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Vega Jane #1

The Finisher

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Enter a village imprisoned by its fear of the unknown. Where curiosity is discouraged, and no one has ever left – or wanted to. Until now.

Then a mysterious bequest turns one teenage girl’s life upside down. A curious map and a ring which connects Vega to another time lead her to discover an unknown world beyond the perimeter walls. A world filled with possibilities, and creatures beyond her imagining. But before Vega can experience it, she will be forced to fight for her freedom. And unravelling the truth of what exists beyond the confines of her village may cost Vega her life ...

506 pages, Paperback

First published April 4, 2014

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About the author

David Baldacci

252 books115k followers
David Baldacci has been writing since childhood, when his mother gave him a lined notebook in which to write down his stories. (Much later, when David thanked her for being the spark that ignited his writing career, she revealed that she’d given him the notebook to keep him quiet, "because every mom needs a break now and then.”)

David published his first novel, Absolute Power, in 1996; the feature film adaptation followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 46 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers, and several have been adapted for film and television. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. David has also published seven novels for younger readers.

In addition to being a prolific writer, David is a devoted philanthropist, and his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s Wish You Well Foundation®. Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family and adult literacy programs in the United States.

A lifelong Virginian, David is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia School of Law.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,803 reviews
Profile Image for jv poore.
606 reviews196 followers
June 28, 2022
As all readers, I’ve seen “David Baldacci” in every bookstore and library I’ve entered since 1996. My friends on GoodReads adore his writing, his titles are peppered through-out my To-Read List and as a fellow Virginian; I’ve really and truly been looking forward to joining the mania. I couldn’t have been more excited to discover The Finisher in my latest box of brilliance from Buried Under Books.

Admittedly, I did a double-take. My treasure chest is always loaded with Middle-Grade and YA books. Does Ms. L. think I’ve grown up (gasp) or is she just feeling particularly fond to have chosen me to review Mr. Baldacci’s inaugural endeavor into this genre so near and dear to me? Oh, good, it’s the latter and I’m eternally grateful, because this book is spectacular!

The Finisher is a fantastical, awe-inspiring, action-packed adventure that will pull the reader into the Vega Jane’s Wormwood and hold him; captivated, enthralled and experiencing a range of emotions that surely will have him hooked, like a greedy fish on a line.

The characters enchant immediately from the ferocious spit-fire Vega to her perfect complement of a best bud, the docile, dependable Delph. Mr. Baldacci magically presents a supporting cast of Wugs that, on the one hand, seem a simple-minded crew….more “sheeple” than “people” in that the general consensus is not to question The Council; or to be fair, just not to question. On the other hand, well…things are not always as they appear. Seemingly, the Wugs were content to plod through each Light and Night accepting the nebulous answers to rather pointed questions, and most certainly, never dreaming of leaving the safe haven of Wormwood, for aside from the surrounding dark and foreboding Quag, filled with monstrous creatures, there was simply a void.

Always happy to embrace the intelligent, determined female; it was with great delight, I realized our Vega was not to be so quickly satisfied. Though her questions clearly placed in her in harm’s way, her undeniable will for the good of many easily over-rode any nerves she felt for herself as an individual. Her actions convey empathy, kindness, loyalty and selflessness; all admirable yet apparently elusive traits. The reminder is subtle, but strong.

While her world, along with the creatures and customs within, is the thing of vivid imaginations and unparalleled creativity; the passion, desire, strength and remarkably hard choices are all realities that we mere humans must abide. The cunning, enthralling tale hints at this, without boldly announcing it; which is one of the thousands of reasons that I simply adore this tome.

In a few weeks, when school starts, I fully expect to see students reading The Finisher as it slyly rests on their legs underneath of their desks and cafeteria tables. I will share a smile and thumbs up with these brilliant blokes.

This review was written for Buried Under Books Blog.
Profile Image for Ash Wednesday.
441 reviews525 followers
February 17, 2014
3 STARS
I had come to learn that while Wormwood was full of many things, the truth was not one of them.
And the truth was what I needed.
I had nothing else left.

I’ve always wondered who David Baldacci is.

Okay not really. But it seems like every time I visit our local big chain bookstore, his books are out in display right beside Dan Brown. Okay that’s not exactly what drew me to read this either, but I have to admit I was a bit curious when I saw his name in a young adult fantasy novel about a small village and the mysterious forest the people are forbidden to go to.

Vega Jane is a fourteen yearsession-old Wugmort living in the small village of Wormwood. She works as a Finisher in The Stacks where she adds the last touches to handicrafts (pots, figurines etc.) for purchase by fellow Wugs who can afford them. She lives with her perceptive younger brother in the slums while their parents lay in the hospital The Care, struck by an unspecified illness that renders them useless. She has no friends save for the stuttering boy, Daniel Delphia, who she has known since she was a child, and Quentin Herms, her mentor in The Stacks.

