Saturday, September 5, 2009

Alvor, by Laura Bingham

So yesterday something really cool happened. A friend gave me my own copy of Alvor for my 18th birthday! I thought it was super-nice of them, and that this book made a fantastic present. You may or may not know this, but I really love the author, Laura Bingham's blog. It's how I found out about her book in the first place. Actually, I found out about Laura from the great James Dashner's blog ^,^. He's awesome, possibly my all-time favorite author (sorry, Rowling >,<). Not just because he's a great writer of best-selling books, but because he's reputed as being an extremely nice guy. I believe it too, since he sent me an ARC of his new book, Maze Runner, about a month back. (Neener neener neener! ^_~)

Anyway, back to Alvor. I forget when, but I first read chapter 1 straight from Laura's blog (if you want to see it too, it's right at the bottom of her blog. Pretty conveniant, I'd say!) and I decided I was hooked after that. I knew I had to find out what happened next, and I learned it had been out for a while now, but I couldn't find it in my bookstore when I looked for it. But finally, I got it as a pre-birthday present. How awesome is that? And now I can review it and say what I think about it...

Um, this is really weird and awkward for me to say, but... I, uh... didn't exactly... like it.

I promise that I'm not saying this lightly, or with an easy heart. I've heard nothing but good things about this book. Dashner himself wrote a blurb saying how amazing Laura's debut novel is, how it leaves you thinking a lot by the end. I've read great reviews from other blogs as well as author interviews, and convinced myself that this author and her book were gold. Well trust me, I still LOVE Laura and her blog immensely, and think that she's gold, so this is absolutely nothing against her as a person. But if I'm going to be honest, with myself and with my readers, I have to admit that, for me, Alvor was not.

Now, don't get me wrong. I can certainly step back and see why most people would like reading Alvor. The story is a pretty good one, and I believe it had lots of promise and potential. I just think the way the story was told... it didn't exactly sit right with me. I also completely understand that this is only Laura Bingham's first venture as an author, which is fine! Not everyone has to be a J. K. Rowling, or a Stephenie Meyer on their first try. Still, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with the result.

So here's the story, for those who still would like to take the chance. (And I thorougly welcome you to, so you can attempt to prove my opinions wrong.) The main characters are a pair of 15-year old boy/ girl twins, Bain and Erin, respectively. Mostly the book is from the girl Erin's view, but sometimes it goes to Bain's side too. One day, these twins go exploring and find a mysterious cottage in the woods that they're sure they've never come across before. After that, the adventure takes off from there.

There's a big underground maze of magical rooms where the twins start training with swords and magic arts. They gain different powers and gifts from these rooms, for example, Erin can tell by a person's aura whether they're telling the truth or not, and Bain can spot things that are magical that normal people don't notice. Also huge differences between the twins is that Erin discovers that she loves to fly (be it on pegasus horse or on dragon) and Bain doesn't, and that Bain seems to like sword-fighting a lot more than Erin does.

So why are they doing all this training? Because they eventually learn that if they keep it all up, they will soon turn into elves. Who tells them all this? Oh, a few fairies (or alvor), their elf teachers, a dragon and their Fairy God Mother. (Who actually used to be Cinderella's own godmother, although she points out that she certainly didn't sing "Bibbidy Bobbity Boo!") I don't know. Perhaps I'm wrong (I often am), and I don't mean to be cruel, but does that sound right to you?

A couple things that I didn't like was how strongly I was reminded of two particular books. I understand that I've said before how books I review reminded me of other books, and that this was considered a good thing. In this case, it wasn't. First off, anyone ever hear of Michael Scott's Nicholas Flamel trilogy? There's "The Alchemyst," "The Magician" and "The Sorceress." I only read the first two, and I've pretty much decided I didn't want to find out what happened in the last book. Anyway, this series is ALSO about magic boy/girl twins, with the girl being the good one and the boy being the one who's kidnapped and led astray by the bad side, and so I didn't exactly like how Alvor seemed almost to mirror that.

The other book series I am forcibly reminded of is the Inheritance Cycle, by Chistopher Paolini. Unlike the Nicholas Flamel books, I am a big fan of all the volumes released in this series so far: "Eragon," "Eldest," and "Brisingr." What Alvor reminds me of here is the fact that Erin makes firm friends with a golden dragon, named Pulsar, in a way that I've only ever associated with Eragon and his sky-blue dragon, Saphira. They can read each other's minds (even at great distances, except on certain occasions), having a dragon helps significantly boost her understanding of magic, and there is nothing that either of them like better than flying high above the clouds with Erin riding upon Pulsar's back. ALL of these things can be found pretty much in exactly the same way in the Inheritance Cycle. I have to admit, that didn't sit well with me at all!

Alright, that's all I'm going to say about this book now. I didn't mean to sound angry with the book. I'm not. But as you can see, certain plot elements did conspire to turn me off from enjoying this particual novel. Not to mention that I occasionally spotted a spelling mistake or two, and this book has already been out for awhile, so there must be thousands of copies all with these same mistakes. That usually helps put me out too. I just wish I could've had a better experience reading this book.

HOWEVER... If I happened to have a rating system in this blog, say 5 out of 5 stars or something like that, you'd be pleased to know that despite my sour attitude towards this novel, I would award the book 4 stars, and not a measly 1. This is because I truly think the author is talented and I support her wholeheartedly in polishing up her craft. I'm sure that the sequel will be a big improvement.

I hope that if Laura happens to read this review, she will not be offended or become downhearted, because that is absolutely not my goal in publishing this post. All I'm doing here is giving some brutally honest feedback and constructive criticism. If this happens to be difficult for you to accept, trust me. It was difficult for me to write, and admit. But I feel greatly relieved having gotten all this off my back, and I'm positive that you will see that my opinions are just as helpful as those who love your book unconditionally.

If you'd like to email me about your feelings on this, Laura, you are more than welcome to. You have my address. ~,~ For the rest of my readers, I greatly apologise for the length and content of this review. Feel free to comment if you'd like your feelings to be known,

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