Friday, July 13, 2007

CFBA Tour: Fearless -- a review of sorts

Book Two of the Dominion Trilogy:

The world changed after that terrible day when the sky burned, and now every heart is gripped by fear...

And into the breach stride Grant Borrows and his team of heroes -- superheroes. As they use their powers to help a world experiencing one catastrophic disaster after another, Grant continues to grapple with destiny. Has he truly been able to choose a different path than the one planned by the Secretum? Or is he the reason the world seems to be falling apart? By the end of the book, you'll have discovered more about the mysterious organization called the Secretum, but more questions will remain, including the resolution to a cliffhanger ending that will absolutely guarantee you will want to read the third book, coming next summer -- Merciless.

In Fearless, Robin Parrish has crafted an exciting sequel to his debut novel, Relentless. And like Relentless, the pace never slows. I read the whole book last Saturday -- I couldn't put it down. Robin does a good job of pulling you into the world he has created -- a world like ours, but gripped by civil unrest and natural disasters on a scale that make the LA riots in 1992 or Hurricane Katrina seem like the good old days. But even as Grant and his fellow ringwearers use their powers to bring order and save lives, more challenges arise. They must deal with constant media coverage, as well as increasing suspicion from the government. When Grant and some of the others go to London seeking clues about the Secretum, events spin out of control and the team will never be the same again.

One of the pitfalls of a fast-paced story is a lack of emotional resonance. Fearless moves along so fast the characters hardly have time to breathe, let alone reflect on what's happening to them. And neither does the reader. Still, there's a certain reality to that -- when the world is falling apart all around us, most of us don't have time to process emotionally. But I think a little breathing -- and thinking -- room would have helped the story without slowing it down too much. Which is not to say that the characters are simply cardboard cutouts -- Grant and his sister and several of the other characters (especially Morgan, Payton, Lisa, Daniel and Alex) are distinct and do wrestle with what's going on. It's just that those moments of reflection feel hurried and a bit perfunctory. I don't mean to criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be -- I just tend to like spending time in the characters' heads.

Fearless avoids the wheel-spinning that often slows down the second book of a trilogy. (Anybody besides me get bogged down in The Two Towers?) The plot developments are significant and set the stage for the final book. Robin has a journalist's eye for detail, so many of the scenes are vivid and gripping. He's not afraid to kill off (or at least appear to kill off) important characters, either. These deaths are significant to the story development and the ramifications will be felt throughout the third book, I'm sure.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. When I finished it, I had to remind myself which world I lived in, which says something about Robin's ability to pull the reader in. Once again, he has managed to introduce ideas and raise questions in the reader's mind without preaching. If you enjoyed Relentless, you're going to want to read Fearless. And if you haven't read Relentless yet, then do so and then read Fearless. And then, as I said before, you're going to have a hard time waiting until next summer for the final installment.

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