Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon -- Debut Book Review

Release Date: August 20, 2013

Genre(s): YA / Christian Fantasy / Romance

From: Barnes & Noble Store

My thoughts:

Christian fantasy or mainstream fantasy? 

The publisher Blink YA is an imprint of Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins. However, since Doon was marketed as a mainstream romance/fantasy book, I decided to give it a go. I would review it from the perspective of a Christian reader, but this book was placed along with the other mainstream YA books, so I'm going to review it as the secular audience member that I am. And besides, I enjoyed Narnia, and that was a 7-book Christian allegory.

Veronica and Mackenna. 
The chapters are divided between the points of view of Veronica and her friend Mackenna. Sometimes I had to flip back to figure out who was talking because the two girls sounded the same. Veronica's been let down by nearly everyone close to her--her drug-addict dad, her mom, and that creepy future step-dad Bob who keeps checking out her body in her leotard. Kenna's an orphan who was raised by her old Aunt Gracie, and plays the more pragmatic, career-driven foil to Veronica's romantically desperate character. I enjoy the close friendship they share, as well as how protective they are of each other. 

Mackenna and Duncan have some great chemistry going on. I could see a healthy romance blooming from this couple. Kenna is trying to decide between romance (staying in Doon) and her theater career dreams (leaving Doon). Duncan offers to build her a theater, but that's not Broadway. Kenna has to choose between her dreams and Duncan. 

Veronica and Jamie, however, have an unhealthy relationship. If their motives weren't so transparent, I'd say that Jamie is a jerk playing games with her because he himself doesn't know what he wants. Veronica even notices this behavior and calls it his "hot-and-cold" act. When their relationship pivots, it's not believable at all. It feels like the sort of relationship that fades away after the initial spark of infatuation is gone.

The Calling. 
Soulmates. Zing. When you have a calling with someone, you appear in each other's dreams, and it's a strong indicator of true love, soul mates, etc. I thought the use of the Calling was rather cliched, but it seems to be the explanation to how Jamie and Veronica could fall in love with each other in two weeks. 

A Conveniently Contradictory Setting. 
Doon is portrayed as a romantic, old-fashioned Scottish town that comes straight out of a fairy tale painting, with horse-drawn carriages and all. However, it happens to have many of the conveniences of modern life--modern toilet plumbing, tap water, globalization (sushi, pizza). Gee, how convenient. When asked about the plumbing, the only "explanation" Prince Duncan gave is that they aren't "barbarians."

Well, okay then. 

Culture of Doon. 
One of the Princes says that every Centennial (100 years in our world), the portal between Doon and our world opens, and a few Doonians are sent out to research modern inventions. Then, they figure out which ones are worth keeping--the goal is to advance living conditions while "preserving our culture." 

Whose culture are they really preserving? Since there have been waves of non-European immigrants to this Scottish kingdom. Wouldn't there have been some ethnic tensions? Mario, the Italian pizza-place owner, has married a Scottish woman, but somehow their kids have Italian accents. That makes no sense. 

I suppose they are preserving Christian Scottish culture.

Witches & Magic. 
The only things the Doonians hate are witches, which they suspect and accuse Veronica and Mackenna of being. Witches, according to Fiona (who'd probably be a witch herself if she weren't so religious), think that they are using magic, but they are only being manipulated by the Deceiver, who is a thinly veiled allusion to Satan. A traditional view of witches, which happens to be real in Doon. 

So there is no magic. What we think is magic is actually the power of the Protector, as well as the power of the Deceiver working through people.

Deus Ex Machina. 
During its time of troubles, Doon was saved by the Protector (might as well just say God at this point) through the king's prayers. Um, okay. This is introduced about 10% into the story. Isn't it a bit early to throw in the deus ex machina? Prayer saved them all.

In the end, the characters are all helpless pawns or servants of either the Protector or the Deceiver; none of them really have their own powers except "faith" and "belief." This kind of took away the epicness of the story for me. 

The witch is just a two-dimensional embodiment of pure evil. She is apparently too evil to be a person. And that's about it. 

Conclusion: The story is a fast-paced, high-stakes adventure, but it has quite a few cliches, some that make it silly instead of swoon-y. It also relies too much on the mysterious Protector and his "magic" to explain things that don't make sense. Veronica is a desperate, perceptive main character, and Kenna is a strong-willed girl, and I thought they were both likable enough (well, minus Jamie) for me to read Doon #2. The witch's identity was hidden for most of this book so I'd like to read more about her in the next one. 

Overall, the book is a great read, but there are some issues I have with the logistics of the setting and the story. 

My rating:

What I would dine on while reading this book: 
  • Mario's pizza
  • crepes
  • sushi 

What do you think of this book? Would you consider this Christian or mainstream fantasy? Leave a comment and let me know!

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