The seekers are a group of powerful warriors, and we are introduced to them at a time when three of their trainees are about to taWhere was the story?
The seekers are a group of powerful warriors, and we are introduced to them at a time when three of their trainees are about to take their oaths. We don't know what they're supposed to do, or who they work for (themselves?), or even what their world is like (medieval? present day?). We are told they seek "truth", but not what this means. Their motto offers no clarification:
"I am a Seeker, as we were in the beginning... What do I seek? The truth. The beginning and the end. Our knowledge began somewhere, sometime. And one day it will end."
Neither does the story enlighten us: it is consumed in a fight between the seeker trainees, the older seekers, and the seeker who wasn't allowed to take his oath. The story is a long, inconclusive and violent squabble. Certainly, it turns out that the good are fighting the bad among them, the selfless rebelling against those who fight for selfishness and greed. But the book feels empty without the hint of something greater.
There is a standard love triangle: physical attraction between the main female protagonist and two different seeker trainees, one bad and one good. Considering the bad one hurts both her and her mother, it's not difficult to guess whom she chooses. That said, even the good one takes most of the story to get his act together, drugging himself rather than face his failures, and attempting suicide for fear of letting people down in future.
One of the rare insights is a rather unsubtle discussion of the harm of seeking a powerful weapon and killing people in order to right previous wrongs, or rather, to take revenge for them. Unfortunately it is diluted by other simplistic assertions such as 'good hearts may only be found by luck.' Forget education to help people know what is good, or even the freedom to choose good at all. You just need the luck of being born with a good heart, and to find others who were similarly blessed.
Unfortunately, though tempted with promises of a hearty steak, one finds nothing but a few strings of meat in a watery stew.
Based upon a paper thin plot and told in the voice of a sentimental thirteen year old, Edenbrooke sags like a pretty rag doll without the hint of an ABased upon a paper thin plot and told in the voice of a sentimental thirteen year old, Edenbrooke sags like a pretty rag doll without the hint of an Austenian backbone. It is Georgette Heyer-lite. The protagonist is prone to climbing a tree when she ‘needs to be held’, and laments that fact that she has not lately felt the urge to twirl.
Overly sweet but lacking the strength of flavour to be cloying, it runs instead to the banal: Heroine: My mother was exquisitely beautiful. My sister takes after her, while I do not. Suitor: I cannot disagree with you more.
The only redeeming point is the easy teasing and conversation between the two. However this also becomes too sweet and lacks the deeper connection of an Elizabeth-Darcy or Jane-Rochester.
Drama enters with the heroine’s obtuseness. Said suitor writes her a passionate love letter while sitting right next to her, under the guise of teaching her to write such. Heroine becomes jealous thinking he must have once felt this way about someone else, but still does not admit to herself that she loves him.
Drama continues with the heroine’s flighty, flirty sister who claims ‘rakes are the best kissers’, and that it is acceptable for a lady to flirt and to allow her husband the freedom to do the same. Sister is naturally on the scent of same suitor for herself.
All ends nice and rosy, however, as heroine writes a blunt letter declaring her love that suitor was not intended to read unless she was in danger, suitor is given said letter, he declares his love, jealous sister suddenly becomes happy for them though she’s been conceited and selfish all the while, and even suitor’s unfriendly sister suddenly turns kind. The reader is smothered in an avalanche of roses.
Lacking a plot that would more subtly allow relationships to flower, Edenbrooke jumps from one sweet moment to the next, ultimately consuming in sweetness even what once appeared unpleasant, thus melting the story into a warm and sweet but unrefreshing puddle.
The second book in Shusterman’s Accelerati series does full credit to his ability to combine the best elements of good storytelling. A tight, unpredi The second book in Shusterman’s Accelerati series does full credit to his ability to combine the best elements of good storytelling. A tight, unpredictable plot that ties up every stray sentence into a grand plan, edge-of-seat action and suspense, and human characters who develop, like real people, by teasing out the mysteries of their lives and understanding the root of their actions. His humour impresses and enlightens as much as it draws a smile, and the sophisticated writing is so humorous it also sounds cool, perfect for the 'tween/young teen demographic of both boys and girls. Best of all, the humour and action always have deeper significance, and the narrator helps the reader ever so subtly to go beneath the surface to the core of the story, introducing them to depth and meaning.
Points for discussion:
Freedom - Freedom isn’t freedom when you’re addicted to it.