Her life changes drastically when she witnesses Quentin disappear into The Quag, the mysterious barrier surrounding all of Wormwood separating it from nothingness. Allegedly. As no Wug has ever gone to The Quag before for fear of the dangerous creatures that roam there. Quentin has left a trail of clues for Vega that leads her to find a map of The Quag. Having been seen in Quentin’s disappearance, certain members of Wormwood’s Council takes a particular interest in Vega and her brother… and in turn, Vega takes a particular interest in them. This sets a series of events that pushes Vega to search for answers to her ever growing list of questions (about her family, Wormwood and The Quag) Vega stumbles into an unknown history, a place of monsters and magic and a purpose bigger than her being a Finisher.

Maybe.

Okay that last vague bit I’m just speculating. I came into this book expecting a 512-pages standalone fantasy book, a novelty in this genre at this day and age, certainly. Instead this read like the first book in a YA-dystopian fantasy series. Which is fine, I just wish this owned up to it from the beginning. So that when at the end I am left with more questions than answers, the prospect of a second book cushions the crushing disappointment appropriately.

Just like any first book in a series, a great number of pages in The Finisher was devoted into the world-building. Wormwood’s social customs, culinary practices(!), occupational strata, government and language were given enough attention to be built. The vernacular is a strange blend of Scottish-Pirate-Ghetto and certain terminologies take a bit of getting used to (minutes, days and years are slivers, light and sessions) but was nothing compared to keeping track of the creatures Vega had to come across. I loved the gory imagination behind the monsters! I was variably impressed but I can’t deny the idea of a creature with 500 pairs of eyes terrifies me.

I am a bit torn about Vega Jane. The way this was written, I’d think there are like ten female Wugs in all of Wormwood, and nearly all men are bearded misogynist. Vega of course is a cut above the subservient, fairer sex. She’s the only female in The Stacks, she’s not scared to talk back and dish some sass against men twice her size, and because of some trope towards the end where she’s required to fight in a competition, she’s not afraid to get a broken nose in a fight.
”You sound pretty confident of victory,” he said suspiciously.
“If I can’t believe in myself, who can?”
————
He flexed his muscles. “No mercy for you, female. None!”
“I don’t remember asking for any,” I said in a deadly calm voice.

These are nothing new in this genre and is slowly turning into the annoying stereotype (if it isn’t already one) but she also has some complexity and flaws in her that makes her entirely refreshing. I love her indignant pride when compared to her intellectual brother. I enjoyed her astute observations and her voice as a character. Initially I found her a little cold and humourless but found it was pretty much part of her charm. She has a healthy dose of arrogance mixed in with her sense of honour, something I don’t often see in YA heroines.

But something about how the story unfolded made Vega appear a little aimless, a heroine with no bigger plan. She doesn’t CAUSE the plot twist, she REACTS to what the plot throws at her. And the plot likes to build puzzles on mysteries on puzzles so often times, you find yourself in the middle of five unresolved issues. So she’s be in the middle of the mystery about the book Quentin left her but then she’d be given a distraction courtesy of Morrigone (the mysterious Councilwoman) and John, followed by an interlude with a creature that allows her to see her past and so on… all these things are interesting but nothing gets resolved! No history gets explained! Which is so frustrating because while these diversions would probably figure prominently later on (in the imagined succeeding books) I was really invested in finding out what Wormwood is and if Furthermore, this lack of effort in creating a backstory on certain magical artefacts that Vega came to possess later on in the story just rendered it dull and lame: A magical spear? A chain that can make you fly? A stone that heals all wounds?

Meh.

Which again may be explained in the “next books”.

There was a bit of romance later on, but it was delivered as though an afterthought. Which isn’t always a point for among YA-fantasy readers but something that I appreciated because it actually highlighted the storyline’s strengths, focusing the interest more on the mystery surrounding Wormwood. Most of the secondary characters tend to blend into one grisly, smelly, alcoholic and bearded asshole but didn’t really bother me much. The inclusion of Harry Two in the storyline would probably bother a few readers and all of them are heartless monsters.

Truth be told, I’m wary of recommending this to my YA-Fantasy reading friends. Based on what we usually read this is a little bit unconventional, extremely frustrating, rambling and draggy in certain stretches. I’m probably rating this a little too favourably for a book that makes no claim of being a part of a series (because this really SUCKS as a standalone)…

But I’d be lying if I say I’m not looking forward to reading the next book in this "non-series" (my brain hurts saying that).
Just beyond that, in the sky, were the stars, the lost stars as I thought of them now.
Lost, like we were.
Would they ever find their way? Would we?
Perhaps not.
Perhaps we would simply flame out.
But at least we would have tried.

