Iris's Reviews > The Soldiers of Halla

The Soldiers of Halla by D.J. MacHale
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Jun 24, 11


** spoiler alert ** I think this review is so long because I keep trying to talk about the series as a whole, and not just the final book. Sorry. As soon as I finished the book I had to drive somewhere for like half and hour and had all that time to think and steam and collect my thoughts about this book. And so we go (which I got really tired of seeing after awhile):

Big sigh. A huge disappointment. Well, okay, I guess if it really were that huge of a disappointment, my rating would be one star, but I guess I'd put it at three because as a whole it was a fairly satisfying conclusion to the series, and as always I enjoyed the main story. But that epilogue! MY GOD. Why, DJ? Why?

The epilogue was just a great big "reset" button. Whenever you involve time travel of any kind, it gets tricky. I've read a couple of other long series with a target age group similar to Pendragon that had that "reset" at the end. I probably shouldn't mention which series they were by name in case of spoilers, so I'll try to be a little vague while still making sense... In Series One the reset was kind of "Well, whatever, I guess." Still, it made sense and could work. It didn't produce a whole bunch of contradictions like here in Pendragon. For Series Two I was way more invested in the story than Series One, and I was a little spoiled for the ending by knowing ahead of time that there would be a "reset," and was wary. But when I actually finished the series, I felt completely satisfied and that the ending actually worked. It was done rather elegantly. "Coming full circle" worked, many connections were made to book one, and it just felt right.

NOT SO MUCH HERE. Unfortunately, for Pendragon, it's not even a case of "I don't like it, but that's just my opinion." It's more like, "This doesn't even make SENSE!"

I think that by Uncle Press saying he had nine more journals to deliver, it was pretty clear that all the other Travelers were given back their original lives with no memories of what had transpired, just like Bobby. But what about Aja Killian? Does she just go right back to Veelox and her job at the Lifelight pyramid? Because Aja had a really shitty life. She did not live permanently inside Lifelight but instead saw all that was wrong with it and lived outside of it in the squalor that was Rubic City eating nothing but gloid. Some reward for her service as a Traveler! Right? Isn't the idea of giving them back their lives that it was a "reward" of sorts? Certainly for Bobby and Spader it was, who came from relatively good lives (which Spader even states). Even the others, like Alder, Loor, and Gunny. But not Aja. It could be that her purpose was to go back to her life there so that she could see what was wrong with her world and create the master plan for Ibara. But again: some reward. What exactly does that mean?! Where did the big "reset" happen? Saint Dane is gone, but was he just ereased from all existence, ever? Does that mean Andy Mitchell never existed? Did Andy Mitchell just exist up until a certain point and then disappear? Does this mean that Saint Dane's influence was never felt on Veelox, so that Dr. Zetlin could never have created Lifelight in the first place?

What about the totalitarian government that is Blok?! Who is going to fix that mess? Elli? By herself? Um. And if she just gets reset back to Quillan, does she still have a daughter? Didn't Nevva's existence end?! Actually, now that I think about it, Elli might have an even shittier life than Aja. It's possible that on Quillan, there could still be a revolution against Blok, especially with the preservation of Mr. Pop but come onnnn. That's so much work. Pfft. Rebel against a dictatorship? So much work! Haha. And Elli, as a Traveler, already did so much work! All right, now I'm being a little ridiculous, but you know what I mean. I hope. What I mean is, not all of the worlds are going to end up perfect, or close to perfect, like Third Earth, but there should at least be some improvement or hope for a better future. Or else, what was even the point? They defeated Saint Dane, but having "reset" everything, aren't the Milago still at the mercy of the Bedoowan?

Plus, they talked so much in this book about how life on Eelong was getting better and better until Ravinia came along. The presence of Spader and Gunny on Eelong made this possible by the fact that they helped bridge the gaps between the gars and klees. Doesn't this all basically get erased if Spader and Gunny get sent back to their original lives? In the case of Eelong it doesn't even matter whether or not Saint Dane was there, because there was no equality in the beginning. What does that even mean for Eelong after The Soldiers of Halla? The gars just continue to live like slaves and animals under the klees? Who would even step up to give the gars rights alongside the klees? No one. Doesn't this mean that all the work the Travelers did was for nothing?

