice, Pascal and Layla, carried the book, and the story is very plot progressive. Plot driven stories are fine, but when the characters are so interesting, diverse and quirky, they should have been the driving force behind the story. Why waste a good thing?
And even though (and properly so) the reader learns and discovers the new world through Ozzy and Alex’s eyes, the two siblings searching for their grandfather (and the assumed protagonists of the story), they just seem to be along for the ride alongside Pascal and Layla.
On a random note … I don’t know why there are footnotes. I ignored them. And why is some dialogue in italics? Too many italics and caps lock everywhere. Even bolded italics and caps lock- why? No ryhme of reason for most, if not all of them- especially caps lock, which, for the most part, have no place in fiction writing.