Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: The Agben School by Jo Sparkes

The Agben School (The Legend of the Gamesmen, Book #2)
by Jo Sparkes
Release Date: June 24, 2014
2014 Oscar press
Softcover Edition; 386 Pages
ISBN: 978-0985331863
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from Pump Up Your Book

3.5 / 5 Stars


Agben had stood for a thousand years. A mysterious school housing more than students, it was the seat of the powerful Women of Agben, and the center for harnessing the potency of herbs. Few knew all that transpired within the walls.

And now Marra stood at its gate.

Friends and support stripped from her, the fragile life she’d built for herself now lay in tatters. And the source of this evil hunted her like a deer culled from the herd.

The gateway before her was her only hope.

For as the city itself crumbled, all depended not on a prince trying to save his people, nor the valiant men who’d brought them this far.

Everything depended on finding a magic powder in the vaults of Agben itself.

Everything depended on her.

My Thoughts
The Agben School is the second book in the Legend of the Gamesmen series and while I didn't read the first book, I had no problem following along and keeping up with the storyline in this book.  I actually thought the author did quite a good job at describing events in the first novel in such a way as to foster understanding of the characters and events and situations in which the characters now find themselves.  I enjoyed this novel on a surface level, but felt character development was a bit lacking and thought there were too many coincidences in the plot to be always convincing.

First of all, I did enjoy the setting and liked the world that was described in these pages.  I find it interesting that even with minor descriptions I could actually picture a lot of the places that were described in this book when I closed my eyes; it actually reminded me a lot of Gondor in Lord of the Rings with the different tiers overlooking sudden drops and I kind of dropped that city at the edge of an ocean with some alterations and we now have the main city itself.  I wondered what this author could do with if she really described the thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in more depth.  I am one of those people who like descriptions and like to drown in sensations.

I thought Marra was an interesting character and really liked her desire to help her friends and her loyalty.  While appearing meek and mild at first, she is anything but, and she definitely grew on me throughout the book.  I really admired her tenacity to learn and her desire to protect those she loves.  There were a lot of interesting characters in this book, but I thought many of them were overshadowed by the plot, and weren't really allowed to grow and develop in a way that would endear them to readers, at least not to me.  I felt compassion for the gamesmen when they lost against the Skullen team and hoped they would find redemption, but it was definitely passive compassion, not active.  I think Marra was the only one I started to feel empathy towards, but this was probably because her voice was the one I read the most, not necessarily because her character really developed.  I enjoyed the plot and thought it was rather interesting, but there were times when I did wish for less dialogue and more introspection on the character's part.  There were also times when I wished for a deeper explanation of events as well.

The Agben School was a nice entry into the Legend of the Gamesmen as it was interesting and charming.   I definitely liked the setting and thought there were some unique elements that made it interesting to read; the Comet game is one of those aspects, although I don't think I have a full grasp as to how that game is played.  I have this vision of the old Aztec games that were played and I can't seem to get that out of my mind when I visualize the game and I'm sure I'm way off.  I did feel the plot overshadowed the characters and would like to see a bit more character development as there were some characters that I really enjoyed and would like to know a bit better, get a good grasp of their character.