Juan Valera's Reviews > The Rivers of Zadaa

The Rivers of Zadaa by D.J. MacHale
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Sep 21, 10

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** spoiler alert ** Character growth is supposed to be a staple of fantasy and fiction writing, right? Then why doesn't anyone do it properly? I don't mean that you start off a book with some wimpy guy and he ends up a slightly more mature guy with +5 endurance and +3 magic. That's not character growth, that's something like character crawl. What I want in growth is what happens in real life: a person's goals change over time, their very motivations change and they as a person are entirely redefined as a result. I was never satisfied with fictional character growth, true growth, until reading "The Rivers of Zadaa." Bobby Pendragon has, for five entire books, been all wit and luck. For the first time in the series, Bobby takes control in this book. He decides to learn to defend himself, to stop taking things as they are, surviving off luck and the combat skills of his partners and friends. This is character growth, a change in a fundamental part of the character that really makes the reader feel like the character has grown, has matured rather than just gotten smarter or faster or stronger.

Bobby's goals are and always will be protecting the Travelers, saving Halla, and searching for his lost family. And in "The Rivers of Zadaa," he takes a huge step towards becoming the man that will reach all of those goals. I wish the same could be said of countless other novels; instead they run with a character that marginally improves and learns some fundamental life lesson, but emerges unchanged. As a writer, I've learned to implement the REAL character growth into my own work as much as possible, to help create characters that are more dynamic and interesting.
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