Saturday, April 29, 2017

Voyage of the Pale Ship - Greg James

   2017; 89 pages.  Book 2 (out of 2, so far) of “The Chronicles of Willow Grey” series, presumably, soon to be a trilogy.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Young Adult Fantasy Adventure (per the author).  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    Destiny awaits Willow Grey, the Chosen One.  Sooner or later, she has to face the Lamia.  But not just yet.  For she's just a novice when it comes to magic and weapons, and when to use them and when other means of persuasion are a more prudent solution.

    It’s a good thing Henu the Wealdsman is with her.  He knows the land of Tirlane, and he has the magic elixir, stardraught to help him with his spells.  Sad to say, they’re about to leave Tirlane, and journey out into the Bound Sea, and this is new territory for both of them.

    But the Pale Ship awaits them, and it will guide them to the places Fate wants them to go to.  And since the ship steers itself (well, technically, the cerulethe does the steering but let’s not split hairs), the lack of a crew is not a hindrance.  So there’s nothing to do but get on with it, and face whatever lies in store for both of them.

    Even if it is their deaths.

What’s To Like...
    Voyage of the Pale Ship continues the chronicles of Willow Grey, a young girl who has stumbled into a strange, and sometimes brutal, fantasy world.  It is 89 pages long, so it’s really a novella, not a full-length book.  Still, it has plenty of action, and will therefore probably appeal to YA boys as well as girls.

    There’s a very handy glossary, listing both the characters and places in the tale, at the back of the book.  For a change, I was savvy enough to bookmark it before I started reading the story.  There’s also a map back there, but I didn’t use it much; the story is essentially Henu and Willow sailing along to wherever the Pale Ship decides to take them.  It would’ve been nice to have a short “The Story So Far” blurb, as it’s been a year since I read the first book.  But I went back and reread the last section of The Door of Dreams (reviewed here), and that caught me up to speed nicely.

    Willow and Henu cross paths with some kewl beasties along the way, among which are a kraken, a giant, some No Men, harpies, and a couple of blokes that reminded me of the trolls that Bilbo Baggins encounters in The Hobbit.  If curses and magic are your cup of tea, you’ve come to the right tale.

    The main storyline is Willow growing into her new-to-her role.  Besides learning what her magical short sword is capable of, Willow also has a bunch of situational ethics thrown her way, and I always like those.  Sometimes you just have to thwack the baddie, other times a bit of compassion is a much better tactic. 

    The book is written in English, not American, so you run across words like harbour, recognisably, no-one, etc.  I’m quite partial to books written in English.  There is some R-rated stuff: a few cuss words, a couple of attempted sexual assaults, and the subject of cannibalism.  I assume these are all okay for YA readers, but I’d think twice before letting a juvenile read it.

    The ending has a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming, and presumably sets up the showdown with the Lamia in the next book.  This is not a standalone book; you really should read The Door of Dreams first.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Cantrip (n.)  :  a mischievous or playful act; a trick.  (a Scotticism)

    The woman was about to scream when Willow jumped on her and covered her mouth with both hands.  The sound that came out was a muffled squawk.  “Be quiet,” Willow said, “all we want is your clothes.  We won’t hurt you, I promise, okay?”
    The woman bit into the palm of Willow’s hand.  (loc. 293)

    Bhorak told Willow their story as he sharpened the mottled knives.  “An old wizard made us ages ago.  The perfect warriors, so he thought, because when we get hurt, all we need to do is eat someone else’s bits and we grow back what we lost.  See my eyes, my ears, my teeth?  All belonged to some other bugger once.  We are what we eat.”
    That’s so gross, she thought.
    Tharn laughed.  Yeah, the wizard wasn’t too impressed when we ate him.”  (loc. 654)

Kindle Details...
    Voyage of the Pale Ship sells for $2.99 at Amazon, although I snagged it when it was temporarily discounted to $0.99.  The first book in the series, The Door of Dreams also sells for $2.99.  Greg James has a slew of other e-books available.  Most of the novels are $2.99, but if it’s the first book in a trilogy it’s often free.  He also has several e-novellas available, which are in the 50-120 page range, and go for $1.99.

 “What’s with the cats?”  (loc  183)
    Full disclosure: I am not keen on novellas.  I tend to pass on any book that’s less than 180 pages long, and prefer ones that are 250-450 pages in length.  The only other novella I’ve read is reviewed here.

    The inherent problem with novellas (novellae?) is there are just not enough pages to develop any depth – in plotlines, in characters, in the tension.  For instance, here (if I counted correctly), there are 9 action-packed “trials” for Willow and Henu, but in a book with only 89 pages, each one is over before it has a chance to resonate with the reader.

    When you do the pages-per-action math, there’s simply no time for any tension to develop.  And it has to be said, if you’re a baddie facing a wizard with stardraught and a hero with a magic sword, odds are that your demise will come in a very short period of time.  I pity the fiend who  picks a fight with these two.

    To boot, being OCD, I tend to deliberately slow down my reading sessions when I’m reading a short book.  I’m a firm believer in the adage “Read a book in a day; forget it in a week.  Read a book in a week, remember it for months.”  So I read Voyage of the Pale Ship in 10-to-20-page slices.  In retrospect, I have a feeling I should’ve read it in one sitting.

    7 Stars.  Listen, despite its brevity, I enjoyed this book, and was happy to read the next segment in this series.  Add 1 star if you’re a Young Adult and have a book report due tomorrow.  Voyage of the Pale Ship just might save your bacon.  Add another 1 star if you happen to like novellas. 

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