ARC provided by Scholastic Press thru Netgalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.
Profile Image for Suzzie.
906 reviews164 followers
October 12, 2017
This was a wonderfully, strange dystopia. It had adventure and was imaginative. It also was not soured down by romance, if anything it was a fantasy aimed more towards adventurous. I really enjoyed it and am hoping to pick up books two and three from my library for this weekend.

Overall, fast-paced adventure, interesting lingo, good and quick world building, & intriguing characters make for a quick read.
Profile Image for Gerry Bartlett.
Author 28 books899 followers
March 31, 2014
I admit I was drawn to this book because I was intrigued that suspense author Baldacci had written a book that is more middle grade than young adult and fantasy! Different. First, I had to get into his world. He creates his own language too, which I admit I fell in love with. I know, weird, but I was an English major and have a thing for clever writing. He blew me away with his consistency with this new language. His heroine is 14, almost 15 "sessions" old and has a pretty horrendous life in Wormwood. Yes, that's the name of the place and everyone there is a Wug. Dreary? Yes. And there's more going on here than you first expect. I got sucked in and held on for the long ride. It's a big book with lots of twists and turns. Poor Vega Jane is put through the wringer as she tries to survive and escape from a place that seems to offer no hope for its residents. Her best friend has an even worse time. There's plenty of action and a budding romance. You decide if you want to read the next book in what is surely a series. I will definitely pick it up.
Profile Image for Amber Argyle.
Author 29 books1,090 followers
January 11, 2019
I hate this book so much. I kept cheering for the ambiguous monsters to eat the main character. If her heart pounded hard in her chest, or she ran faster than she ever had before (again), or her lungs heaved in her chest one more time...
What was the point if that entire monstrosity? What was the character’s journey besides survive all the horrible people around her?
Profile Image for Bill.
1,051 reviews
March 20, 2014
I have read many books written by David Baldacci. But I have never read one quite like this. His usual mystery, suspense, triller was not to be seen in this young adult novel.
The closest fantasy stories that I have read are the Harry Potter stories. Yet, here I have read a fantasy quite extraordinaire.
The main character Vega Jane. She is 14/15 year-old girl who discovers her special powers. She lives is a simple world with simple people and leaders who want to keep things that way. Vega wants to know the truth and she wants to escape her world.
Baldacci leaves the main character on the start of a quest. So chances are that this will be the first of a series. And I may end up reading the others.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,226 reviews394 followers
January 13, 2015
A 14-year-old girl named Vega Jane lives in a village called Wormwood, where the citizens have been told that the forest surrounding them (the Quag)is full of deadly monsters. When Vega's mentor disappears, leaving behind a secret message, she begins to realize that Wormwood is built on dangerous lies. She is forced into a physical competition, with the strongest males in the village, and has to rely on her wits, her only friend Delph, and her canine, Harry Two. Her intrepid, questioning nature is a threat to the natural order, but allows her to find a number of magical elements. The first half of this 500 page book was horrendously slow, with too much unnecessary detail, but once things got started, it became a hell of a ride.
Profile Image for kartik narayanan.
725 reviews201 followers
March 2, 2019
When I found out that David Baldacci has written a fantasy series, I was 'What'? Now that I read the first book, my reaction is 'What?'

The Finisher is quite slow until about a critical event in the book that happens midway. That event was a bit predictable though as were all the other main story points. If it were only for the main storyline i.e. Vega Jane and her miserable life in Wormwood, I would have tossed the book out of the window.

But, David Baldacci adds some elements around the back-story that make the book a bit more interesting. This is not to say that the story or any other garnish will win any awards for originality. It is fine.

But, it is Baldacci and he has a tendency to write an average first book in a new series but later on raises his game. Plus his writing never palls; so I will be looking forward to the other books in the series
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,781 followers
August 26, 2015
I'm sorry. I know a lot of you like this and I get that. tastes differ. That said I just don't want to put any more time into this one. For one thing it's just so young.

It strikes me a bit more as a juvenile read than a YA read. I'm laying it aside so it gets the one star I give for books I decide not to finish.

Not insulting you who like it, please enjoy. Not for me.
Profile Image for Claire.
145 reviews
December 30, 2015
I have been reading this book for a year and in that year I have done what I often do when I read a book that takes me a long time, particularly if I don't like it -- I take notes about it on my phone. Usually, I take those notes and craft them into a review to post on Goodreads, but this time I think I'm just going to type my notes verbatim and leave it. Needless to say, SPOILERS. Here goes:

If this book is representative of the works of David Baldacci, then I hope never to have the misfortune to read another.

This book is abysmal.

I received a free promotional copy of The Finisher. I sincerely wish I'd left it on a bench somewhere in Florida.

Did nobody edit this book? Please never read this book. This is incomprehensible gibberish. I'm serious, nobody read this book before they published it.

