Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: Witch and Wizard by James Patterson

Not my most recent listen - but worth a review nevertheless....

Witch and Wizard is a new release from the legendary James Patterson. I've enjoyed most of the Patterson works that I've read and listened to. James Patterson consistently weaves an interesting storyline with likable characters. Some of his reads are a bit shallow in that kind of bubblegum pop way - but altogether a pleasant way to spend a few hours on the road.

So when I saw that there was a new Patterson novel (on release day) I spent an audible credit and downloaded "Witch and Wizard". I honestly didn't read the description very closely - taking a leap of faith knowing the consistency of the author.

At the very opening of the story the Allgood family is standing at the gallows awaiting executions - not a particularly good beginning to a story. The plotline flashes back to the beginning of the roundup of all people suspected in having magical powers. As typical teenagers, Whit and Wisty Allgood are living self-adsorbed teen-aged lives without any inclination that the tides of freedom are changing under a newly elected party in what I interpreted to be a future USA.

As I later discovered, this is the first book in a planned series. The story line itself is slow - I didn't love the narration. I found that the reading was overly dramatized with a certain degree of teen-aged valley-girl inflection. The teen angst in the reading is distracting to the plot. I nearly stopped listening half-way through the audiobook because I just wasn't getting into the story, I persisted and it did get better - but never to the level that I expect of a James Patterson novel.

There are tones reminiscent of George Orwell's "1984" throughout the story - government of the people becomes a government against the people. Order above common sense, etc. Some of the very officers tasked with imprisoning Whit and Wisty are former classmates who have been drawn into the new revolution - not unlike young SS recruits in Nazi Germany. Over the course of their imprisonment they begin to discover their powers - and why the government fears them. The characters become more likable in the last third of the novel - and I am glad that I stuck it out to the end of this installment of the story.

I've since read some comparisons to JK Rowling's Harry Potter books. I really didn't find any parallels to Harry Potter in "Witch and Wizard". Indeed, the only similarity I could find between Witch and Wizard and Harry Potter are the nouns "witch and wizard". If you go into this novel with the expectations of a magical and somewhat whimsical joys of Harry Potter and Hogwarts you will be disappointed.

The series has some good potential to get better and to develop the characters further (and I hope they do), it's important to note that the end of the this novel doesn't offer any closure and even fewer hints on what might become of Whit and Wisty (other than their future execution) as the series continues.

I'll read the next book in the series - perhaps not on the morning that it is released. I'm not at all "hooked" on the concept or the series yet, but I liked it well enough to give the series another try.

"Witch and Wizard" was written by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet. The audiobook (available at audible.com) was narrated by Spencer Locke and Elijah Wood. Runtime is 5 hours 41 minutes. There is a free (for audible members) excerpt available for this title.

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