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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"The Borderkind" by Christopher Golden

Official Christopher Golden Website
Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “The Myth Hunters”
Release Date: March 27, 2007 – Buy HERE

In “The Borderkind”, book two of The Veil trilogy, the story picks up immediately where the first volume, “The Myth Hunters” ended. For my thoughts on “The Myth Hunters”, you can check out the review here. Revisiting the first book, “The Myth Hunters” – SPOILERS AHEAD!!! – basically introduces us to Oliver Bascombe, an actor-trapped-as-a-lawyer who, on the eve of his wedding, encounters Jack Frost, and from there, crosses the Veil into the world of the Two Kingdoms where myths & legends actually exist. Accompanied by the fox-lady Kitsune, the trio soon embarks on a series of adventures that mainly involve staying alive as they are hunted by Myth Hunters. Meanwhile, Detective Ted Halliwell is hired to initially investigate Oliver’s disappearance, but then becomes embroiled in the death of Max Bascombe (Oliver’s father), the vanishing of Oliver’s sister Collette, a string of unexplainable murders, and eventually, an unlikely pairing with Julianna Whitney (Oliver’s fiancé) as they search together for answers.

Following the events of “The Myth Hunters”, “The Borderkind” finds Oliver and company continuing their journeys throughout the Two Kingdoms, this time with Oliver & Kitsune splitting off on their own to pursue a pardon for his life – Oliver is an Intruder and has been sentenced to death by the Two Kingdoms – and also to rescue his sister Collette. Jack Frost and fellow Borderkind have decided to fight back against the Myth Hunters and seek the answers behind their true enemy. And unbeknownst to all, Ted Halliwell & Julianna Whitney have stumbled through the Veil, and, as Lost Ones, are now struggling for their lives…

Where “The Myth Hunters” focused mainly on the narratives of Oliver Bascombe and Ted Halliwell, “The Borderkind” is a story told from multiple point-of-views, including already established perspectives (Oliver, Ted, Collette, Julianna, Jack Frost) as well as introducing new viewpoints (Kitsune, Blue Jay, Cheval Bayard, Sara Halliwell, etc.). While this format was necessary due to the varying plotlines that are introduced, and it does help the book to move along at a nice pace as well as flesh out certain characters & relationships (Oliver + Julianna, Ted + daughter Sara), I just felt that this aspect of the novel wasn’t as strong as its predecessor. For instance, there just seemed to be too many moments where characters would act out of turn. I believe this was a result of having so many different viewpoints and a more complex plot, which forced the author to concentrate more on advancing the story, rather than providing an in-depth explanation behind an individual’s actions.

Another complaint I have is the world of the Two Kingdoms itself. If you read my review of “The Myth Hunters” you may recall that I felt the world-building was one of the novel’s greatest strengths, especially due to the wonder that it evoked. Well, in “The Borderkind” that wonder is noticeably lacking. Part of it is due to the fact that Oliver has now become used to the Two Kingdoms, and so doesn’t find it as magical as he once did. Another reason is that many of the viewpoints are told through the eyes of the Borderkind, who see their world, as reason would have it, as ordinary. Additionally, even though Julianna, Ted and Collette are newcomers to the Two Kingdoms, due to their situations, instead of wonder, we are treated to feelings of anger, disbelief and fear.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that I did not like “The Borderkind” at all. On the contrary, I really enjoyed the novel...heck, I finished reading the book within a day, nearly in one sitting :). Sure, there are elements of “The Borderkind” like the characterization and world-building that I thought were weaker than what was found in “The Myth Hunters”, and there are familiar plot devices (protagonist turns out to be much more than initially thought, easy-to-anticipate twists, romantic complications, good vs. evil stereotypes, etc.) utilized throughout the novel, but on the flip side, the action has been ramped up, the stakes are higher, secrets are revealed, and the foundation has been set for what should be an exciting finale. And by that, I mean “The Borderkind”, like its predecessor, ends on a cliffhanger with plenty of plotlines to be explored in the third and concluding volume. So yes, more waiting will be involved, but if you can stomach that, then I highly recommend checking out the Veil series. After all, while Christopher Golden may not be mistaken for ground-breaking, intellectual literature, when it comes to highly entertaining, skillfully-written and imaginative, supernatural-themed fiction, you just can’t go wrong…

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