Alyssa’s Ring (Julia Gray 2002)

Alyssa's Ring.png

At last, we’re here. The end. I’ve been reading through The Guardian Cycle series for a while now. Alyssa’s Ring is the fifth and final book in the saga and to be frank I am glad to be finally done with the series because it has been one of the worst series I’ve had to endure in recent memory. At the very least, this is provided me with an endless list of things to complain about the reviews so in some respects it has been an absolute blast. The final book deals with the protagonist Terrel and his return to his homeland Vadanis where he is set to deal with his brother Jax. At the same time he is due to face his role within the prophecies Tindaya Code, whatever that may be. One way or another he is set to stop the world from falling into catastrophe.

All sounds promising in theory but you’d be surprised at how far this books screws up what on paper sounds like a somewhat satisfying ending to a mediocre series. I’ll start with the structure. It is essentially the same as the previous few books, Terrel ends up in some new place and hangs out with new people and does virtually but nothing for at least the first third of the book. I was disappointed that he did not return to Vadanis straight away and I felt like the book could have done more to set up the conflict within Vadanis by bringing Terrel back home quicker. If you ask me, bringing him home should be the first thing they did. Instead Terrel returns home approximately two thirds of the way into the book. The first two-thirds felt like filler and the climax that followed felt rushed and awkward.

On the subject fo the climax itself, it was understatement to say that I wasn’t too happy. I was hoping Jax would get some kind of redemption arc but instead he proves himself to be an even bigger dick than he was in the previous books, even turning out to be in league with the villain of the book. He is shown to be stupid, arrogant and full of himself up until the moment of his death. Even his death didn’t give me the satisfaction I was hoping for. For someone who was ultimately an antagonist I felt he was a poor character overall and efforts should have been made to make him either a stronger antagonist in his own right or make him into a full anti-hero instead because I felt he made for a poor villain as he was.

The book’s actual villain was introduced rather abruptly and it wasn’t too clear at first that he was going to be the main bad guy. His appearance at the end threw me off a bit since I didn’t think he was going to be the book’s antagonist. Even when this became apparent I didn’t think he commanded a strong enough presence in the narrative itself and was disappointed that he was basically thrown in at the end so that the story as a whole would have something resembling an antagonist for the final book when the stories prior haven’t done well when it comes to having strong antagonist characters.

The plot itself was still confusing and didn’t answer a lot, in part because it crammed most of the important information into the last section of the book. This lead to a situation where the plot suddenly crammed a series of half baked explanations for the series’ various questions in the space of a handful of chapters, mostly after the climax. It is an understatement to say that I found this somewhat disappointing. I was hoping that for the climax the book would give me some good payoff for the reading time but a lot of the twists they introduced were easily predicted and I had considered many of them already. It also left the question of the guardian’s identity ambiguous in the end, which bugged me since this was the one question I wanted answered above all else. I found myself thinking that the book’s end was more than a bit dull.

Overall the book was a disaster in my opinion. It didn’t even have the courtesy to break the formula of its predecessors to deliver a solid climax. Instead it stuck to the same old stuff and wrapped it up far too quick. It felt rushed and confusing. The characters were pretty much all lame. Terrel gets his boring happily ever after ending with his love interest with Alyssa and I’m left with more questions upon exiting than I went in. I knew this wasn’t going to be a masterpiece but this book falls short of even my lowest of expectations for the series. Everything just felt so uninspired. I cannot remember why I picked up the series and even now I cannot see what drew me to it. I am glad to be done with this book and the series as a whole. If nothing else the series has taught me how to spot bad fantasy and it will serve to better inform my fantasy purchases in the future. Now I can relax and move on from this disappointing reading episode of my life.

SCORE: 2.5/5

IN A WORD: DISAPPOINTING

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