International Writers Magazine:
Young Fiction Reviews
Author: Brian Keaney
Publisher: Orchard Books
is the second in a trilogy of young adults fantasy and adventure
books called The Promises of Doctor Sigmundus
by Brian Keaney, the first volume titled The Hollow People.
As the middle book in the trilogy, the story seems to show it, unfortunately.
There is only a brief recap of the events of the previous book, which
means that any impact of events that happened in that book are somewhat
lost on a new reader. Little time is also spent introducing the characters
and establishing their roles, and instead this is glossed over to allow
the story to get going in some ways no bad thing, but the same
approach is taken to the setting and world, which is easily mistaken by
a new reader to be an average fantasy setting, but is instead somewhat
of a 1900s style world a fact that is quite interesting and
sets the story apart from similar young adult fantasy novels.
Despite the characters not receiving a full introduction, they are recognisable
fantasy stereotypes, and especially so for this kind of young adults fiction
a teenage male hero attempting to unravel the truth of who he is
a metaphor and identifier for many young males and the rest
of the cast is similarly quite generic, but not without an interest all
the same. Secondary characters are not dealt with or explored in any great
length or depth in the book, and are mainly there to push the narrative
along, with little time spent establishing or fleshing them out.
The plot itself is also quite light, but rapid moving. There is little
amount of time spent in rest or reflection, and there always seems to
be a drive to move onward, meaning that the book is a page-turner for
its rapid pace if not for its depth.
The downside is that there seems to be a lack of significant events
in the plot, or set pieces and revelations. What few there are (without
spoiling the story) lack impact and seem to be very neatly tied up and
quickly dealt with. The Gallowglass character of the title, whom much
is built up to, ends up having very little impact in the storyline, and
his significance as one of the goals of the story and a revelation
is, (in the opinion of the reviewer) wasted by a lack of time spent in
defining his nature and significance.
There also seem to be a glut of convenient coincidences in the story that
are not explained and seem to only be there to solve a problem, such as
the convenient appearance of a plane when the hero needs to get somewhere
in a hurry, and his companion at that point being a trained pilot.
While they are not major, it will be enough to irritate an older reader,
but the target audience will most likely be entertained enough by the
action and pace to ignore and gloss over these and enjoy the story.
There are plenty of interesting hooks and germs of ideas in the novel
that are hopefully setups for the last volume in the trilogy. Hopefully
all will be resolved then, as they seem to have much potential and did
make me curious enough to keep reading on until the end of the book in
the hope of some revelations or explanations.
I would say that the book is worth reading for certain if youve
read the first in the trilogy, and the third will be worth it also, as
this book ends on quite an exciting cliffhanger. However, it might be
best to wait for the paperback.
© Stephen Doyle October 2007
Stephen is a Creative Writing student at the University of Portsmouth
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