February 15, 2014

[Book Review] Vipero The Snake Man (Beast Quest, #10) by Adam Blade


Setting out on the next stage of the Quest is harder than ever--it means leaving home. Tom successfully defended his village from Soltra the Stone Charmer, but an even more sinister Beast waits on the horizon: Vipero the Snake Man.

Tom has no choice but to continue his Quest. He must leave his family once again, bound for the desert and its untold dangers.

Vipero the Snake Man is the fourth in the Beast Quest: The Golden Armor series, and it's just like all those that came before it. I'm seriously unimpressed with this series, for a few reasons.

First of all, it's absolutely filled with plot holes that the children in the audience aren't supposed to notice. For example, why exactly aren't Tom and Elenna allowed to tell anyone about their quest? There's some nonsense about how the Beasts are supposed to be kept secret... but as of Golden Armor, there are malicious Beasts actively wreaking havoc in the lives of Avantia's citizens. Wouldn't it be more helpful--at the very least for the kingdom's morale--to know that there are six protective Beasts fighting for them?

Secondly--and definitely most glaringly--Malvel is a pathetic villain. He doesn't seem to be doing anything so far beyond playing with this kid. Sure, he's wreaking some havoc. More than a few people have probably died because of his Beasts. But he doesn't seem to care about them at all. He's playing hide and seek with this kid, scattering plot coupons across the land for Tom to find. He never cheats Tom or lies to him, and the very nature of his plan to give the Golden Armor of the Beast Master to six Beasts is defeatist. If Tom is the Master of the Beasts and has already defeated and rescued six enslaved Beasts, why the hell wouldn't Malvel know to do something a little more intelligent than to use Beasts against someone implied to be their new "Master"? And given that his threats in this installment--that he's going to lower his nemesis, Aduro, a bit closer to a pit of boiling tar every time Tom "doubts himself"--i.e., purposefully reinforcing Tom's self-confidence--I can only assume that he's actively trying to help Tom. If I don't see some evil apprentice/"we can rule together" scheme come up sometime soon, I'm calling shenanigans.

On the other hand, Vipero offered some interesting elements as far as the Beasts themselves went. Vipero was a pretty cool blending of naga and hydra elements, and I appreciate the inclusion of the healing powers of phoenix tears. I'd love to see more of this kind of creative use of mythology in the future.

If your kid's a fan of the Beast Quest series, they should continue to enjoy the series with Vipero. But I can't say I advocate introducing it to your kid; it's exceedingly formulaic, ludicrously long, and fairly boring so far. The characters aren't impressive, the world-building isn't impressive, and the motives and stakes are not the least bit impressive.

I am still, however, holding out for something that is.