February 03, 2016

Christopher Pike: "Black Knight"

Title: Black Knight [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Witch World (2nd of ?? books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Multiverse, Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Year: 2014
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unique approach to witches and alternate universes. Faster pace and more cohesion than Book 1. Never a dull moment (with the possible exception of Ch. 1).
Cons: Heroine reads like a slightly different version of Sita (The Last Vampire/Thirst), this time with a penchant for being in love/lust with two men at a time. Most characters are unbelievably skilled for a bunch of newborn teen witches or witch wannabes. We don't get the explanations we need in the end (and it's unclear if we will, because there's no talk of a book 3 yet. I asked Pike himself and he said he wants to complete the series, but apparently his publishers have very little interest in it right now. Or - my take on the matter - maybe ever...).
WARNING! This one has blood and guts. Literally. Sex is mentioned/approached, but we don't really get to see it - only a would-be prelude.
Will appeal to: Those who like feisty female leads. Those who can tolerate some gore and suspend disbelief if a story draws them in. Those who don't necessarily need ALL the answers...

Blurb: Jessica Ralle thought the worst was over. The mindblowing revelations. The terrifying danger. The heartbreaking loss. Turns out, discovering Witch World was just the beginning. The riveting Witch World saga continues in a sequel packed with even more shocking twists and sexy suspense than Book One…(Amazon excerpt)
[BTW - I never comment in this section for obvious reasons but I HATE this blurb. It doesn't say anything about the story, and the "sexy suspense" is there for shock value only, so that this book can be lined out with a stream of supposedly successful and steamy novels (please notice the allitteration...it just popped up, and I decided to keep it...) that have nothing to do with it. Yes, there's sex - this is Christopher-friggin'-Pike after all, the one who was already incorporating sex into his books as far back as the '80s! - but "sexy suspense"? WTH? Someone at Simon & Schuster has obviously tried hard to market this book as something it wasn't in order to draw attention to it. And failed nonetheless...]

Review: As my review of Red Queen testifies, I liked the first installment of this series, but didn't unconditionally love it. I've reread it prior to tackling this sequel, and despite enjoying some bits a lot, I still was annoyed at some others. The main problem for me - apart from the heroine Jessica reading too much like an alternate version of Sita without 5,000 years of living under her belt, but sometimes acting like she did - was that the book was all over the place. So I was pleasantly surprised by Black Knight being, on the whole, much more cohesive than its precedessor (which I admit it's not easy for a book set in two different universes, and sporting the addition of a second almost-main character). Also, this novel's got action, blood and guts (not that the first installment didn't, but it was still a crossover between such things and your average high-school aftermath), not to mention a bunch of mysteries of different kinds to keep you enthralled. And curveballed. (Can you say "curveballed"?). Of course, Jessica is still too good to be true - a 18 year old girl who can take care of anything under the sun while barely flinching, and a newborn witch who can fight with the best of them. Because go figure, there are others like her. But once removed from the post-high-school/normal life setting, the fact that six half-dozens of teenagers can be catapulted in the middle of a godforsaken place to be pitted against one another, and adjust to it, doesn't sound that far-fetched anymore...Yes, actually "catapulted" and "pitted". Because six groups of six witches and latent witches each find themselves stranded on an off-the-map island, where they are supposed to fight until only one of them remains. In typical Highlander fashion... [...]