Chock full of dense, needless jargon. David Baldacci replaces common English words with other common English words for no discernible reason. His invented words are nothing more than English words with syllables or letters transposed or with a little bit of word-final elision in the hopes that you won't notice that "Wugmort" is "mugwort" subjected to a soupcon of metathesis for flair and that "Destin" is "destiny" without the y. His world features strange creatures with names that would fit nicely with the rest of the mutts in Panem, but they are never described sufficiently for the reader to actually know what they are. Nor is there any clear reason for the world to have humans and dogs but jabbits instead of whatever the heck jabbits are replacing. Bears? Rabbits? Who knows? With David Baldacci as your zoologist, all you need to know is that they have stupid names and can kill you!

This book is a train wreck.

God, I hate Vega Jane. Why is she so obnoxious? Of course nobody likes you, Vega! You're horrible to everyone! There isn't anyone that you don't think you're better than! Except for the dude whose stuttering you magically cured, which, don't get me started.

I sincerely don't understand the point of the magic in this book . Wtf flashbacks to prehistoric battles. Wtf things that look like your brother and then try to eat you. Wtf mirror thing that is apparently a plot device to keep Vega away from You-Magically-Cured-My-Stuttering dude's dad long enough for them to cut his legs off. Just wtf in general.

This would be a blatant Hunger Games ripoff if it were at all comprehensible.

Where was I on the subject of the language/world building? Oh right. The whole use of our timekeeping system with new names fills me with an uncontrollable rage. Lights! Slivers! Birthlight! Sessions! That's days, minutes, birthday, years for the uninitiated. It's a world-building philosophy that pushes beyond regular lazy and closes in on inane. I have a hard time believing that there is no on at Scholastic that had enough sense to say, "Hey, David, this is kind of stupid. Why don't we just use the regular words for things? This book is really bad enough as it is."

Why is Vega Jane suddenly the most popular person in Wormwood after being super hated for the rest of the book? I, for one, still hate her.

Now that I've finished this book, I am going to give it away. It's really a terrible book, though. I'm not sure David Baldacci has ever read any fantasy, or at least, any good fantasy. It's crap like this that gives fantasy a bad name. Baldacci has no idea how to build a believable, logical fantasy society and his attempts at creating his own "language" are cringe worthy, particularly when paired with Vega Jane as the only person who uses nondialectal speech, as she is somehow elevated and more educated than the rest of her society. It makes me so sad that this is a middle grade book and that children may be first introduced to fantasy through this mess.
Profile Image for Rick.
158 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2014
It seems like the is no genre of writing that David Baldacci can't excel in. With his latest, The Finisher, he takes on the fantasy genre and does a great job with it. As I was reading this I was getting Hunger Games meets the Book of Revelation kind of vibe from it. The protagonist is a young 14 year old girl who lives in a somewhat dystopian society called Wormwood. She and her younger brother are living on their own, as their parents are in a facility awaiting their death. There are mysteries that arise having to do with the area outside of Wormwood and Vega Jane soon finds herself the focus of the authorities because of her friendship with a character who Is wanted by the Council. She is forced to confront truths about her family, her friends, and herself before the book is over and call upon an inner strength she never knew she had. The ending definitely leaves open the possibility of this becoming a series.......that's a good thing, as we have come to really enjoy the characters.
Profile Image for Amber.
986 reviews
November 29, 2014
I recently bought this book at Barnes and Noble and it was a pretty good read for my first ever David Baldacci novel.

When Vega Jane witnesses one of her co-workers Quentin Herms escape out of Wormwood and into the Quag (which is a dangerous forest-like place), The town of Wormwood begin to accuse her of helping him escape when she did not. Strange things then begin to happen. Can Vega Jane find out the truth about her town, what happens to her family, and more before she gets killed? Find out in the Finisher.

This was a pretty good YA book as my very first David Baldacci novel so I will be definitely checking out more of his work in the future. I enjoyed this. This was an action-packed fantasy thriller and fans of these genres and of David Baldacci's work will enjoy his first ever book for Young adults so definitely check it out. I can't wait to see what happens to Vega Jane and her friends next!
Profile Image for Booknut 101.
849 reviews917 followers
May 6, 2014
With a heroine that breaks the mould, The Finisher is a mix of adventure, magic & harsh realities which is certainly a brilliant example of YA written, & thought out, well. I especially liked how the romance was subtly fed into the story, and wasn't made to overpower the plot. A gripping novel with an intriguing tale to tell :)
986 reviews70 followers
June 16, 2020
This was a re-read for me. Having just bought the four and the final one in this series I decided to start right back from the beginning and I’m glad I did. It’s been awhile since I first read this book and I had forgotten a lot of the story. It is well written and very clever. I really enjoyed reading it again. It has its own language and it’s a Y/R it’s easily good enough for adults to read it and enjoy.
Profile Image for Jon.
599 reviews627 followers
February 28, 2014
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This is my first experience with a David Baldacci novel and unlike most older readers who will pick up The Finisher, I was truly a tabula rasa. My knowledge of what this book was about was limited and all I knew was that there's a major Sony movie deal, it's written by an acclaimed author, and that it's some some sort of fantasy. I think knowing as little as I did worked in my favor because I didn't come in with high expectations.

