May 1, 2010

REVIEW: Thyme in a Flask

Glen Quarry

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Eloquent Books (September 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608607070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608607075
  • Source: review copy from the publisher
  • My rating: 2/5
Jon Chandler is a seventeen-year-old youngster presented with a difficult quest-to find a magical flask, destroy it, and then somehow find his way back home. As Jon reluctantly accepts his responsibility, he is accompanied by the haughty yet beautiful Dorthea, who constantly challenges him. At least his best friend, Samuel, a gentle giant-all eight feet in stature and 480 pounds of him-doesn't get under his skin like Dorthea does. But there's a fine line between love and hate, and Jon and Dorthea hover on it constantly! Samuel is left behind as the quest leads Jon and Dorthea into a parallel world, where few living people have ever gone before. How can they locate a flask that has been missing for sixteen years? Along the way, they encounter demons and wizards who will test their strength and ability, and they find they must solve several riddles before they can return home. What they learn about themselves and about life is far more priceless than the magical flask. Glen Quarry has written an enchanting story that fantasy fans will gobble up in one sitting. Filled with twisting plot lines and likeable characters, Quarry is sure to become a favorite of the genre. Glen Quarry is currently working on the sequel to his novel. He lives in Iowa.

It took me a long time to read this novel (really long), and now the review gives me just as much headache. It also breaks my heart because what started out with a lot of potential turned out to be a great disappointment.   Needless to say, I wasn't very happy with it. I had to chew my way through most of its 300 pages and the only thing that kept me going was the hope that, once things start rolling, it would become...just...better.

The beginning was very promising. I liked the writing, the somewhat slow introduction as we meet Jon, who works in his grandfather's smithy and doesn't seem to be very pleased with it. Then the plot started taking on a form of something seen before; next thing you know, he is told by a wizard that there is impending peril if something very powerful is not destroyed and Jon happens to be the one who is supposed to find and destroy it. Of course, the main villain wants it as well. So Jon's journey begins; beside the wizard, he is also accompanied by a friend of a considerable size and hearty appetite. On his journey he is followed by a black rider on a horse whose scream chills the marrow of your bones and who attacks him in an inn.

The first thing that bothered me was the passivity of the main character. He seems to be towed around without much will of his own, or offering meek resistance, but generally doing what he's told. As a main character, he lacks depth and life which I found in some supporting characters. There was nothing about Jon that would make me feel sympathetic towards him, nothing to root for, nothing to fear. If he is taking it all so lightly, I never felt compelled to dread over him. The one character that I felt real was Peeter, who, sadly, appears only in few scenes. His motifs are clear; having lost his parents in an attack of the witch's army, he dedicates himself to the fight.

Next thing--oddities in the plot.
There is a crucial scene of a fight between two very powerful and (more or less) wise wizards, the good guy and the bad guy. Jon, at this point still a regular human and unaware of his extraordinary power, finds himself watching bolts of fire flying around, their force fields blazing. The bad guy is gaining advantage; of course, Jon has to help his ally, the good wizard, whose strength is dwindling. And what does Jon do?
He throws a cobblestone into the bad guy's head.
And it works.
In two turns.

Not to mention the big twist. 
At the end, we find out that the impersonation of evil is actually a very nice lady who has been victim of some nasty rumor. The above mentioned powerful wizard seemingly shrugs and says something in the spirit of  "Oh, dear, I guess I was wrong", and everyone lived happily ever after.

  Another thing that was driving me mad was the complete lack of emotion not just in Jon, but in all characters alike. Huge revelations, such as those about Jon's true predecessors are made without any hint of excitement, sadness or joy. Which leads us to another problem--dialogues. They seem so artificial, so stretched. I am told many things, but I never felt any of it. So Jon is angry, he says so. But he doesn't really look like it.

It's hard to pinpoint why I found it so difficult to read. The narration was ever so slow, even when the very action demanded a faster pace.

Not everything was so bad. As I've said, the writing is very nice, elegant and "medievaly" rich. The setting of Ilisinor is well-done, picturesque and cozy. I'm glad to say that Mr. Quarry has all the skills necessary to write a mind-blowing fantasy, and with a bit character-development and few edits in the plotline, the sequel to Thyme in a Flask will show all of the authors tremendous potential.

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