Wednesday, June 4

Keeper of the Winds - Jenna Solitaire

When Jenna Solitaire, nineteen year old college student and author of this allegedly autobiographical novel, returns home after burying her beloved grandfather, her last surviving relative, she knows her life has changed forever. She's not, however, prepared for quite how different her life will become. While going through the belongings of her maternal grandmother, who died when Jenna was a child, she discovers a strange triangular wooden board, etched with cryptic runes and stored in a leather carrying case. It is the Board of the Wind, one of several Boards handed down from Solitaire woman to Solitaire woman since time immemorial, and Jenna is the last of the line. She has a sacred duty that she knew nothing about and, hunted by one branch of the Knights Templar and protected by another, she doesn't know who she can trust - not even herself.
Reading as a blend of The DaVinci Code, and a Charmed/Buffy/Weather Warden hybrid, Keeper of the Winds is the first in what could be a thirteen part series (three sets of three Boards, each set of which can apparently be combined into a single mega Board plus, presumably an über Board), Daughter of Destiny. I'm pretty sure my destiny is to skip on the rest of the series.
Where to start? There are some significant plot holes, like - if only women can be Keepers of the Boards, and Jenna's grandmother died years earlier, why did it take the death of her grandfather to set her Keeperdom in motion? Okay, that's the first time she went poking around int he attic, but the mysterious men only started tracking Jenna once he'd died. If the Boards were so safe all those years without a Keeper, do they even need a Keeper to begin with?
The novel's structured as a first person narration, in near real time - there's no reflection from Jenna, the insight of looking back at events from the end of a journey. Instead the approach is more like diary installments, with the disadvantage of leaving the audience knowing as little as the protagonist. The series creator clearly has an ambitious Big Picture, and we get glimpses of it through what Jenna's told and her nightmares (?memories of past lives) - magic that predates Christianity, created by a woman in peril, mastery of the elements, Vatican opposition. Unfortunately this is about all the information we have, at least by the end of the first book, making the going very murky.
Although the series is supposed to be penned by the protagonist, chapters open with snatches of real time dialogue between shady men who may be with or agin her, to whit:
"My Lord, there is a small problem."
"I am aware - the heir has woken the first Board."
"What are your wishes, my Lord?"
"For now, just watch her. Mark all who visit her and find out everything you can about them. We will not be the only ones interested in young Jenna Solitaire."
Forget 'who are these men and what are their intentions?' - how did transcripts of their conversations get into the text of Jenna's autobiographical, mysteriously published accounts of her eventful life?
Of course, my lack of engagement with the novel didn't help with my appreciation of it. As I think I've made clear, I found the whole thing murky and somewhat preposterous (and I enjoyed Charmed, loved Buffy, and passed on The DaVinci Code) . The characters are sketchily developed the plot inarticulate, and I found Jenna herself quite annoying. One thing in particular grated on me - on at least two occasions Jenna rings her best friend, Tom, and is annoyed that he knows it's her because he 'cheats' by using caller ID. She doesn't seem to object to the existence of caller ID itself, and I don't really know what it is she wants him to do - pretend he doesn't know it's her calling? Maybe she should shield her number.
And when I get this narky with a fictional character it's time to call it a day. - Alex


Alex and Lynn Ward said...

Plot holes you can drive a truck through by the sounds of this.
Is it just me or are we readers required to extend our disbelief a lot more these days? I don't remember the scifi or fantasy of my youth being so overtly inconsistant and I was a geek girl of trekkian proportions.
I don't expect every fantasy author to develop an entire world mythology complete with languages and soup recepies but having a strong consistant framework of your world in place would seem to be a basic requirement to my mind.
But apparently not.

Alex and Lynn Ward said...

For all that I loved Buffy etc I think the legacy is a market for strong female characters in supernatural worlds, and the traditional requirements of world building and internal consistency just aren't that important.
I've always enjoyed good FSF and if the story and/or characters are strong then I'm prepared to suspend my disbelief quite a bit.
But the rush to get new books out has resulted in a great deal of dross, and I think even more so in the teen market than the adult one.
And like in romance, writers sometimes get confused about how to portray 'strong'...