The Finisher is a fantasy-paranormal hybrid with tons of world-building and so expect a ton of info-dumping scattered throughout the book. The answers readers are seeking are few and far between in The Finisher, but when readers do receive any sort of information, it just leads to more questions. The obscene amount of info-dumping was a bit problematic and I wish Baldacci had spread it more evenly, instead of just clumping it together. It's fine to have a bit of a mysterious aura and to keep the readers in the dark, but if after hundreds of pages, readers only have more questions, it's extremely disconcerting.

Despite the unhealthy amount of info-dumping and boundless questions I had, I really enjoyed The Finisher. The beginning of The Finisher was a bit too dry, but once I passed the first 100 pages or so, I started to really like Vega Jane and started to enjoy the story. I'm confident that readers who can brave the problematic beginning will enjoy the rest of the novel. It's easy to see why so many readers have fallen in love with David Baldacci's novels because his ability to string readers along and have them turn page after page is impressive.

David Baldacci is a superb writer, but the vernacular in The Finisher is extremely unimpressive and unimaginative. To make it seem like a strange world, Baldacci has created a language for the Wugs and it's a bit too ordinary. The constant repetition of words like Wugs and Hel is extremely irritating and at a certain point, I was getting fed up with the vernacular. The vernacular of the Wugs wasn't extremely effective and I feel like James Dashner's The Maze Runner created a language that was better fleshed out.

The plot of The Finisher is a bit difficult to describe because The Finisher is a bit too long for it's own good. The Finisher clocks in at over 510 pages and for a story of this magnitude, it's too big of a stretch. Baldacci's world is finely crafted and his characters are wonderfully developed, but there were too many lulls in the plot where nothing happened for large stretches of time. As much as I enjoyed The Finisher, a decent portion of this novel could have been edited better or better yet, Baldacci could have given readers at least some answers.

I definitely think that Vega Jane is one of the best heroines I've read about in so long. There isn't nearly enough strong female characters that kids can look up to in literature and Baldacci is trying to fix that with Vega Jane. Vega is such a fierce, strong-willed character that readers will admire for her endless determination and fiery personality. Her dedication to finding out what's really going on in Wormwood is incredible and readers will form a irreversible bond with her. Readers will root for Vega Jane and yearn for her to succeed, Jane is the epitome of what a main character should be. The other characters in The Finisher are just as finely written, but I'm going to pass on discussing them in an effort to avoid spoilers.

The pacing of The Finisher and the lack of questions may turn off some readers, but others will be enchanted by the extremely in-depth world-building and characterization that The Finisher has an abundance of. The Finisher isn't the strongest opening to a series, but it does promise a ton of thrills in the upcoming installments. I'm really looking forward to the next book in The Finisher series and I really hope that some of the issues I had with this book will be circumvented by Baldacci.
Profile Image for Debbie Belue.
30 reviews
April 29, 2014
Thought I would enjoy this book because David Baldacci is one of my favorite authors. Knew this was not his typical style....but still good fantasy should paint a picture so clear you can see the setting, action, characters. This book delivers none of the elements that make fantasy work. Too many questions never answered, action is so slow, plot makes no sense. Read this book only if you know up front you will have to read more to even understand what is going on. Think I will stick to King and Maxwell!
Profile Image for Kahleia Corpuz.
58 reviews5 followers
Read
March 2, 2016
*unfinished* - I couldn't go any longer with this book. Usually, I'm very resilient with books I don't enjoy to finishing it but this book will probably be my BIGGEST exception. It seemed like some really interesting action scenes were really not all too great. The author doesn't even TRY to explain the lingo that's passed around in the book. It seemed to drag on on some plot points which made me lose interest in this book very quickly.
Profile Image for Tim.
2,084 reviews192 followers
April 10, 2014
Despite my efforts, I could not get into this anti Baldacci like story. This novel is victimization from start to finish. The main character is by and large exploited and mostly in the light of feebleness. 1 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Sydney .L.
19 reviews2 followers
April 6, 2020
Will vega live to tell her story or will she die trying. She and her brother are living in an isolated town called wormwood. Far beyond the walls is a world that nobody has seen. She id forced to keep her secret from the whole town or else she will face the consequences. (execution).
Profile Image for Patricia Hamill.
Author 11 books98 followers
April 17, 2019
I enjoyed this a bunch!

It's not overly complex, but I liked how the story unfolds and how Vega encounters the magical aspects of her world. I also dug how she tries to be ethical, even when faced by daunting odds.

Delph (not sure of spelling due to audiobook) is an interesting partner. There's some mild glimmers of youthful, innocent romantic interest, but it's more the friendship and the just starting to notice the extra feelings sort of thing. It's sweet.

