(Warning; May contain spoilers of the earlier book, Three.)
Before I sat down to write my review of Morningside Fall, the second book in Jay Posey’s LEGENDS OF THE DUSKWALKER series, I had to go back and re-read my review of book one, called Three. I enjoyed Three, but I had a lot of the same problems that I had with Morningside Fall, and I have to say I was less satisfied with this second volume.
When Morningside Fall opens, eight-year-old Wren has been made Governor of the city of Morningside. He has vanquished the villain through high-tech stuff (Wren is basically a Magical Child). His mother, Cass, who was killed, had been reanimated as one of the techno-werewolf-zombies called the Weir, which are the coolest things in the books. Most Weir are just monsters, but some manage to cling to their humanity, becoming Awakened. This is what happened to Cass. She has the scary electric-blue eyes and extendo-claws of a Weir, but she is a fully self-aware person, herself, now with super skills. And that’s good, because her magical kid is more trouble than a hornet’s nest in your bathroom.
Wren is using the super-machine created by his evil father and evil brother to Awaken still more of the Weir. Because he is only eight and no one trusts electric-eyes Cass, the city is now ruled by a Council that acts as a regency. They want more control of Wren, and suddenly, there is an attempt on Wren’s life. Meanwhile, in the vast ruined desert-city outside, a gray-haired man appears. Although he is blind, his reflexes and fighting skills are the best of anyone’s. What he is searching for is a mystery.
Morningside Fall follows Cass and Wren on a journey outside of the city, guarded by Wren’s security detail, a group of bad-ass, wisecracking soldiers led by a woman named Gamble. The detail, Cass and Wren, along with Wren’s Awakened friend Painter, fight off packs of nocturnal Weir and search for a temporary sanctuary. Everyone comments that the Weir are acting strangely and fighting in ways that they never have before. Something has changed, and it has to do with Wren.
What works here, really well, are the video-game scenarios that Posey creates. Those are riveting. Whether it is a mano-a-mano fight or a hold-the-position shoot-out, the action is so captivating that when I got up to get a drink of water I wanted to shout, “Cover me! I’m goin’ in!” This part of the book, as with Three, is rollicking good fun.
What is less successful is the overall pacing and story arc, which again has a bushel of information shoveled into the last forty pages or so. This time, though, Wren’s constant vacillation between Messianic Figure and vulnerable boy left me dizzy and unconvinced. Wren is eight. In our world he’d be a third-grader. No matter how gifted or hardened he is by his life, developmentally he is eight years old. Here is Wren, thinking back on his long (three-month?) history as Governor of Morningside:
… And though Wren had always tried to do what he thought was right, he realized he could only remember one time that he’d made a decision that put himself in a tough position. Most of the time, he’d just been trying to find the compromise that made everyone happiest, or upset the fewest people.
That wasn’t governing. That was managing…
The only person whose happiness Wren has never let bother him is his mother’s, since he disregards her instructions and runs off to put himself in danger about every five minutes. That’s the only time he is a believable eight year old.
Posey has the skills of description, dialogue and action down solidly. I wish he would devote some time to the true development of characters. Certainly it’s okay to have archetypal characters — the Chosen One, the Warrior, the Betrayer — but for a 510-page book to work for me, they have to be more than that.
I also know that the target readers for a book like this are gamers. For them, Painter’s story arc and the political conflicts on the Morningside council, combined with the clever dialogue, probably provide enough characterization. Even though I’m not the target audience, I am intrigued by Wren’s story. I can comfortably recommend this book for the compulsive video-game-player in your life.
Legends of the Duskwalker — (2013-2014) Publisher: The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more. But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantel of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise. File Under: Science Fiction [ Three For All | Apocalyptic Wasteland | A Journey Home | Fear the Weir ]
I completely understand where you’re coming from on the issue of characterization, Marion–even coming from the targeted gamer audience, I do wish the archetypes were more subtle, or that Posey’s characters were written as well as his action sequences.