Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton (Seeker, #1). | My copy: eGalley, ~448 pages, Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House Children’s), releases February 10th, 2015. | Source: Random House Children’s via NetGalley. | View Seeker on Goodreads here.
*I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Delacorte and Random House!
Quin Kincaid has been put through years of brutal training for what she thinks is the noble purpose of becoming a revered ‘Seeker’.
Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin’s new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.
Seeker was surprisingly addictive despite it being so darn frustrating. It started out interesting enough, very suspenseful: Quin, Shinobu, and John are in the final stages before becoming Seekers, but then Quin’s mom, Fiona, and Shinobu’s dad, Alistair, warn their respective children about the lives they are about to take on. Of course, the adults won’t actually say what is going to be so horrible about becoming a Seeker — and so it is a no-brainer that the kids are going to scoff at the ominous warnings and eagerly take their oaths.
Well. Quin goes on a mission as a newly-titled Seeker… and returns from it scarred for life. But here’s the super frustrating thing: we didn’t get to read about the mission at all! No showing and not even any telling. The vaguest of hints were dropped. All we know is that Quin was afraid going in and was traumatized after coming out. Seekers learn to fight with special weapons, so I guessed that something horrendously violent and bloody happened during the mission, but it took until three quarters of the way through the book to finally find out what apparently happened — and the explanation was pretty unsatisfactory! I didn’t like how the mystery of the mission was handled. Some writers do a great job withholding scenes or information until later on when they become important/useful to the plot, but this felt like a whole vital chunk of the story was missing.
Also, I was extremely confused about what the heck Seekers even did and what the athame (“AH-thuh-may”) were used for at first. Well, for Seekers, it was the generic “we do good” explanation, with the cliche trope of some people using their power and privilege for their own benefit or personal preference. The whole plot, however, revolves around the athame, magical stone devices that can portal Seekers and Dreads (the sort of overseers of the Seeker laws of doing good) to any location they want. However, there seems to be a There or between when traveling via athame, and this whole There term drove me crazy for the entire book. It was never fully clarified what or where There was. From what I pieced together, I think it’s a strange dimension while going through the portal, and apparently it can suspend lives in limbo and keep people from dying and stuff, except you don’t want to get stuck their unwillingly. I’m still not really sure what it is, so I could be completely wrong. But, again, I really disliked all the withheld info and lack of world building and back story. It just made things confusing and took time away from being able to enjoy the story because I was so caught up in figuring out what I was reading about.
The first half of the book takes place in Scotland at a private mansion with sweeping grounds. This part of the book felt very medieval, which worked well with the meld of supernatural magic. But then the second half the story jumps forward in time by a year and a half and the characters are in Hong Kong, China, in what feels like a very futuristic time period. It’s never clearly indicated at what point in time Seeker takes place, and while I didn’t care that much, I would have liked a more solidly built world. It went from idyllic Scottish highlands to gritty dystopia China to an airship over futuristic London. Yeah, things felt a bit choppy.
The main characters were an interesting bunch, all very layered and different. The main, main protagonist is Quin, but there is also John, Shinobu, and Maud. Quin and John have been in love for years. Quin and Shinobu are third half-cousins (something like that; they’re only distantly related), and Shinobu’s been crushing on Quin for a long time (and that’s okay, i.e. not gross, because they’re barely even related). Maud is the Young Dread, a girl almost witch-like in feel. And these four teens have various roles in the story that focuses on John’s family wanting their house’s athame back. John’s on a quest to retrieve it. But everyone has different ideas about how to properly use the athame for good in the world.
John was a very conflicted character. He didn’t want to hurt people, but he desperately wanted to get the athame. He believed he was going to set the world right by restoring the athame to its original house. He loved Quin and wanted her to help him, trust him, and be with him. But from Quin’s perspective… John was out for revenge for all the things that happened in his life. She felt like he was angry and wanted to prove himself and she honestly didn’t know if his drive for success would become greater than his concern for the safety of those he loved — like herself. Shinobu felt rejected, lost, hopeless, protective, disgusted… He wanted to escape his past but the escaping only led to confrontations with what he wanted to avoid. And Maud was great: She didn’t want to be a bystander. She hated the manipulative control the Middle Dread had and knew it was wrong and she actually tried to do something about it.
These four characters, who alternated chapters in the third person, were all flawed and multidimensional. My opinion of each of them changed as the story progressed. Sometimes I hated a person only to feel sorry for them a few chapters later. Sometimes I really liked a character and then the next moment they were driving me nuts with their fake (or not?) memory loss. They were a great cast, with no one completely good or bad. Now, the same cannot be said of the adults in the story…
The last quarter of the book is where things really picked up, plot-wise, character-wise, and… relationship-wise. Yup, we’ve got a triangle of love here, people! It’s actually not that bad. After what a jerk John started to become, I was very glad Quin started to the see the good, attractive things about Shinobu when they were reunited after that year and a half. It’s still way too early to predict anything (I think this is supposed to be a trilogy?), but at least Shinobu wasn’t being a total douchebag so I’m going to immediately say I’m picking him as the guy who ends up with Quin.
Overall Seeker was an interesting read that wasn’t what I expected. I thought it’d be more like a high fantasy, but it’s a strange dark mixture of fantasy, dystopia, historical (in feel for the first half), and even steampunk (for the last bit). The lack of world background and explanations for pretty much nearly everything were severely frustrating and rant-worthy, but I liked the characters and the overall concept. This book read easily, and already has a movie deal — which I can understand because the story is no sweat to visualize and there’s lots of action. This is not the book for everyone, as I’ve learned via others’ reviews. I never had thoughts of not finishing it, but if you’re willing to give it a try, know right off the bat that you’re going to have to get 75% of the way through before things get good. And that might be a deal-breaker for a lot of readers. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Seeker? If not, would you be interested to? What was the last fantasy book you read that you didn’t love? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!