The narrator does a very good job on the audiobook, but I did have some trouble hearing her at times. Probably would have been fine in a quiet environment, not driving my car around.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this overall and would recommend to folks who enjoy a YA adventure with some magic. I haven't read this author's thrillers, but from what I've read from other reviewers, this series is nothing like them.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library.
Profile Image for Bethany.
63 reviews8 followers
May 9, 2014
When I read the first couple of pages of ‘The Finisher’, I thought that it would be a bearable read. The style was good enough but I felt it would jar with my personal preferences and therefore stop me from really getting into the story. The characters didn’t capture me particularly but it wasn’t bad. Then I read about twenty pages and it was great. Forget everything I just said… this was a good read.

Although obviously aimed at younger readers the story caught my imagination and really did hook me. Although reminding me of a cross between the 2004 film, The Villiage, and Mellissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls, The Finisher still managed so seem like an original tale, probably because of the multifaceted characters and imaginative creatures. In fact, with the plot being a little cliché at points, I wouldn’t have thought that I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did. I guess this is tribute to Baldacci’s writing.

Interestingly, Baldacci chose not only to create a ‘fantasy world’ with many aspects and rules to explain to the reader but also chose to rename a lot of our normal words, for want of a better explanation. The seemingly human main characters are ‘Wugs’ a unit of time is a ‘sliver’ and so on. At no point does this detract from the story. In fact, it adds to it as Baldacci weaves the world around the reader as opposed to drowning them in it. Similarly, I never noticed the narrator explaining anything that she would not naturally explain (in order to ensure the reader knows it) yet, at no point, was I, as a reader lost. On a slightly related point, I read a lot of comments about the language in this book being annoying because of its fake-English vocab. Being English myself, I didn’t really notice it so it must have been well faked! I think I also had a benefit as I’ve not read any of Baldacci’s other novels and had no idea what to expect, or anything to compare to, when I opened the cover

Vega Jane, the lead character, is driven and controlled by many factors in her life. Loyal to her family, yet conflicted by the feelings she has for them, keen to strive for more than a female in her world should, also adventurous and curious. She’s reckless at times, okay a lot of the time, but her reasoning for being so is usually pretty sound. I rather liked the way that she was a character who was driven by morality a lot of the time and that this morality (along with her own emotions) led her to do things that would probably be deemed unkind or, at worst, wrong.

Her best friend, who at first seems to be almost a filler character really does come into his own. I can’t really say more about him without including spoilers which I usually try to avoid at all costs! The council members are enigmatic and, to the end, it is unsure who is a threat to Vega and who will support her. I avoid saying ‘good’ and ‘bad’ because I have a feeling it’s not going to be that simple.

The end of the book didn’t really end exactly where I expected it to but it was a pretty solid ending. There are a lot of loose ends from the major cliffhanger of what will happen to Vega to what’s been going on/who everyone is etc. The sequel (I’m assuming there is going to be one because with that ending there has to be) is going to be interesting, I think, because, while there is plenty to go on, presumably the plot will have to be quite different in format (as opposed to the multiple trials linked together). This is, probably, going to change the reading experience of book two but who knows – I’m guessing!
Profile Image for Heather Brinkerhoff Burdsal.
202 reviews6 followers
June 15, 2015
David Baldacci’s first foray into the world of fantasy is not without serious issues. If an untried author had approached a publisher with this MS, he would have been tossed out on his ear. But Baldacci was able to trade on the strength of his name, giving us 497 pages of “Hey, look, everybody, I’m writing fantasy!” to struggle through. But struggle I did, since the book was a gift from my mother.

My biggest gripe is the haphazard and ridiculous substitution of gobbledygook for perfectly serviceable English. Instead of actualizing and this alternate universe, Baldacci’s bizarre linguistic choices smacked of trying too hard. The effect is obnoxious at best. After about 100 pages, his fake fantasy vocabulary did downgrade from threat level "Immediate Book Defenestration" to a more manageable "Massive Eye Roll," but it never became palatable.

I attempted to simply power through this noise and try to appreciate the plot, but The Finisher is the literary equivalent of the game show WIPEOUT. You may be focused on running through the obstacles, but then a giant boxing glove labeled “sliver” pops out and shoves you into the mire.

The plot and characters aren’t terrible, but they aren’t enough to redeem the book from the damage inflicted by his amateurish approach to the genre. This story also suffers from magicitis, the chronic condition of magical features and artifacts that have unknown properties and bounds, so that they can conveniently be changed and redefined to shape the plot and rescue characters from poor author planning.

