Let’s Read Otherbound: Review

Outherbound

No need to introduce Otherbound- we’ve been delving into its mysteries for quite some time now over in the Let’s Read Otherbound posts. This is going to be more of a review of the last quarter or so of the book, which I didn’t get to before.

I really wanted to be positive about Otherbound. It starts off incredibly strong, with a killer premise, deftly sketched out characters with dynamics and interactions that are both complex and easily grasped- the first POV chapter from Amara is in my opinion a masterpiece of exposition and character building, achieving in a few pages what would take most writers chapters upon chapters. And at the end of the book you can totally see that where it all leads to is this really touching, complex and emotionally ambiguous place that hopes for a happy ending for the characters while acknowledging that they still face significant problems.

And then somewhere between all of that the story just falls apart.

A certain word kept popping into my head around the time the specific mechanics of magic in the Dunelands started becoming plot critical. At first I thought it was “over-complicated”, but now I think a more appropriate word would be “cluttered”. There’s just too much going on- too much magic flimflam, too many plot twists, too many emotional complications. I absolutely respect that Duyvis refused to turn Amara and Cilla’s relationship into a fairytale romance, recognizing that their past histories and stations in life would make that impossible, but it means that during the second half of the book any scene between them turns into this morass of second guessing and angst and while that’s probably very true to life it’s a grueling slog to read in the pages of a book, particularly when its sandwiched between equally complicated twists and turns regarding magic and who is or is not a mage being possessed by exactly which or how many people from another world. It’s just too much stuff crammed into a fast-paced story and it becomes exhausting long before the last chapter.

A big part of this is the fact that I just didn’t connect with Amara enough. Shortly after Maart’s death I realized that actually I didn’t really care much about Maart, which quickly led to the realization that actually I didn’t really care much about Amara either. She’s just a bit too bland and uninteresting, despite all the challenges she faces.

This combination of over-complicated and uninteresting reaches its apex at the story’s climax, which is near-incoherent. And the actual ending itself is so good how did this happen

Like I said, there’s really a lot to like about Otherbound. It’s diverse and inclusive and has a killer first half, but given how badly it falls down I can’t in good conscience recommend it. I still think Corinne Duyvis has a ton of talent and I’ll check out anything else she puts out, but as far as this book goes it’s a dud.

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3 thoughts on “Let’s Read Otherbound: Review

  1. Quantum Reality

    I actually quite liked how the ending evolved, especially with the mystery angle of Nolan using the knowledge he has about the linkages between Amara’s world and Earth in order to find out who it is that’s been orchestrating the plot behind Cilla’s curse, as well as how to undo it.

    I agree that the ending could seem somewhat chaotic, but I’m kind of used to that given that Deathly Hallows’s epic Hogwarts fight scenes, or Elantris’s (Brandon Sanderson) final chapters were similarly fast-paced and could seem whirlwindy depending on who reads them.

    Reply
  2. Signatus

    I’m pretty much with you on this. In my case, the book was a page turner, I wanted to know how they were going to get out of the whole problen and, while I was able to predict some things (Cilla’s suicide attempt), others surprised me (not in a good way tho). However, close to the end, the thing got way too unbelievable for my tastes.

    The positive things I got from the book were that it wasn’t a brick, we didn’t see the author’s political views, it was inclusive (a lesbian relationship), and the characters were your everyday joes. No super powers, no chosen ones, just some weaklings who needed to use their minds to overcome powerful villains, which is refreshing from all that chosen one hero journey dominating fantasy (Harry Potter and the patronus, Eragon, Richard Cypher, even Harry Dresden falls into the “I’m so powerful I’m awesome”).

    The bad things I got was the magic system (at one point it didn’t make sense) and the fact that the main villain is another hitlerian megalomaniac. That put me off completely. I was expecting something more intense and it fell into nothing but another archetype. Also, their motivations are stupid and the fact that they are able to possess Earth humans annoyed me, mostly because I didn’t understand it, and mostly because the possibilities are far greater than going out to ruin another planet’s reality. For example, why not possess Bill Gates and be the richest man on earth? Or a president? Or an eminent scientist?

    I’ve also pointed out how I can’t, in good conscience, believe everyone agrees to what Rudee is doing. More Otherbounds would have gotten there to oppose him. Humans are just humans, they aren’t good nor bad, but we have this charity thing going on in our genes which has helped the survival of the specie and it shows constantly (natural disasters, etc). People actually do help other people. Only the sociopathic megalomaniacs are Otherbound? It doesn’t make sense.

    Also, by the end of the book, the whole thing with Pat’s play… come on. It couldn’t be more cliche than that. As the book progressed I was less and less interested by Nolan’s life but that part was a deal breaker for me.

    I think she’s got talent and has tried to make something different, but in the end, that she fell into cliches is a pity. Specially because she had tried so hard not to. So while this is not a bad book, it’s not a good book either. It’s ok, better than anything I’ve read of late (without counting scientific publications).

    Reply
    1. CM

      In all fairness, you said something about it being strange that there’s no GOOD otherbounds. I’m actually encouraged to think the mages hunting Cilla are good otherbounds, it’s just that whatever secondary spell afflicting Cilla is (remember Nolan never figured out what it was?), is something they want to end and their method probably involves killing her.

      I say the mages hunting Cilla ARE good otherbounds, we just don’t know why they feel the need to kill her.

      Reply

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