Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Slayers: Friends and Traitors by C.J. Hill

Slayers: Friends and Traitors, the fifth and final Whitney Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction, is the second in a planned trilogy chock full of dangerous dragons, dragon-slaying teenagers with superhuman strength and night vision, and a megalomaniac villain dragon lord.  (You can read my review of the first book of the trilogy here.)

This installment starts out with our protagonist Tori still struggling to adjust to her vastly changed world view.  Instead of being a normal, if quite wealthy and in-the-public-eye, daughter of a senator, she's a superhero who can fly and hear what the closest dragon hears. Instead of the stereotypical teenage girl worries like who likes who and what's the best color lipstick for this outfit, she stresses about strategies for fighting killer carnivorous beasts and keeping her friends alive in battle. Unfortunately, she comes across a bit self-absorbed this time around:
The point is, it's bad enough that I have to rearrange my life to train for combat, and I have to risk my life to fight dragons--I can't even have a regular boyfriend. A normal guy won't understand the Slayer stuff, and a Slayer won't be my boyfriend because caring about me might taint his judgment while he's fighting. All of this sucks.
Now, I firmly believe that a little bit of self-pity every once in a while can be healthy, and Tori really does get over it and deal with the adjustment fairly well, but I'll admit I rolled my eyes just a bit here.

There's more emphasis on the love triangle between Tori, Jesse, and Dirk in this book than the first.  Of course, love triangles are not uncommon in YA fiction, and I thought there was some really interesting exploration of Dirk's dueling loyalties in connection with this one, but it's still a disappointingly predictable device.

The first book did a pretty good job with character development and drawing the relationships between the Slayers.  This book felt more action-driven and I thought the characterizations suffered a bit as a result.  The other Slayers (everyone besides Tori, Jesse, and Dirk) were harder to keep straight this time around.  When they did have a part to play, it felt like Hill had to remind us that Lilly's the one who doesn't like Tori, and Rosa's the healer who has a soft heart, and Kody's the one with cowboy boots.

It's always interesting to see how LDS authors incorporate their faith in to their writing.  Sometimes it's so subtle you can't pinpoint anything specific, sometimes it's overtly blatant and consumes the entire story, and sometimes there's an offhand comment or two referencing a Church teaching or landmark.  In Slayers: Friends and Traitors, Hill settles on the last option and in an amusing scene - Hill skillfully weaves humor in among the darkness of betrayal - Tori is trapped on top of the LDS temple in Washington D.C., clinging to the gold-leaf-plated angel Moroni status for dear life.

While I didn't think this one was as strong as the last, I look forward to finishing the series when the third book comes out next year.

Slayers: Friends and Traitors
by C.J. Hill
ISBN: 9781250024619
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcover, ebook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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