Author: RJ Johnson
Publication date: January 15, 2012
Summary: Book one in The Twelve Stones series, The Twelve Stones introduces the reader to certain stones that have certain magical properties it can bestow on its bearer. At the beginning of the book, we meet two friends, Alex and Scott, who discover a strange rock that ultimately saves them, and is then taken into Alex’s father’s possession. Years later, Alex returns home, much different as an adult with scars from his time in the military. His reunion with his father, who returns the stone, is short lived as his father is killed by Rupert Kline, a man who will stop at nothing to possess all 12 stones. As Alex seeks to exact revenge for his father’s murder, he is reunited with Scott and discovers the powers of the stones, driving his desire to not only avenge his father but to keep all 12 stones out of Kline’s possession.
At its heart, The Twelve Stones is a cat and mouse kind of story with a clueless protagonist seeking revenge for his father while the man who killed his father is seeking the protagonist for his stone. There was tension early on in the story that was closely followed by literal conflict. Action sequence followed action sequence, which helped drive the story forward towards its ending clash that also sets the stage for another book. Since this book felt more like the story of a son seeking vengeance for his father, the overarching story of the 12 stones was poorly constructed. While they were important to the story, I failed to see this book as anything more than an introduction with the next book hopefully fleshing out the story of the stones.
Reading this book requires something called willing suspension of disbelief. All reality needs to be out aside to get through it. You must be willing to believe the story Johnson paints, and the world even though it is our own. A great deal of artistic license was taken, especially when it came to travel times and speeds. A lot of the story was grounded in facts, but Johnson took some leaps, likely to keep the story moving. Also, in a book with so much destruction and chaos, where are the police and military? Finally, the gadgets described at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) seemed more fantastical than real, So it’s hard to know if they are completely made up of grounded in fact.
What drove me nuts, though, was the characterization. Alex and Scott are 12 at the beginning, but felt some years younger in their behavior. Most 12 year olds I’ve known have been more mature and self-sufficient. Years later, they are 30, but act much younger, like wide-eyed young twenty-somethings. As a 30 year old myself, I can see some men being this immature, but, for the lives they lead, I would expect Alex and Scott to be a little more mature. Also, I was sorely wishing for at least some flashbacks to Alex’s life after he left home. I sense those were some very formative years for him and he behaves the way he does because of what happened to him, but we get nothing. Oddly, many secondary characters get extended backgrounds even though some are seen only once. But not all secondary characters are thus treated, making it a little confusing as to who to pay attention to. Siobhan, in particular, was given a lengthy background, a story of her life from 400 years before. But her story lacked authenticity of the times and featured no colloquialisms. The story was essentially a flashback, but felt anything but. The villian, for his part, was suitably villianous, but maybe too much so for Alex to overcome him.
The Twelve Stones is an action-packed book. Something was almost always happening, but I wish it had been told in a more active voice to really help to get the reader into it. Some showing would have been helpful, as this was all tell and no show, which made it a little boring to read. I don’t want to be told everything. It was also a little clunky with the information bits being poorly woven in, though Johnson did display some nice science knowledge. There were also inconsistencies that bothered me, like Alex noting his father had more energy than before despite not seeing his father for 6 years (or was he secretly spying on his dad?) and a long hand cut Alex received that was never mentioned again. And don’t forget Emily being so calm and cool in tense situations, but freaks at the end, causing her to drop the stone Alex told her to not lose under any circumstances so Kline could sweep in and grab it. A little too convenient. The whole ending was like that; all convenience for the story’s sake with too many coincidences. No wonder the reader needed to be told everything. So much was very uncharacteristic. But all the action was nice. Something was always happening…
Overall, the writing could have been crisper and could have done with more editing. As someone who has an ongoing love affair with the comma, I was sorely let down to see there were constantly missing commas and commas in the wrong places. There were also missing words and word order problems that disrupted the flow of reading. My major problem with the writing, though, was the constant switching of POV from paragraph to paragraph. When done properly, I don’t mind this, but, please, make it clear that it is being written from another character’s POV at the beginning.
The Bottom Line: Okay, not a terrible book. While it had plenty of action sequences, it was still more of an eh book to me. Character, writing, and plot problems definitely detracted from my interest, but there was always something happening, so that was nice. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t interesting or good enough for me to pick up the next book, but if you enjoy action-packed fantasy books, take a look at this one.
How many cups of tea will you need?
2 cups of tea will be adequate
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