Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
On the surface, The Scholar, book one of The Genoa Chronicles by JJ Anders has everything a fantasy lover could want in a book series. There are mythical beings that are able to use magic, intrigue, a mystery to solve, and even a little romance. The description immediately drew me in. I settled in ready and excited to enjoy a new series. Opening the book quickly ended those feelings when I discovered that the best written part of the book was the description. I couldn’t wait to finish this book. Normally that would signal that the book is a page-turner, but in my case, I just wanted it to be over so I could read something new and forget the disappointment I felt while reading this.
Anna has some powerful abilities and she doesn’t really know who or what she is. She is in hiding for protection and has spent a good portion of her life running from people trying to capture her and the rest of the time trying to discover who she is. She is able to return to the land that she was exiled from thanks to the help of a Wizard. This leads to a dangerous journey and a potential love interest that has to battle his heart and his sword when it comes to Anna.
My problem is more with the writing than the story itself. I think The Scholar has many of the elements that would make a story solid. However, the writing is very “tell not show.” It’s description heavy in terms of telling the reader what to imagine rather than letting things unfold on its own. It feels like the idea was created and the writers weren’t sure how to get from point A to point B, so they just filled in some unnecessary details all along the way.
Anna lacks substance and there are several points in the book where we get her frantic mental thoughts that build things up but never really pay off in the end. Much of the beginning of the book she was obsessed with figuring out who she was. I quickly grew bored and once we had the answers she was seeking, I didn’t really care one way or another. The action sequences, at times, are nonsensical. If you’re going to go to the trouble of telling me exactly what happens, your description should be smooth, thoughtful, and make sense. This wasn’t always the case with The Scholar.
Additionally, words matter. It’s nice to be able to say or describe things, but they need to make sense. Often times, the descriptions contradict the following descriptions. This could be because of some of the unmotivated actions for the sake of page filling. For example, in one spot in the book it is pouring down rain and the rain is beginning to fill the streets. The next minute, a cold wind blows and snow is approaching that could fall to the point of footprints being left in them. As there is a flood, it’s unlikely that would take place, but that’s the mental image you’re left with. It’s something that could have or should have been cleaned up in editing, but will be overlooked by many.
If you read The Scholar, remember that it’s a series book. The book ends on a big storyline to set things up for the next book. With that in mind, if you’re not one for waiting know that you’ll have to until you get a hold of the second book.
Is The Scholar Recommended?
If you care about things making sense, at least to some degree, in your fantasy, this probably isn’t going to be the series for you. There are multiple narrators and at times it feels like it is done superfluously. The buildup tension often fizzles out to nothing and it’s just disappointing. If you pay attention to detail and want to feel like the author of a series loves it enough to spend the time nurturing it, you’ll want to skip The Scholar and look elsewhere.