K.'s Reviews > South of Darkness

South of Darkness by John Marsden
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it was ok
bookshelves: 2015, australian, historical-fiction, borrowed-from-friends, setting-australia, audience-adult

This was...I don't want to say "a massive disappointment", but I'm kinda sorta going to have to. I grew up on John Marsden books, and one of the things I've always adored about his books is the way that he creates characters that you care about almost instantly AND a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

In contrast, this had neither. In fact, it felt a lot like he'd been helping a kid study colonial history for school and ended up with a whole lot of facts and figures about the Third Fleet and transportation in his head, and went "Hey, there's something there..." and tried to write a book about it. But instead of creating compelling characters and an interesting story, it ends up feeling like he went to 994.41 at his local library, borrowed everything on the shelf, and regurgitated what he read.

Barnaby is an incredibly dull character, and I honestly didn't care if he drowned in the Thames, got hanged for something he didn't do, fell overboard en route to New South Wales, got bitten by a snake or any other number of possible deaths. I just...didn't give a shit. He was far too holier-than-thou a lot of the time, and because of his age it almost felt like any time Marsden wanted to create tension, he added in an adult male who wanted to rape Barnaby. Which, WHAT. NO.

Once he arrived in New South Wales, what little plot there was descended into straight contrivance. Run away and get lost in the bush? Aboriginal tribe adopts you! Struggling to find a way to avoid being hanged when you get back from the bush? Rescue a missing small child! Characters that were significant in the early stages of the book pop up again just because, and the whole thing just fell flat for me.

Look, if you don't know a whole lot about colonial history, it's entirely likely that you'll have a completely different reading experience to me. But having curated exhibits on colonial Australia at a national level collecting institution and done two years worth of research and reading on the topic? This was just...ugh.

When I finished it last night, I gave it 2.5 stars. But in the light of day (well, not light. It's 6.08am and the sun's not up for another hour), that extra half star seemed mighty generous.
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Reading Progress

November 30, 2014 – Shelved
November 30, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
July 25, 2015 – Started Reading
July 25, 2015 –
page 165
43.88%
July 26, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015
July 26, 2015 – Shelved as: australian
July 26, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
July 26, 2015 – Finished Reading
December 11, 2015 – Shelved as: borrowed-from-friends
August 7, 2016 – Shelved as: setting-australia
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: audience-adult

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