Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summoned by Anne M. Pillsworth

Title: Summoned
Author: Anne M. Pillsworth
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Redemption's Heir #1

Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication: June 24, 2014 by Tor Teen

Source: I received a review copy from the publicist in exchange for a honest review.

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While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895. Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests applicants reply by email.

Sean’s always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology. Against his best friend Edna's ("call-me-Eddy-or-else") advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it’s a clever hoax, but hoping that it won’t be. The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago. To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless but useful familiar—but Sean’s ceremony takes a dark turn, and he instead accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep. The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain. But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham....

Summoned is centered on wizard-to-be Sean Wyndham who happens to also be a Lovecraftian-Cthulhu fanatic.  In wanting to learn more about the Mythos, Sean and his best friend Eddy go down to the local bookstore Horrocke’s. While browsing in Horrocke’s, Sean stumbled upon a newspaper ad clipping seeking an apprentice in magic! What’s more bizarre is the ad is from 1895, and the ad asks potential candidates to apply by email! Talk about creepy! As you can imagine, Sean of course answers the ad by Reverend Orne, and is given a ritual/summoning test to see if he qualifies for the apprenticeship. What was supposed to be an easy summoning turns into a nightmare when Sean accidently summons a high-level blood demon/servitor. Sean must learn and get all the help he can because he’s the only one able to banish the servitor.

Summoned pulled me right from the first page! I’m not really familiar with Lovecraft’s work (heard of them but never read it) but it seems that Pillsworth’s debut novel is heavily influenced by Lovecraft’s tales and monsters. While I don’t know much on the Lovecraftian topic, I enjoyed how Pillsworth tied everything into the story/plot. Pillsworth played around with the idea that perhaps H.P. Lovecraft wasn’t writing mere fiction, but writing the truth of what he knows. How there were supposedly a secret society that hunted monsters. I’m a sucker for anything with secret societies, the occults, magic and Pillsworth managed to incorporate the ideas flawlessly all together. The world building is pretty strong, anyone reading can definitely tell that Pillsworth did extensive research on the subject and knows what she’s talking about.

With the book mainly focused on all things Lovecrafitian, and it being the strong point of the novel, the character department fell short. Sean may be the main character, but readers don’t learn anything new other than what is stated at the beginning of the novel and there wasn’t any character development/growth from the time Sean summons the servitor to the time he banishes it. Many of the other secondary characters also didn’t make any lasting impressions. There wasn’t any depth to any of the characters and I never once felt connected to them and like the main hero…they all fell flat. The only person that actually made a lasting impression was Mr. Geldman and his pharmacy. Mr. Gelfman had about only two scenes but they were probably the best and most interesting scenes in the entire book. Mr. Geldman specializes in magical remedies and only those who believe or have the aptitude for magic can see and enter his pharmacy. Mr. Geldman’s scenes were by far my favorite parts in the book.

The book started off strong but dragged here and there in the middle and by the end everything was back on track with non-stop action.  While I did enjoy most of the book, there were a few things that took away from the overall story. First, there was just too much information dumping. While I appreciate the background knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos, Necronomicon and the Eldritch tales the author didn’t give readers enough time to digest the information. Pillsworth had paragraph after paragraph of explanations, which at times at times felt overwhelming. Then there was a lot of repetition of said information dumping. For example the author explained in great length on the subject but then when it came to the character’s dialogue portions, the characters would reiterate what the author just explained. And finally, the abundant use of profanities was astounding.  For a moment I wondered if I was really reading a young adult fiction. I mean Sean and Eddy were cursing like sailors. It was as if it was part of their everyday vocabulary, which I found worrisome. Sean and Eddy are ‘teenagers’, but their age was never specified (or if it was I totally missed it) and from how they acted…I assumed they were either 12 or 13-years old. While I’m sure all kids hear profanities one way or another, the amount used in this book wasn’t necessary nor did it do anything to drive the plot/or characters forward. 

Overall I enjoyed Summoned, and the unique idea behind the novel. There were some minor flaws but given that this is a debut novel, Pillsworth did a good job. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this book, especially the Lovecraft fans. I initially thought this would be more fantasy, but it ended up leaning more towards the horror genre…which was perfectly fine with me. I recommend this to anyone who loves Lovecraftian, secret societies, the occults, magic, and some fun wizardry. 

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