Book: Figure in the Frost

Figure in the Frost
Lana Perez
Illustrator: Emily Fiegenschuh
2005

I had very high hopes for this series when I saw it for the first time at GenCon a little over a year ago. And the first title, Secret of the Spiritkeeper by Matt Forbeck, was excellent. Each book thus far has been written by a different author, so each has a very different flavour. The second and third books were not terribly good, but the fourth was wonderfully creative and well done. The qualities that have made the first and fourth book in the series so good included excellent writing, respect for the characters, a coherent world with realistic people in it, a sense of heroism in the adventures and overall a very Dungeons and Dragons feel to the stories. The second and third books lacked some of those qualities, but neither was anywhere near as bad as this, the fifth book in the series. It is absolutely dreadful and I was actually offended by the time I got to the end of it.

The first and most glaring problem with the book is a fundamental lack of respect for the central characters and for the readers. The characters were most definitely not the same people they were in the first four books (throughout all four they were fairly consistent in character) and many things made me wonder if the author had even read the first books. Moyra, the rogue, was decidedly not rogue-like and somehow became exceedingly girly between the last book and this one. Driskoll, who had begun to have distinctive bard skills in the last book, lost all useful skills, all useful intelligence and most of his personality. The three children not only couldn’t figure out what was going on when the answers were dropped in their laps, but they also seemed oblivious to the most obvious clues. And the adults were totally useless. Throughout all of this there was the implicit understanding that the readers would make the same nonsensical leaps of “logic” that the children made and be just as clueless. Nothing was presented well or with really any sense.

The plot really has potential. It is interesting, connected to perfectly interesting and valid historical information in the series world, and full of danger and potential adventure. The mysterious parts could have been a great treasure hunt. However, it doesn’t work the way it is written at all. The plot is confusing, it feels very random and contrived and the reader is kept totally and completely in the dark until the very end of the book when the adults return to save the day. Where exactly is the heroism in that and why would I want to read it when it assumes I’m so dumb? Even if I were the target audience, kids aged 9-13 or so, I would have been offended by the lack of respect for the readers. None of the first four books had that little respect for their audience.

The high point of this book was the wonderful illustrations. There weren’t many, but the ones that were fit the story exceptionally. This illustrator has been excellent throughout the series and her work remains wonderful in this book. The characters look very appropriate and very Dungeons and Dragons and the backgrounds are wonderfully done. Each picture is clearly drawn to match a particular part of the text, and the illustrator clearly read the whole book. The pictures match each scene in nearly every detail, from clothing to setting to little background details. I am constantly impressed with Miss Fiegenschuh’s work for this series.

One peculiar thing about this book that I feel bears mentioning is something from the author’s bio inside the back cover. It says “Lana Perez is the pen name for an author of novels for older teens”. I have not been able to discover who Lana Perez is, but she has written this book and two “Star Sisterz” novels for Mirrorstone under this pen name and nothing else. I’m not sure that I would want to read her “novels for older teens” if I did know who she was, but I do wonder if the lack of respect is a problem she only has for children. If she is used to writing for teenagers, perhaps she is so used to their mindset that she can’t imagine younger people having any intelligence to speak of. But then why did she decide to write this and her “Star Sisterz” books? I really wonder if she is too embarrassed to take credit for this book, because that is really the only thing that I can think of! But then why admit that it is a pen name and she writes “real” books under a different name? That seems odd to me.

This book is terrible and insulting. Don’t read it. In fact, don’t read anything with “Lana Perez” on it. The pictures are wonderful, but they are just as wonderful in the better books from the “Knights of the Silver Dragon” series. Hopefully Mirrorstone will realize the mistake this book was and publish better children’s books in the future!

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