Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fairy Metal Thunder (JL Bryan)

Fairy Metal Thunder
(The Songs of Magic series, Book 1)
JL Bryan
Fiction, YA Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: High school junior Jason loves nothing more than strumming out a tune on his old Fender. He was thrilled when he got a chance to join up with the Assorted Zebras, a garage band that'll be going places as soon as they can land a few paying gigs. Of course, having a crush on the lead singer Erin doesn't hurt. If only he could find a way to catch her attention...
When his kid sister, Katie, spots a strange creature robbing the house, Jason gives chase, following it through a door in a tree to the land of fairies. Here, he becomes entranced by the magical instruments of a fairy band - so entranced that he steals them. Surely, with instruments like these, the Assorted Zebras are bound to hit the big time, and Erin will finally notice Jason... but he and his bandmates soon discover that magic is not a toy, nor are fairies to be trifled with.

REVIEW: This story reminds me of a drawing by an artist who almost, but not quite, knows what they're doing. My eye roves around restlessly, trying to figure out what bugs me - something like flawed perspective or odd proportions that throws off the whole work. Fairy Metal Thunder has a decent polish that many self-published titles lack, with serviceable characters in a plot that, while not entirely original, is at least executed competently... but enough details are off that I just couldn't fully enjoy it.
Jason is a young adult cliche, down to the precocious kid sister and the conservative parents who don't approve of that newfangled rock 'n roll. He also acts too stupid to be a high school junior, taking far too long to clue in to the fact that fairies are dangerous and their magic is more powerful than he understands. Erin's mostly an object for Jason to pine over, complete with a jerk stepdad and a boyfriend who takes her for granted. Actually, of all his bandmates, only the drummer Dred (short for Mildred) shows any hesitation over playing with enchanted instruments or meddling with strange powers; frankly, I would've rather had her developed as a character for Jason to fall for, a needed anchor to keep him - and the band - from doing some monumentally stupid things.
Then there's the fairy side of things, as the fairy musicians find themselves in deep trouble with the iron-fisted Queen Mab over the theft (when they were little brighter than Jason for leaving their powerful instruments lying around unguarded in a public place.) Their story goes nowhere after eating too much page count, though I suppose more will come of their predicament in Book 2. The goblin thief whose antics kick off the whole problem turns up again to pester Jason and provide comic relief, while being a crude glutton (likely because that's what goblins seem to be in most young adult literature these days.) There's some promise of originality with a disgruntled elf and his tracking unicorn, Buttercake, who are hired to retrieve the stolen instruments; in the finale, Buttercake shows the skeptical humans why the seemingly-benign unicorn is one of the most feared creatures in Fairyland. But, again, that originality gets shunted to the side, trampled by the stable of stock characters going through the motions of an average story.
Given the predictability, it reads quickly and fairly smoothly. I was considering giving it an extra half-star for being properly formatted (and mostly free of misspelled and misused words, flaws I've come to expect in self-published eBooks), but the final twenty percent of the file proved to be filler material. That seemed like a little much, especially when a good chunk of that wasn't even related to the author or the series.
Ultimately, while there's plenty Bryan did right here, I just found myself too caught up on the many weak spots.

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Ruby Blue (Julie Cassar) - My Review
Bedlam's Bard (Mercedes Lackey with Ellen Guon) - My Review
The War of the Flowers (Tad Williams) - My Review

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