And, of course, this is the first in a series, so after 500 pages you still are only beginning to approach the real mystery. I do want to know the secrets of Wormwood and the Quag, but not badly enough to inflict another Baldacci fantasy novel upon myself.
Profile Image for Aastha Dhuppad.
32 reviews2 followers
May 10, 2015
Ahhh! I couldn't keep this book down and now it's finished :'( and what's worse is that it ended with a cliffhanger! And now I don't know what to do. It follows the story of a fourteen year old girl named Vega Jane who lives in a place built on lies. To discover the truth about herself and her past, she has to take a perilous journey into the unknown lands known as the Quag which is not easy and safe. To achieve her freedom she has to fight stupid egoistic men and a powerful woman who detests curiosity and has mind swept her brother. In short the book is amazing and it's killing me!
PS: Don't read if you can't survive cliffhangers.
Profile Image for Shannon .
1,216 reviews2,106 followers
October 8, 2017
David Baldacci has a long career writing adult mystery-thrillers (with book covers indistinguishable from John Grisham, James Patterson etc. etc.), so I felt like I'd never heard of him when I saw this Young Adult Fantasy - in fact, I still have a hard time reconciling the two authors as the same man! Never having read anything by Baldacci before, I can't compare writing or narrative styles between the genres, but was pleasantly engaged in The Finisher. With some very lovely (and dark) illustrations by Nathan Aardvark, this fantasy was not what I was expecting, both in terms of plot and setting.

Vega Jane is not quite fifteen years old but has already been working at Stacks as a Finisher for two years - education is not highly valued in Wormwood. Her younger brother John is still at Learning, as they call it, and is very intelligent. Their parents are in Care, and little more than living vegetables. Their grandfather, Virgil, suffered an 'Event' shortly after their grandmother, Calliope, died, when Vega was only six. An Event is a mysterious thing that no one has seen, which takes a person away, leaving absolutely nothing behind.

Wormwood is a place of rough manners, coarse values and vulgar patriarchy. It is encircled by a wood; beyond that is the Quag, a vast, dangerous terrain populated by terrifying monsters - some of which find their way into the village from time to time. Ruled by a powerful council, there is little reason to enjoy life, hardly any food for most who live there, and real terrors to keep people in line.

Vega's life changes the night her friend and fellow Finisher, Quentin, flees Wormwood and goes into the Quag. He leaves behind a map of the Quag for Vega Jane, which she inks onto her body so she can destroy the physical copy. Despite being questioned by the Council, she maintains her secrets, not even sharing them with her best friend, Delph. The map itself doesn't change anything for Vega - with a brother to look after and parents in Care, she has no interest in following Quentin to certain death - but it drives her to look for answers in places long barred: such as Stacks. The old, tall building with its hidden floors proves to be full of tricks and powerful objects, and in its rooms Vega discovers much more to her world than she ever knew.

There is much that still puzzles me about this story, particularly the setting, which doesn't always make logical sense. They are one isolated village that is in possession of materials that they do not seem to produce, and certainly their are many questions as to its origins and its purpose - and why the Council are so determined to prevent people from leaving it. (It did, of course, bring to mind the film The Village, which I love, but this has little in common with that.) I had read it as a standalone novel, but have just found out that the author is working on the sequel. I'm pleased to hear it, mostly because there are way too many unanswered questions.

The story did not follow the plot that the blurb led me to expect; a disingenuous blurb! Rather, it is the story of Vega Jane's discovery of village secrets and what leads up to her escaping - I don't feel that mentioning that is a spoiler, as it's patently clear that she will leave Wormwood. It takes the entire book, all 506 pages, to get to that point, though - had I known that, I would have read it differently, relaxed more into it. It's interesting, reading a Fantasy novel by an author who doesn't typically write fantasy: it does not always follow the rules, making it both fresh and also, at times, a bit confusing. It's a tricky world to create and lead a reader through: the narrator is steeped in ignorance, on a journey of discovery, but there's an even bigger gulf between the reader and knowledge. A bit more well-placed exposition might have helped smooth the way.

An enjoyable, often exciting read with a heroine I genuinely liked.
Profile Image for Francesca.
723 reviews40 followers
August 10, 2020
What even is this book?!? This cover, title and blurb do not match the kind of story that is inside.

This is a weird, kiddy, everything is made-up, fantasy book. Not whatever the hell the publisher is trying to sell.

The Finisher is set in a cutesy little fantasy village, with a cutesy little map. The people call each other "wugs" (no explanation provided) and use male, female, young and very young (???) instead of the usual terms. Time is measured in, ahem, a unique way; a year is a "session" (??), a day is a "light" and then seemingly interchangeably, a second, a minute and an hour are all called a "sliver"??? It also had a list of characters at the front which is very unusual, but I was grateful for it because everyone's names are ridiculous. Apart from Vega Jane, that's badass.

There are a lot of fantastical monsters, some are never described except that they are "very scary". The fantastical monsters show up randomly throughout the book, whenever the plot demands I guess, and then disappear equally as quickly, and only Vega seems to notice.