If they just continued the timeline after Soldiers of Halla instead of going backwards, they work to rebuild everywhere else and not just Third Earth. Eelong could say that things got messed up, but they were good before the Ravinians came, and now that Ravinia has fallen they can rebuild once again. Same with Denduron. Same with Cloral. Possibly Quillan, but that place is a disaster. Who knows.

You see how complicated this all is?! I can't fathom why the author chose to write the epilogue this way. This causes more problems than it solves. It almost does away with all the good that was accomplished by the Travelers. I can't even figure out how this got past the editing stage; that's how much of a plothole I feel it creates. I really just don't get it. All of the cultures, social structures, worlds, so on and so forth - they were so imaginative and well thought out! Not to mention the multitude of names of people, places, races, etc that he made up, most of which were pretty cool. I liked "Veego and LaBerge," hehe. Alder, Grallion, Seegen, Leeandra, Saangi, Batu and Rokador, Milago and Bedoowan, all of the names on Ibara that were derived from Veelox like Flighters, Jakills... all very cool. DJ MacHale put so much wonderful creative effort into this series and yet just failed to see what a loophole and disappointment that epilogue was. Not only is it a reset button, it's also a massive "UNDO."

The other major thing that got the "undo" treatment was Mark and Courtney. This one kind of upset me. Now, I felt like it just cheapened the Pendragon series as a whole to basically erase everyone's memories and actions, particularly this relationship. Regardless of whether or not the Travelers got to live out their lives, return to Solara, and then regain their memories (as implied by Uncle Press), I still feel this way. (Then again... why bring them their journals anyway, if they're just going to remember what happened upon returning to Solara?)

I guess opening that epilogue with Bobby's "Yo" and living his full life with Courtney was a good way to bring things full circle. Jake of the Animorphs suffered from tremendous PTSD at the conclusion of the series. But then again, the purpose of Animorphs was to show that war is hell. He changed dramatically. That particular theme was, I guess, not so important here. Bobby catches a break and doesn't have to deal with anything like that in his reset life. But as a Traveler, he learned so many important lessons and grew as a person. He obviously is not the same boy who left Stony Brook at fourteen. To give him a happy, stressless life at the end is something I'm sure the author wanted to do for this character that he loved so much, but still. So much is lost by doing so. You might even say he is that same person who never got to be challenged and struggle to make the right decisions in hard situations. How sad. But don't get me wrong, that scene with him in the hospital with Courtney was very bittersweet and touching. It was heartbreaking, almost. It would have been. If I weren't so busy being annoyed at the epilogue.

Then, going back to Mark and Courtney. I hate to sound like some kind of shipper or whatnot, but basically, in addition to what I said about Bobby, Courtney ending up with Bobby and not Mark feels like it almost invalidates this story. The adventurous, traveling around, stopping-Saint-Dane aspect of the story. It erases it. In the context of the "reset", it makes sense for Bobby to end up married to Courtney and have him go play basketball and happily ever after. But why? That's not what really happened! We just read ten whole books about the quest to save Halla, prove that the people of Halla should choose their own destinies and stop Saint Dane! In the context of that story, Courtney does not have the chance to grow close to and have adventures with Bobby. She's only his acolyte. She is given the chance to grow close to and become friends with someone she never would have been friends with had it not been for Bobby disappearing - disappearing! - from her life only to sporadically show up every once in awhile. Sure, she says she still loves him, and absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that. I know that she and Mark felt connected to Bobby through his journals, but come on. I thought that part of his being a Traveler is that he had to leave his life behind - and learn to accept that. And, the good thing was, by the end it felt like he was ready to accept that. His doing so might have been the final challenge for him to overcome in this whole journey. At several points near the end he even addresses the fact that he's going to have to come to terms with that soon. But then... suddenly he doesn't have to? Major cop out.

