Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Double whammy: Muse and Fury by Rebecca Lim

The “Mercy” series is to me what “Divergent” by Veronica Roth is doubtless to many people - it started off promising, even exciting, but then it went and devolved into a huge pile of WTF.

I’ve had a sneaky suspicion for a while, that “Mercy” started off as one book and was later broken down into four. There’s something about the surface plots of the individual books and the overarching one that just makes me feel like they were subplots being expanded into larger ones. Sometimes scenes and character development are transferred from one book into the other, and if you don’t read them one right after the other, it can feel choppy and underdeveloped.

Case in point - Muse almost literally cut off mid-scene.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Muse” and “Fury” are the final books in Rebecca Lim’s “Mercy” quartet. You can find my reviews of the previous two books on the Lantern, but basically, Mercy is an angel that, for some crime or another, is constantly being put in the lives and bodies of young women. For years and years, she’s been unable to go from one life to the next without losing all her memories and thus she’s been unable to do progress, but in the past few lives, things have started to change. She’s grown more self-aware, and she her faith in “Luc”, her only constant companion throughout everything, starts to weaver. In “Muse”, she’s barely holding onto the last threads of her faith in him. In “Fury”, that faith is lost and Mercy sets out to get her ummmmmmmm-revenge?

Yeah, can you tell that I’ve got problems with the ending?

Spoilers ahead.

What first thing about Mercy that made me sit up and take notice was the fact that she was an unlikeable protagonist whose actions had consequences on the people around her. She’s selfish and whiny and spoiled and she wasn’t the least bit keen to solve the problems of the people whose lives she had hijacked, but at least the people around her called her out on it and she eventually got shit done.

But I thought that this was going somewhere, leading up to something big, and it… didn’t.

Here’s another clue the Mercy books were originally supposed to be just one - her character arc, throughout the four tomes, is painfully slow. Some might even call it gratingly slow - I sure felt it, especially in the last book, where Mercy’s inner struggle was reduced to a series of “I must leave Ryan for his own good” and “I don’t WANNA!” All of that, and nothing but that, for over 300 pages. And let me tell you, it felt like it went on for a lot longer than that, too.

As for the rest of the characters, I can’t say I like them more or less than I did in previous books. The Eight were a colourful enough bunch and they provided a nice counterpoint to Mercy, but even they got a bit grating after a while. Ryan is pretty much his old self, and serves little to no purpose other than grounding Mercy in the human world and keeping the plot going. The only notable exception was when he realized he’d put more than himself in danger when he pursued Mercy, and they bumped heads over the fact, which provided some nice tension for all of… ten pages.

(One of these days, I’d really like to write about consequences in YA and how they’re handled. I feel that, more often than not, books tend to err on the side of wishful thinking rather than realism.)

As for the plot, “Muse” followed the standard set by “Mercy” and “Exile” - our protagonist wakes up in a different body, has problems to solve, finds stuff about her past, shit goes down spectacularly and painfully. No complaints here. “Fury” had Mercy be herself for the first time to tackle the main plot, and this is where shit falls apart, because the main plot is not enough to sustain an entire book.

Mercy can either leave the mortal plane to escape Luc forever, or stay with Ryan. She chooses to stay, and then to make it more convenient, she has to go free her angel friends and siblings from Luc’s demons. And it’s torturous and genuinely interesting the first few times it happens, but after reading for a while I realized that the formula isn’t going to evolve or change - Mercy is literally on a go-there-and-fetch quest, and the final confrontation/resolution was so underwhelming I literally skim-read through it. (There was a huge debate on choice and free will there, and that’s about all I can say about it.)

(Admittedly, the speech is in place - the entire series has been about Mercy finding out who she is and how sh wants to live in this world, because she never truly fitted in with the angels or the demons.)

I guess my objections with the Mercy series aren’t so much the characters or their arcs, it’s how the plot is stretched and managed, and how that affects everything else. The middle two books could have been condensed in one. Or the third and the fourth. Or… I don’t know. But it would have made for a much more enjoyable reading.

Note: Images via BookLikes

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