The Jasper Forest (Julia Gray 2001)

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The Jasper Forest is the second book in Julia Gray’s The Guardian Cycle series. The series follows the adventures of the enchanter Terrel as he travels while trying to figure his role a prophecy relating to the Guardian, a saviour who stars point out to being either Terrel or his twin brother Jax. The Jasper Forest follows on from where The Dark Moon left off, Terrel finds himself adrift in the ocean after being betrayed by Jax. He is rescued by fishermen, having drifted to the land of Marcul. He becomes accepted as a healer and gradually assimilates himself into the strange new land, but eventually he finds that his role in the prophecy is not yet over and is forced to continue his journey in the strange new land of Marcul.

Similar to The Dark Moon, The Jasper Forest progresses at a very leisurely pace. A lot of time is devoted to Terrel’s recovery and eventual assimilation into a village in Marcul, where he is introduced to their culture. The novel’s real plot doesn’t start to kick in until later in, and he isn’t trust into any real danger until he leaves the village, which happens far later than it should do. The pacing is nothing new, and a bit dull but to be honest I had come to expect this after the dull affair that was The Dark Moon. The pacing is basically the same as what I’ve come to expect from the series so far.

The Jasper Forest seemed to be boring in terms of characters. I already had a sneaking suspicion that Terrel wasn’t going to remain in Marcul by the end of the book and as a result I had difficulty getting behind the characters which were introduced in this novel. A handful of them were interesting for a few moments but most of the time they were just generic bit time characters. The only positive is that unlike the side characters from previous novels, some of these characters actually got development for their brief appearances. My biggest disappointment is that support characters such as Alyssa seemed to disappear for certain chunks of the novel, presumably to give the novel room to establish the characters based in Marcul.

One positive aspect was the reappearance of Jax, Terrel’s half brother, who has figured out a method of taking over Terrel’s body at times when Terrel is lacking control such as when the latter is drunk. The interaction between the two made me more intrigued by him as a character, wondering which side he is on. He ultimately seems to be on his own side, caring more about himself than others but based in the interactions there is room for him to come into a more heroic role by the time the last book roles around. Sadly, like the other major support characters he now talks to Terrel from a distance and lacks a physical presence in the story. This is something that bugged me with the previous book and the fact that another character has fallen victim to this annoys me to no end.

In terms of threat level the novel is still on the same level as The Dark Moon, with the book being a leisurely journey. As a result it felt kind of boring, similar in nature to the previous book and I suspect that this is the formula that the series is going to take. Like the previous book, The Jasper Forest to me represents one of the ways in which classic high fantasy can be done in a flawed manner and why the genre seems to have been left on the wayside in favour of more modern genres such as Dark Fantasy. The book had its okay moments but most of it was kind of boring and to be honest it’s unlikely that I’ll ever read this particular book again.

SCORE: 3/5

IN A WORD: DULL

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