Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Zan-Gah - A Prehistoric Adventure by A. R. Shickman ★★

Zan-Gah:  A Prehistoric Adventure (Zan-Gah, #1)This story is about a teen in pre-historic times, and his quest to find his twin brother who disappeared over a year ago. Zan-gah is brave and proud, and sure that if he starts his adventure, he will be rewarded in finding his goal. He encounters a lot of dangers and obstacles along the way, but never gives up hope.

I wish that I could say that I loved this book as I really enjoy adventure stories, but unfortunately, I had quite a few issues that I could not ignore. Overall, I thought it was OK, but I thought the concept could have been great and I had hoped for more.

First, I felt that the writing seemed to talk down to the reader. I know that this is a children's/young adult book, but readers still want to be immersed in the story and see the events through the characters' eyes. This was a book full of events that were told rather than shown, and after just telling the reader what happened, we were then told, with italics or exclamation points, what the events or actions meant, as if the reader would not understand. Perhaps these little asides were intended to draw in the reader, but to me they felt a bit condescending and repetitive. I think that this was done more to clarify what was happening than to condescend, but I didn't feel that the reiteration was necessary. We should be able to gather from context what a particular action or scene signifies, and examine that scene in relation to our own experiences. If every event is explained, we have no need to look for any other meaning or significance to ourselves, and it's then harder to connect or identify with the character without that bond.

I felt that the characters were interesting and diverse, but I didn't really feel as though I understood any of them. I did root for everything to come out OK in the end, but I couldn't really identify with the characters regarding their lives or choices or actions. I kept being surprised by the decisions that Zan made, because they were different than the ones that I would have made in his place. In a way this is a good thing, because I do generally enjoy unpredictable characters, but I admit that it did make me feel as though I didn't know Zan at all.

The second issue I had was the language used. It felt modern and out of place with the setting. The character names are all seemingly appropriate, and certain words in the presumed language of the pre-historic people, but then we have a teenage main character using modern English words like "proficient" that obviously didn't exist then. It just stuck out and unfortunately didn't work for me. Again, I realize that this was probably done in an effort to make the story more accessible to younger readers, but it was distracting and took me out of the story.

The third issue that I had was that there was just too much I found unbelievable. There were close calls, sure, but every time there was the least amount of trouble, the characters would find an incredibly convenient way out of it with little or no effort at all. Yes, Zan-Gah is described as resourceful, but he didn't really show this quality - and when he did, it was not his resourcefulness that benefitted him, it was luck or someone else coming to his aid.

There is a theme of unity and working together and loyalty that appealed to me, however. Zan-Gah helps to facilitate between his clan and those of his neighbors. Although it was effected very easily, with little more effort than gathering the people and making a short speech, still, he enacted a change for the better, and I did like that. I also liked the fact that he did not give up hope of his brother, and went to try to save him, against all odds, and knowing that he may never return. I was proud of Zan-Gah for his bravery.

I think that this book is one that younger readers may enjoy.

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