Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Echoes from the Edge Part 1: Beyond the Reflection’s Edge

Title: Beyond the Reflection’s Edge

Series: Echoes from the Edge #1

Author: Bryan Davis

Genre: YA (13-16) Science-fiction

Excerpt from “The First Sign,” Chapter 1 of Beyond the Reflection's Edge:

Nathan watched his tutor peer out the window. She was being paranoid again. That guy following them in the Mustang had really spooked her. “Chill out, Clara. He doesn’t know what room we’re in.”

She slid the curtains together, casting a blanket of darkness across the motel room. “He parked near the lobby entrance. We’d better pack up and leave another way.” She clicked on a corner table lamp. The pale light seemed to deepen the wrinkles on her face and hands. “How much more time do you need?”

Nathan sat on the bed nearer the window, a stack of pillows between his back and the wall, and tapped away at his laptop. “Just a couple of minutes.” He looked up at her and winked. “Dad’s slide rule must’ve been broken. It took almost an hour to balance the books.”

Clara slid her sweater sleeve up an inch and glared at her wristwatch. Nathan knew that look too well. His tutor’s steely eyes and furrowed brow meant the Queen of Punctuality was counting the minutes. They were cutting it close, and they still had to get the reports bound at Kinko’s before they could meet his parents at the performance hall for the company’s quarterly meeting. And who could tell what delays that goon in the prowling Mustang might cause? His father had noticed the guy this morning before he left, and he looked kind of worried, but that could’ve been from the bean and onion burrito he had eaten for breakfast.

A 16-year-old boy pieces together mysterious clues from his dad’s last case in attempt to solve his parents’ murders.

The Writing: Beyond the Reflection’s Edge has the typical virtues and flaws of a Bryan Davis book, though overall the writing is tighter and cleaner here than in his Dragon books.

The premise, a Mission: Impossible gone multi-dimensional, is fantastic. That may sound obvious, considering this book belongs to the sci-fi/ fantasy genre. But many speculative books act like remakes of Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, and Mr. Davis’s books are a refreshing change from that. He always comes up with some fun and surprising premises, that make me as an author say, “I wished I thought of that.” And Beyond the Reflection’s Edge is no different in this respect from his past books.

Likewise, the plot is well-paced, and with this book’s tighter style, even faster and stronger than earlier stories.

Characters remain the weak link. They are fun, quirky, and three-dimensional, using and playing off stereotypes. They infuse much humor in what could be a very dark story and often surprise, like Tony Clark. However, I miss the deep visceral connection with the protagonists that turn a fast-paced plot into a heart-stopping story.

Back to the positive, I must commend Mr. Davis again on his clarity. Because of the world (or is it worlds?) in this book and how characters cross, it would be easy for the reader to get lost or left behind. However, Mr. Davis always keeps the reader close, providing all necessary information when needed in a easily remembered way.

The Story: Much like the first dragon book (Raising Dragons), God is present in Beyond the Reflection’s Edge, but references are subtle and woven in—my personal favorite way of mixing the spiritual with the story. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if God comes more and more to the fore in later books.

There are several good themes running through this plot. The most obvious shows up in the subplot that focuses on the relationship between teen guys and girls, touching on topics like purity, the influence of each gender on the other, chivalry, and what real love is. While these topics never become extremely preachy, they are clear enough that they could provide some good fodder for discussions between parents and teens.

As for other gray areas, the humor is clean, all magical elements have “scientific” explanations, and sexual stuff is basically limited to veiled references to off-screen happenings and a couple kisses. Violence is the more predominant gray area, with several corpses and brutal murders witnessed, among general threats, shoot-outs, and car chases. Not necessarily over the top, but definitely present.

Summary: Beyond the Reflection’s Edge is probably Mr. Davis’s best book yet. It’s excellent for the intellectual reader who likes intriguing plots and complex puzzles to solve, though topics/violence may limit the story to readers ages 10 and up. I also highly recommend parents read the book at about the same time as the child, as it could provide plentiful discussion material.

Ratings: 4.0 (Writing), 4.0 (Content), 4.1 out of 5 stars (Overall)

Order Beyond the Reflection's Edge here, or check out my review for book two, Eternity's Edge, and book three, Nightmare's Edge.

1 comment:

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Another outstanding review, Chawna. You do such a good job illustrating the points you make. Readers would do well to pay attention to what you say about books.