Romance - Caitlin likes Nick because he’s sometimes brilliant and insightful and sometimes wildly insensitive and dim. He’s a normal guy who has to learn from his mistakes and try to be better. But most of the time he does what he thinks is right. He’s very unlike her first boyfriend who was all about appearing great with little substance underneath. - Caitlin doesn’t like her experience of boyfriends (someone you thought you really liked, but once you got to know spent all your time figuring out how to escape.) She thought that’s how boyfriends would be until true love set in and you found your soul-mate. But she didn’t want to turn her soul-mate into a ‘boyfriend’ who would just hang around, make out, and generally not be someone you really cared about. So she didn’t want to ‘date’ Nick because he may become just another ‘boyfriend’. Deep down she wanted him as a soul-mate, but neither were ready for that yet. At this stage of their lives, the best they could be for each other was a good friend. Refreshing common sense 101.
Family - The love in Nick’s family is real, especially between the father and his sons, (the mother died in an accident prior to the series). Even if the father doesn’t know all that his son is trying to do to save the world, it is because the son is trying to protect his dad. There is nothing they wouldn’t do to help the other. - There's cute brotherly affection: Nick’s younger brother idolises him, and so although he knows he is probably involved in something he shouldn’t be, he chooses to believe that Nick can handle it.
Depth of understanding in friendship - “Mitch’s room was a pigsty – and Nick sensed it was a pretty accurate reflection of Mitch’s mental space as well. He hadn’t known Mitch before Mr. Murlo went to prison, and maybe his friend was a slob before all that, but Nick sensed that his current state of disarray was a direct result of the state of his family. It was as if Mitch’s life had spun into a tornado that left its debris scattered around his room.” 
Evil - The baddies are not all distant symbols of evil. They are an organisation with a variety of members, some of them characters we’ve come to respect and trust. Then we learn what they’re really up to. With little thought they silence those who oppose them or know too much. - The young who are being introduced to their ranks are left to ponder whether that is the price of being great, being willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the pursuit of greatness.
Doing good when it’s hard - If we stopped fighting for lost causes, where would we be? We’d be worse than lost…  - Nick doesn’t even let a baddy fall to his death—that was not the kind of victory he wanted. - Nick is offered a choice to betray Tesla’s goals and inventions over to the baddies, or to allow his father and brother to suffer. He makes a choice, which, based on everything else we know of him, could not really be a betrayal, but will surely prove to be another step along his journey to work out how he’s supposed to save the world.
Intelligence - Intelligence is valued, but especially in conjunction with a good conscience....more
Like many of Heyer's novels Venetia starts at a lively pace but becomes laborious as the story progresses. Venetia herself is a charming heroine, attrLike many of Heyer's novels Venetia starts at a lively pace but becomes laborious as the story progresses. Venetia herself is a charming heroine, attractive, friendly and quick of tongue, much loved by those who know her. Though she's been kept at home for most of her life, a maturity born of selflessness renders her not so green as her seclusion might imply. So she is not unduly shocked when the rakish Lord Damerel kisses her within five minutes of meeting her, while walking with her dog on his property.
Lord Damerel has had a colourful past, including, at twenty-two, earning the wrath of his parents by seducing a married woman (who since abandoned him), and subsequently pursuing countless 'bits of muslin' as mistresses, hosting debauched orgies and drinking and gambling, until the brink of ruin drove him home to look for means of supporting his wayward lifestyle. And so he meets Venetia.
The nicest part of their relationship is the easy friendship that develops as they talk together, Damerel vowing to adopt his best behaviour upon discovering she was a lady. Early on, however, he still intends to pursue her, and not necessarily for marriage. But as he gets to know her, and comes to truly love her, he withholds his ardour and begins to consider her best interests.
His willingness to give her up, believing it the best thing for her, devastates Venetia who doesn't mind his past or feel uneasy about a future as his wife, even if he were to suffer relapses of depravity. Plot twists uncover her own family scandals, which serve as an excuse for her to claim she is hardly even fitting as a wife for a Lord, much less too good for such a one as Damerel.
Heyer typically nicefies the more sordid details, but this story is perhaps more forgiving and even provocative about defying social conventions of marriage and fidelity and following the impulses of 'true love'. On the other hand, the dubious task of reforming a rake is shown to be easily begun (carried on the transports of first love) but with hints about the not so easy future to come. That part of the story—not within Heyer's scope—is the most crucial, and leaving it out makes the rake's reform too easy, something not very helpful for romantic younger readers still forming their idea of real love. Anne Bronte's Tennant of Wildfell Hall tells the much better story.