Now, several reviewers have lamented the supposed similarity with The Hunger Games - or even cried rip-off. Pike himself was forced to ackowledge this criticism on Facebook, but assured his readers that this was actually an old idea of his that had only found its way on the paper lately, and remarked that the arena concept in itself is very old, dating back to the Roman Empire. What he says seems reasonable and believable to me. I haven't read The Hunger Games, so I can't vouch for similarities and whatnot being or not being there, but a rip-off? Pike has always had more crazy plot ideas running in his head than a dozen of your average writers put together...I honestly don't think he needs to steal or borrow any other author's ideas. What does strike me instead is the Lost vibe that this story is giving - what with the character finding themselves stranded on an island - and I'm surprised at so few reviewers mentioning that...Then again, from the little I've seen of Lost, the similarities seem to stop here.
There are a few new characters in this sequel of course, though most of the contestants are killed off even before we get to meet/know them, or barely after. The second almost-main character I was talking about, Marc, gets a solo chapter (in third person) at the beginning of the book - awfully detailed, but all in all, not boring. We also get to see a couple of characters from Jessica's recent past (and I'm still not sure they were necessary, but I suppose Pike thought it best not to introduce more new faces in this already crowded book), but conveniently, others who were not needed to keep the story going are sent to play in their rooms, so to speak. Even the miracle child Lara...And of course there's instalove/lust, though of a peculiar kind. For a lovestruck heroine with a family as Jessica is supposed to be, it sounds like she's a fast faller. (There's even - like in Red Queen - the prologue of a would-be sex scene, but at least the male partner reaches for a condom, which is almost never heard of in teen stories nowadays. Yay for safe sex in YA books!). Then again, this is a set up for a touching, magical ending, so I'm not REALLY complaining...
Where I have a serious problem with this book is in the diversity compartment. I mean, there are MANY diverse characters in Pike's books, and this one is no exception; but more often than not, he seems to use them as specimens. Black Knight is different - and worse - in what Pike puts a group of albino contestants on the island. First off, if every group of six is made by people who are not connected in normal life, why should one be made by similar people with a connection? And what connection, because apparently, these albinos are from an ancient race who communicates with their mind instead of their vocal chords, and even die if their leader is killed. Now, I can't even begin to fathom how thrilled any albino who comes across this book might be. I'm sure that Pike meant no harm with this, but it's too flimsy an excuse nowadays. The books loses half a star on the account of this incident...
The ending is, for lack of a better term, a big WTF. Of course, given what Jessica says at the beginning of Book 1, this is no actual ending by any means. Also because there are many loose ends, and still we don't know a fig about the Alchemist's agenda (though we can speculate). Pike himself, replying to my email question, confirmed that he wants to finish the series, but Simon & Schuster have no plan for it - the books haven't had what you'd call a huge impact - and in his words "I have no control over the matter". I hope he can find a way to bring us the final installment one day...

For my review of "Red Queen" (first installment in the series) click here.
For more books by Christopher Pike click here.

12 comments:

  1. I still need to read this book, so I skipped the review part so I wouldn't get spoiled. I WILL get to Black Knight this year, then I will be back to comment! ;)

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    1. O_O Bad, bad fan LOL.

      Not many spoilers in here...I always make a point not to ruin the reading experience...but since you already own the book, it's not like you need to read reviews in order to make up your mind about buying it ;). I hope I managed to reignite your desire to read this book by mentioning it though!

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    2. Then I did a good job regardless ;).

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  2. I hate when a series ending is up in the air - especially when the ending of the current book is wtf-ery.

    THG comparison is interesting because Pike's right - the concept is an old one and even THG is often accused of ripping off Battle Royale.

    Sometimes we read so many books that they feel repetitive to us but have been in the authors mind for years.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. I had to look Battle Royale up - I can see where they're coming from. That concept is a lot more similar to THG than Pike's book. Then again, it's probably difficult to come up with new ideas nowadays...or to even be aware that they've been already used somehow...

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  3. Roberta!!! Talking to Mr.Pike now? I'm happy for you!

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    1. Yes, every night before I go to bed ;D.
      Really, his email address is no secret, in case you want to ask him something or congratulate him on his books. I don't know if it's advisable for me to put it on here, but I can give it to you if you ask nicely ;D.

      Oh, and nice to hear from you again hon!

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    2. Hahaha! You crack me up! Hugsss!

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    3. Thank you - hugsss returned!

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  4. The one thing that struck me while reading this was that YOU STILL HAVEN'T READ THE HUNGER GAMES?!!!!!!!! Well, I assure you that the hype is very well-deserved- just read the first book and see for yourself. I only joined the bandwagon very, very late, and that too on Vera's constant pestering, but I'm so glad I did! Better late than never, after all. Anyway, great review, Roberta!

    Ruzaika @ The Regal Critiques

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    1. Thanks Ruzi! About The Hunger Games...sorry, but I just can't buy the premise - that's the reason why it never appealed to me. I'm a very premise-driven gal LOL.

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