Okay, so, finished the second Wings of Fire arc last night. Very enjoyable!
The books included are:
Moon Rising – pov protagonist: Moon
Winter Turning – pov protagonist: Winter
Escaping Peril – pov protagonist: Peril
Talons of Power – pov protagonist: Turtle
Darkness of Dragons – pov protagonist: Qibli
The arc starts off very strong. Because Moon can read minds, she serves as a wonderful way to introduce Winter and Qibli. The reader gets a very clear idea of what all three of these important dragons are really like. This is a real advantage, as Winter is not likeable on the outside – he goes beyond prickly behavior to overtly hostile. But because Moon has a much better idea of what he’s really like than he lets others see, the reader also gets this understanding.
The first book also sets up important overall plot elements: Darkstalker is introduced right away, plus we know that for some reason Moon can’t read Turtle’s mind, plus we know that mostly all she can see in Peril’s mind is an inferno. Plus, Moon is an engaging character in her own right.
Tui Sutherland either must work from a detailed outline or she is good at smoothing out the overall plot arc, because every book moves the overall story along while also giving the reader a more intimate look at a different protagonist. Winter is so sympathetic from the inside, even though he’s so unlikeable from the outside. The personal resolution he comes to at the end of his book is extremely satisfying. Ditto for Peril, who has a strong burn the world violence and hostility both inside and outside, but longs so much to belong and to be loved. Poor Peril! What a terrible life! Her background makes her personal resolution even more satisfying.
I can see why Sutherland had trouble with Turtle, but she did a rather good job with him in the end. No, he is not a typical hero. Yes, he is an understandable and sympathetic character, plus brave when it counts. The end of his book is the only cliffhanger in the set. I, at least, had a very good idea of how he would get to a more satisfactory ending in the last book, which he does. I’m guessing that any astute MG reader will also immediately see how he is going to recover from what Darkstalker does to him.
Qibli’s novel provides an fine ending to the arc. I will say, I saw the ultimate solution to Darkstalker coming way, way in advance. Somewhere in Turtle’s book it occurred to me that I could definitely think of one solution, so the big question left was, would Sutherland come up with a different way to solve the problem? Answer: no. I’m curious: for those of you who’ve read these, did you also predict the ultimate solution? Did you see a different solution than the one that was actually used?
Now, I don’t read books for the excitement of solving the puzzle, but for character and setting and style, so figuring out a good solution to the Big Bad Guy early did not detract from the reading experience. Qibli does a great job carrying the final book. From time to time, Sutherland reserves information that Qibli was thinking about so as to pull off a plot twist; this involved mild cheating since, as the reader is in his pov, really the information should by rights have been right there on the page. But she does it smoothly enough that it works pretty well. Just for a bit, the reader is left thinking, Can Qibli, who’s so smart, really be missing these obvious clues? The answer is no, he saw them and put them together, as becomes clear at the opportune moment.
Minor quibble: The love triangle plot element is SUCH a deeply cliched component of YA that it’s a pity to see it used unnecessarily in a MG series. Worse, it almost sets Moon up as a Mary Sue character in the most cliched fashion possible, as she winds up at the center of attention for so many male characters. Granted, this is a relatively minor element — this is a MG story, after all — but I wish Sutherland hadn’t included it.
Major pluses: Practically everything else. Such wonderful writing. Great characters, each one of whom grows and learns over the course of the story, but not in a heavy-handed way. Snappy, fun plots that are dark enough not to seem shallow or saccharine to adult readers, but not so horrifying that they should be an obstacle to most MG readers.
Has anybody read the early books of the third Wings of Fire arc? How are those? I’m not sure I like the idea of having to get acquainted with the dragons of a whole different continent, but say something positive and I’ll probably overcome that hesitation.