There's a magical factory that doesn't seem to be magical but if you go upstairs there's a little elf person and a magical room that turns into a great pit, or a tunnel full of blood, or a library, also full of monsters and again, only Vega notices.

Vega kind of travels through time and picks up some very deus ex machina magical objects with no explanation at all, but there would be no book without her having these items.

Basically the book spends its entire 500 pages piling on more and more details, more and more questions. Ironically, the penultimate chapter is called "Answers At Last" BUT IT DOES NOT GIVE ANY. 500 pages to set up the rest of the series, I can only assume, because I DO NOT HAVE A CLUE WHAT WAS GOING ON.

So magic does exist in this world? Or it doesn't? Do the people, sorry, do the wugs know?? Was Morrigane good or bad because she literally alternated between helping Vega and trying to kill her. What happened to Vega's brother? What happened to Vega's parents? What happened to Vega's grandfather? What's an Event? Do Events only happen to the Janes or can they happen to anyone? If no one in Wormwood knows what an Event is, what do they think it is? Why do some people in Wormwood seem to know everything is wrong but don't do anything about it? ARE THERE OUTLIERS OR NO???

I did actually quite like this book but I'm so frustrated at the poor judgement on the cover art, and the fact that despite all the magical stuff around Vega, the book devolved into a very lame hunger games and that was pretty much the only plot that happened. Nothing that is described on the back cover was a big deal in the book, and the cover is SO WRONG. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Borislava Petrova.
64 reviews1 follower
December 1, 2016
Историята в тази книга е подобна на трона - Вега Джейн е новата Селена Сардотиен!
Смело момиче, което се изправя пред много неща само.
И успява да се пребори с тях.
Малко по-като в приказка са зверовете описани вътре, но все пак - убедително.
Вега Джейн е по-различна от Селена с това, че тя не е воин, не е обучена. Но за сметка на това е смела, борбена, умна и отстояваща своето. Тук също имаме турнир в няколко кръга, в който тя се включва поради стечение на обстоятелствата. Любопитството и упорството я довеждат до това. Тя намира повече врагове, но и верни съюзници, които й помагат. Има много загадки и тайни в Горчилище, които предстои да разкрие, макар и частично. Има магия и страховити същества.
На мен ми липсваше многопластовото действие в трона, факта, че всичко се развива само от нейната гледна точка и само в Горчилище. То това е и идеята на книгата - има само него, а извън неговите граници е Мочурището, пълно с опасности и сигурна смърт.
Спирам, защото не искам да издавам повече от сюжета и развитието в книгата.
Който си пада по този жанр ще оцени книгата. Например аз :)
Книгата определено е фантастика, ако някой е имал други надежди - да не се захваща.
Ако пък ви се чете - няма да съжалявате.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
66 reviews17 followers
August 14, 2021
***contains a spoiler of whether the dog lives or dies for others sensitive to that like me***
I was turned onto this book by a friend and a book club group read and I am so mad at myself for not reading this book before. It starts out a little confusing because it is a very different world. I came to absolutely love the different names and little language changes. It is not so far out there that you are tripped up and confused by the change but just enough to make it feel different. The story revolves around a 14/15-year-old girl, Vega Jane (love the name), who stands up for herself and takes no shit even before she gets magical abilities. She has a male best friend of course but I love that he is supportive and always seems to believe in her but not in a take over the story kind of way. The dog omg I absolutely loved Harry two. and spoiler alert to save the worry for others like me, he doesn't die. I cannot wait to continue on with the story and find out what Vega Jane does next.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Christine Norvell.
Author 1 book43 followers
December 20, 2020
Har! Vega Jane was such an unusual name, I had to read the story to find out who she was. Yes, she is fourteen and finds out her past is a lie, but goodness, Vega is one tenacious girl who is easy to root for.

The village of Wormwood was a blend of familiar and fantastic. I kept thinking I was in the middle of peasant life (with a drop of magic) in a semi-industrial age until I met the jabbits and Vega met the magical chain Destin. I concur with Vega who says early on that "things that made no sense troubled me to no end. Because, I suspected strongly, it made sense to someone." I like fantastical, but I grew tired of things suddenly appearing—jabbits, chains, mystical elf, predatory beasts, et al—with no explanation by book's end for their existence or importance.
33 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2022
Noget siger mig at denne bog ikke er for alle, men personligt var jeg tryllebundet fra start til slut. Sammen med Vega var jeg ulideligt nysgerrig efter hvor vi egentlig var. Worldbuildingen var som jeg bedst kan lide den, fuldendt med passende nye fraser og vendinger der passer til verdenen. Det eneste der forstyrrede mig lidt, var navnet på fængslet og de hestelignende kreaturer, der tilsammen gav mig fornemmelsen af noget nordisk, noget der var svært at hæfte sammen med resten. Måske dette bliver forklaret i de følgende bøger, måske var det bare et tilfælde.

I hvert fald skal jeg straks igang med den næste.
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