The Beholder by Ivan Amberlake
Around the world, people die under mysterious circumstances. Each branded with an arcane sign, they are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When more people are missing, with similar signs appearing in and around their homes, Jason, an average New Yorker, realizes the victims are a riddle addressed to him.
He is the final piece.
Emily appears, the most beautiful woman with extraordinary powers and startling amber eyes, and tells Jason that powers dormant within him are about to wake. In the world of Light- and Darksighted, he is the only person who can prevent Darkness from enslaving the world. He is the Beholder whose advent has been awaited for many years.
Setting out on a journey with Emily, Jason discovers many improbable things like Sight, Soulfusion, the Hall of Refuge, but the greatest surprise arrives the moment he realizes he has fallen in love with Emily.
Score: – 3 stars
Plot – 2
Characters – 2
Writing – 4
I loved the idea of a puzzle created out of murder victims, and when the book started, I was immediately drawn by in my Jason, his friends and his life. I found the voice engaging, and the character believable and likable. The concept of the book was intriguing and the writing style clear and well written. The opening, with a girl being chased is a great draw.
I really liked the fight scenes in this book. They’re complex, but easy to visualize, and feel fresh and original. They definitely show the writer’s strength, and the quality of writing is probably the strongest thing about this book. Whether in Jason’s building, or floating across the Atlantic ocean, they provide a fascinating visage.
The characters started out well for me, but I found as time went by, I cared less for them. Jason is a solid protagonist, and I found my opinion of him didn’t really change. I wished he could have done a bit more towards the plot. I suspect he will in later books, but as he is a new-comer stepping into a very different world, he is mostly led around by others who know more. The side characters, Debbie, Mark, Tyler, I wanted to know more about, but it felt that they were pushed out of the story a bit. The book is fast paced, but this means there isn’t much time for exploring the personal side. Several times things are hinted at, but they never really come to fruition. And example is early on, Mark appears to have a crush on Debbie, but never makes any attempt to gain her affections, and seems utterly not bothered by her ending up with another man. Tyler is a fascinating character, and I really hope he gets a bigger part in later books, but I couldn’t really bond with him in this one, so any peril fell a bit flat.
The romance felt a bit fast and a bit forced to me. I would have liked to see their relationship blossom more slowly, and then I think I would have engaged with it a bit more. As it was, they didn’t feel properly in love to me, so later events in the book again failed to catch me emotionally. Equally, Jason soulbonds with his friends, which is described as a very powerful thing, the sort of connection that identical twins have, but Debbie and Mark never really felt like more than work colleagues to me.
The book uses a couple of tropes in the plot that need careful handling in an adult book – good vs evil, and a chosen one. I didn’t feel these aspects got the depth they really needed. The war between the light and the dark felt a bit “because it’s always been so”, the stakes of the conflict were not clear enough to me. That said, I did like Pariah as a villain. He was a bit of a stereotype bad guy, but he worked for me.
Towards the middle of the book, while pace of events didn’t drop off, it did feel like it slowed down. There was a lot of description of Energy, what it could do, the light and dark sighted etc. I think I would have rather learned less about Energy and spent more time with the characters. The powers the characters had didn’t ever feel like a deus-ex, but it did feel like certain things happened because it led to cool scenes, like the flying, and being able to control time. There wasn’t really a sense of the scope of the abilities, and new ones appear almost constantly throughout the book.
Overall – this is a well written book, but with too much of the wrong things in to be a great book. However, I do think that with a lot of this down and out the way in book one, the sequels have the potential to be everything this book wasn’t. If the author can engage me with the characters the way I wanted to in the next one, then I can see myself really enjoying it.