One of the most touching moments of all in this whole entire Pendragon series (for me at least) was when Courtney was almost about to shoot Mark with tears in her eyes and told him she loved him, and he said it back. The fact that it was meant as "true friendship" love rather than romantic love made it a lot more significant for me. I really loved that moment. Mark and Courtney were not friends at all with only Bobby in common at the beginning and we got to see them become closer and closer to each other until they had formed such a strong bond, in completely realistic storytelling. DJ MacHale does a wonderful "show, not tell" style of storytelling - well, sometimes. But in the case of Mark and Courtney it was done beautifully. It took many books in the series to get them to that point, so that it really felt like a growing, evolving friendship, and we become invested in these characters (well, okay, I did), and then in the end it just gets tossed out. Just like how much Bobby changed because of his adventures.

If Bobby were to accept his fate as a spirit from Solara, unable to return to Earth, and Mark and Courtney had ended up together, I feel like the series could have been imbued with some richer themes. Sometimes we aren't always aware from the start what "the way things were meant to be." Sometimes, we can change our own fates, just as the exiles did by speaking out against Ravinia. Just because Courtney kissed Bobby when they were kids and before any of this adventure ever started, doesn't mean that this one act will determine that they'll be together in the end! Or maybe you could argue "true love" and "meant to be," for them, but I thought that Pendragon was supposed to also have this theme of choice, free will, and paving your own destiny, as demonstrated by the actions of the Ravinians at the end of this book. I sincerely feel like Bobby and Courtney ending up together was done just for the sake of the "this is the way things were meant to be" theme constantly being thrown at us the whole entire time. What other reason is there? Maybe DJ MacHale really just could not decide between "this is the way things were meant to be" and "the people of Halla should be free to make their own choices!" Which is it, DJ? Ahhhhhhhhh, whatever. How about, "Sometimes things are meant to be a certain way, and sometimes people can choose which way they want things to go!" I think the author may have been slightly undecided on how he should present these two themes in conjunction with each other. I think it can be done, but he didn't... quite nail it.

I don't even know. I'm really upset by that epilogue, hahah. I feel like I've invested a lot of time in this huge ten-book series and got rather attached to most of the characters. Especially Spader, the new badass Mark and the dorky carrot-eating Mark, Courtney, Siry (who probably ends up having a pretty shitty life, too, if he just resets back to Ibara), and all the rest. Really, DJ?!

Plus one for the Yankees references, though. Not a Yankees fan, but the MLB references are always welcome.

Three stars instead of one or two though because most of the book other than that epilogue was still great. The feel of the book is still the same as before, though the mood is grim throughout to match the last couple of books as the Travelers felt like Saint Dane would have victory. I liked that progression, since the first few books were just kind of a fun adventure where the good guys triumph, until things get more convoluted. I was a little let down that Spader, Siry, Patrick, Alder, and Loor had such sub-par roles in this one. I guess they had mostly served their purposes earlier on, though. Oh, and that moment where I really was tricked into thinking Mark died, and Bobby's reaction - oh man. Especially and including how Bobby nearly begged for Mark's life before. Bobby had always played himself as a cocky, confident adversary in front of Saint Dane, even if he was only faking it, and so that part felt very emotional. That was well done. That one really got to me.

Also, I'd like to note this review, because it says a lot that I agree with, but says it better than I could!

I really did love the series as a whole, which is the reason why I'm so full of "blahblahblahblah" at this point, and as much as I complained about this book, it's because I got so into this series. Haha, I mean, I think just HOW MUCH I got angered by this ending showed how much I liked the rest of the series. I wanted a more satisfying end. I'm still going to recommend Pendragon to others, but just... with caution.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Trish Wow. You just said exactly everything I was thinking about this book but couldn't find the time to write down. I too wanted Mark and Courtney together, not Bobby and Courtney. And that scene with Mark's "death" - man! I was in tears!

Everything you said, I completely agree with. Awesome review!


Iris Thank you, Trish, for your comment! I can't believe I never saw your reply til now, so I'm very sorry about the (RIDICULOUSLY) late reply! (I think that I never had email notifications turned on before.) But anyways, thanks, and I'm glad someone else felt the same way I did!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow, I understood the ending completely differently! I thought that everyone had been returned to their territories and their memories taken, instead the story being reset. So like, all the territories were safe, and the travelers had no knowledge of what they had done, but just got a chance to live their lives. Hmm, I guess we'll never know!


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