Can be read on The Social Potato
Thanks Edelweiss and HarperTeen for providing me a digital copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Okay, as a Filipino who pretty much grew up in a society obsessed in Korean songs and soap operas, I've come to respect the country's culture, especially their history (that doesn't make me a fangirl in any way, though... I just respect it, not love it, hehe). I remember watching 4-5 years ago this Korean TV show called "Jewel in the Palace" and I thought the execution of the drama, most importantly its portrayal of Ancient Korea, was just fascinating and mesmerizing - from their clothes, to their foods - everything. So when I heard that Prophecy by Ellen Oh was set in Ancient Korea (with a twist of fantasy, of course), I was ecstatic. Now that is something new, don't you agree? Unfortunately, I think I've set my expectations too high, because it didn't deliver... at all.
Don't get me wrong - the premise is awesome. We have Kira, a kickass girl hated by everybody because of her yellow eyes and her reputation of slaying demons (which is... a good thing? Who'd want demons in their midst anyway? She's doing all these pathetic people a frickin' favor), who is also the niece of King Yuri of the Hansong Kingdom, one of the seven kingdoms in the country. There have been reports as of late that other kingdoms have fallen to the demons, a sign of a prophecy coming true... "Seven will become three. Three will become one. One will save us all." Kira then with the young prince, her brother, a handful of monks, and a mysterious stranger try then to find a way to stop the fiends from taking the lands before it's too late.
See, I told you it's awesome. Sounds like something a good movie could be based on. So what happened, then? The writing, unfortunately and sadly, disappointed and fell terribly short. Sigh. I'm a fan of good writing, so if you screw that up, you pretty much screw everything else up - the characters, the world building, the escalation of events, the tension, everything
. It pains me to write this review because I know deep in my heart that it could have worked, that it could have been better, and if it was, I could have loved this book to death and could have talked about it for hours on end with my friends, some who are hardcore korean fans as well. I tried to like it despite its shortcomings, but I just couldn't. :(
One, lack of internal narration. It was a "they did this and then did that and then did this and that" narration that it drove me crazy. The story was mainly told in Kira's eyes (3rd POV), but where were her thoughts? It was full of "Kira said to Kwan" "Kira said" "Kira asked" and no thoughts from her at all that it made her one dimensional. She had no personality. Her internal narration, if done correctly, was supposed to make me (or the reader in general) become attached to her and feel what she was feeling. Her internal narration was supposed to make me feel sad when she was sad, angry when she was angry, happy when she was happy, but in those moments that were supposed to evoke a strong reaction from me, I felt absolutely nothing. Why? Because I was so detached from her! Because I didn't know her intimately! All I read were what she did every 5 seconds and a passing sentence or two of how she felt annoyed by something or by someone, and that's it. I mean sure, this writing style isn't totally bad, but for someone like me who needs to know the character through internal narration, this particular style leaves me dreadfully bored and disconnected. Instead, in my eyes, from being such a kickass character, she became whiny, impulsive and annoying for no particular reason at all. It even left me feeling empty towards the other characters because I hardly knew anything about them. Sure, Taejo was the prince and her cousin, but what else? What else about Kwan, her brother, is there that could make me like him and admire him as Kira does? Empty, that's what I felt. Disengaged.
So without substantial internal narration, what else aside from the characters were affected? The action scenes. This is a story of warriors fighting demons, of the people fighting against fiends from another plane, so action scenes were supposed to be exciting, thrilling, blood-pumping - but unfortunately, they all went too fast, too easy, and alas, too boring. Soldier A wields his sword, Soldier B parries the attack and pivots his foot and counterattacks. Soldier A gets stabbed and falls to the ground. Soldier B turns around and attacks another. After a page or two, the battle is finally over and the good side has won. Yawn.
Yes, the novel is fast-paced but it's too fast-paced for a fast-paced novel... the action scenes are already done before you know it (and still boring, too...), leaving no room for any excitement at all. Tension buildup is little to none, and the escalation of events is just too quick for me to connect myself entirely. The political drama felt forced and superficial because, well... the novel tells us there is supposed to be political intrigue in the chaotic mess, but it doesn't really show due to, again, lack of good narration, internal or otherwise. I'm okay with verbs and stuff but it can get highly tedious if it's pretty much all over the place, and believe me when I say that the rest of the elements WILL suffer from it.
Overall, despite my complaints, it is still a good story, but if polished it could have been so much more, and I'm really, really hoping that the next book will be better than this. Do I recommend it? Well... to people like myself who depend a lot on internal narration and the likes in order to fully connect to the story and to the characters, you may have to read this book with caution. If you're someone who doesn't mind a more simplistic kind of storytelling and are a fan of ancient Korea, it wouldn't hurt you to give this a try. In spite of the flaw in the writing, it still has a good premise.