Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The Collectors' Society by Heather Lyons
Not so much a fairy tale get-together as a classic literature get-together, this book has vastly interesting premise that writers everywhere are kicking themselves for not thinking of first. Beloved characters from classic stories (again, as long as their public domain) come together in an interesting idea, but how well does it pay off? Let's dive right in.
Alice is now a twenty-five year old woman, living in an asylum after having been gone from Wonderland for a year. When a mysterious stranger comes by and offers her a job, Alice is reluctant but ultimately agrees. This results in her being transported from her asylum in Victorian England and into modern day New York and the headquarters of a group of book characters who have come together to form the Collectors' Society. It is the Society's job to travel into the plots of different novels, or Timelines, and collect objects of great importance to the story called a catalyst. If the catalysts fall into the wrong hands and are destroyed, the Timeline and all its inhabitants disappear, making the story become just that: a story and nothing more. When a thief has taken to breaking into Timelines, stealing and destroying catalysts, Alice must team up with a group of classic characters, including a very handsome, grown up Huckleberry Finn, and save the Timelines while dealing with her strange new world and the demons of her past.
Now I meant what I said when I said this was a premise to be envied. It's very clever and the ideas of catalysts and Timelines is just amazing. You can tell a lot of time and energy went into the specifics of this idea. It's all very carefully thought out and interesting. Now, just because it deals with characters from the kinds of books you read as a kid, doesn't mean this is for kids. This is definitely an adult book. Drug references, sex, Mary's mouth, all are things that make this book not appropriate for younger readers. It's not a bad thing, per se, but one might get the wrong impression, especially with books like The Book Jumper that has a similar idea but is tamer and directed to the YA crowd as apposed to being strictly for grown ups.
The plot of the story, sadly, is kind of up and down for me. A lot of time is devoted to things like Alice getting acquainted to modern day New York and preparing and talking about missions and problems going on in the book world, but never seeing things happen in the book world. Things like Alice getting used to her new home is fine, but in moderation. Whole chapters are devoted to this, and it kind of drags. There's also a really pointless club scene and a lot of downtime between major events that just make it harder to get and stay invested in the story. When the action does pick up, it is very interesting though. Breaking into buildings spy-style, fighting off villains, betting kidnapped in the midst of a Wonderland War is all well and good, it's just a long time in-between these events and it could have moved a bit faster.
The biggest downside to this book, for me at least, was the main character of Alice. Now, anyone whose been reading this for a while knows that I really like Alice in Wonderland and stories that are based off the character. This Alice, however, is just a downer! While it's good for a writer not to tell the reader everything about the main character right off the bat, this writer has their main character guard their secrets with all the dignity of a spoiled child yelling, "I have a secret and I'm not going to tell you because you smell!" and promptly sticking their tongue out at you. The character is very whiny and very bratty at times, leading me to nearly tearing my hair out wishing the woman would lighten the frig up already!
On the other hand, there are some good characters, or rather reimaginings of classic characters. Abraham Van Brunt is a mysterious yet balanced leader, commanding but someone you'd still be willing to follow into battle. Huckleberry Finn is, of course, the world's most perfect man except when he too guards his secret jealously and throws massive tantrums. Mary from The Secret Garden is the kind of person you both want and don't want as a best friend. Tough and good in a fight and willing to go to the ends of the earth for you, but also colossally nosy and invasive and just plain mean at times. They are most certainly an interesting bunch. I especially liked the character of the Librarian, a mysterious woman who knows almost everything that goes on around her and doesn't put up with Alice's crap, or anyones for that matter. They make for a very interesting mix, but sadly, we just don't see much of them and when we do, they don't have many opportunities to do much.
Interesting but flawed, The Collectors' Society has a wealth of promise that, sadly we still haven't seen very much of. There are sequels out there and I might get around to them, but for now I'd say if this sound like something you'd be interested in, then check it out at your local library.
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Next Time: Good Grimm, what the spell is going on around here!?