Green, Layton. The Summoner (2010). Digital only. GryphonWorks. $2.99*
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started poking at this book; it seemed interesting enough, but not my usual read. It’s fairly apparent from my choice of books that I like young adult and romance novels– both genres known for being rather easy reads**. But I figured “why not” and found myself quickly engaged.
Dominic Grey is world-worn and jaded, stuck in a dead-end government job in Zimbabwe. When a diplomat– and friend of the Ambassador– goes missing in the middle of nowhere during a Juju ceremony, Dominic is told to investigate. He won’t be alone, however; Nya Mashumba– local government official– will be escorting him and keeping an eye on his progress, and Viktor Radek– cult expert– will be helping out.
Things aren’t as straightforward as anyone hoped, and Grey is in deeper trouble than he could have imagined. Someone has sent him a message– back off– and he needs to find out who before anyone else disappears.
The only thing Dominic Grey knew for certain about the disappearance of William Addison was that it was the strangest case to which he had ever been assigned.
It’s not often that I read a book cold, without knowing anything about it. I often pick books up because I know the author, or I liked the cover/blurb or I saw a good review. I usually have some idea what I’m getting into before I decide “sure, why not?” but in this case, at least, the results weren’t bad.
I found myself pleasantly surprised, for the most part. Dominic Grey is an interesting protagonist with an imperfect past. He’s really good at a couple things, and has a few character flaws which keep him interesting. He apparently speaks three languages– which are never listed– and is very well traveled. He’s a fairly accepting character, who doesn’t make snap-judgements. On the whole, while not an every-man, he is a bit of an ideal-man.
The writing is good, if not spectacular; descriptions were vivid, and most of the dialog was relatively natural. There were moments where characters were overly-expository in their speech, but with a topic/setting most people don’t know a lot about, it’s a damned-if-you-do/don’t balancing act. I feel like for the most part it is alright, though it does get a little bogged down in the second chapter.
The plot is really what makes this book interesting; there is an evil Juju man sacrificing humans to an evil spirit, and Grey, Nya, and Viktor are entangled in the puzzle. There are parts that are surprising, and parts that are not, but on the whole it’s intriguing enough to keep you reading (and good enough that I actually enjoyed reading it; I didn’t want to put it down.) It manages to move along quickly enough that you don’t get bored, without rushing along so fast that you get lost, either. At no point did I have to go “wait, what just happened?,” which is a good sign.
With good writing, solid pacing, an interesting plot, and good characters, this book is worth reading. It gets a 3.5/5*** — I liked it, but I didn’t love it. (Though I wouldn’t have felt upset at having paid $2.99 for it, either.) If it survives and becomes a series, I’ll probably check out the next book.
* Disclosure; I received a free copy of the book for review.
** There are always exceptions to the “easy reads,” The Hunger Games, for example, is not “easy” in any way. (But it’s well worth it.)
*** I am not the sort to read mystery/thrillers often, and I do not enjoy them as much as I enjoy sci-fi/fantasy/romance plots. I think if I were more of a mystery/thriller type this could easily have been a 4/5 or higher.