On the heels of ACID, I finished Seeker, another YA offering from Arwen Elys Dayton, released in February of this year (2015). It's interesting to me to compare the two -- they have so many similar elements -- but somehow Seeker manages to to rise above the cliche whereas I felt ACID did not.
I suppose I owe a synopsis. Here's the official blurb:
The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.
As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world. And she'll be with the boy she loves--who's also her best friend.
But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes. Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought. And now it's too late to walk away.
If you read my ACID review
, you know I offered up a (tongue-in-cheek) checklist for writing successful young adult fiction. I'll run through that list here with Seeker, bearing in mind there are three "main" characters: Quin, Shinobu and John. One could also make the argument the Maud (another teenage girl) is also a notable character, though not as much of a player as the aforementioned three.
So, the checklist:
- Normal teenage girl who turns out to be anything but - Sorta.... Quin (the female main character) doesn't start as a normal teenage girl and becomes even less normal. Her friends John and Shinobu follow a similar path. Maud doesn't start normal at all.
- Parents dead or missing - Again, kinda/sorta. We've got dead parents, missing parents, abusive parents and relationships where the parent is an enemy or obstacle. I like the twists here.
- Socially inept but really a sweetie - Again, there's a range here. Quin, John and Shinobu are training to be Seekers, which they (and we) at the beginning think is a good thing. But we learn Seekers are like everyone else despite their powers and gifts; some are good, some aren't. How each of the characters deals with this is unique and they are well enough developed to be interesting and possessed of their own motivations. They are socially inept only in the sense that have trained to be apart from the world.
- Manifest destiny as THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DO IT - Seekers are the only ones with the special skills, skills that can be used for both good and bad.
- Love interest (with green or blue eyes) who's unattainable/wrong for the protagonist but with whom she feels an immediate attraction to despite them disliking each other when they first meet - Nothing to add here except CHECK!
- Lots and lots of violence - CHECK!
- Absolutely, positively no activities that might even accidentally be construed to be of a sexual nature - Ehhh, there's some friskiness here, a slightly more "real" exploration of romantic feelings between teenagers. We never get much past a bit of petting however, something that still strikes me as odd considering we have a drunken mother, murderous father, drug-addicted teen, and various people getting shot, stabbed, sliced, diced, beaten, and otherwise dispatched.
So while Seeker hits all the points, it does so in it's own way and enough from the side that it doesn't seem cliche.
The book is written from the points of view of the main characters, which, while interesting, makes the narrative jumpy and sometimes confusing. There's also a section in the middle that goes back for a flashback. It wasn't clear to me when the flashback stopped and we returned to present time. Or even why the flashback was necessary or what it added that couldn't have been more deftly handled.
The genre setting was also unclear to me. This comes across like a fantasy book, with swords and magic, but it's set in a world that seems to be a version of our own modern one, with cell phones, zeppelins, sky scrapers, cars, present day weapons and all the other modern amenities. We go from Scotland to Hong Kong to London. What was technology and what was magic? Dayton leaves us wondering. Despite the modern trappings, the fantasy aspect is the strongest flavor, hence my genre selection.
So Seeker is not without it flaws. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. One thing Dayton has a knack for is ending a chapter right at a spot where I just had to know what happened next. I was cursing her a few times as I read later into the night than I wanted. Yah, I'm complaining, but isn't that really a good thing?
Probably good for 15 and up.