This book was a fun read. While I couldnt put it down, it...had it's faults. "The Merchant of Death" focused on a 14 year old boy named Bobby Pendragon. The novel follows his journey upon finding out he is a "Traveler" or a person who can travel to different territories, aka alternative dimensions. The aspect of the traveler concept was really interesting. I wiki'ed it before I read it and it was dangerously confusing. But once you read everything it's slowed down much simpler to understand. There were things I loved about this book. But there were many things I thought could have been left out entirely to make the story's prose much smoother. I'd rather highlight the strengths and weaknesses separately, so you can make you own decision about whether this may or may not interest you.
What I liked:
I liked Bobby. Hell, I liked many of the major and supporting characters. Uncle Press, Loor and Osa were my standout favorites, but Bobby's best friend and crush Courtney were cool to. There was a certain level of diversity to the characters that made them all different and mesh well together.
Bobby was an athlete, but he was more clever than anything. He didnt have much knowledge to what a traveler was, but he made his own talents work for him. He was relatable. He's not good at much, but he used what he was good at to make situations work for him, and he knew when to ask for help. Those were his more relatable traits. I really liked the two main female characters Loor and Courtney. At times I though they were a little too tough for their own good, but it was nice to see the girls werent the damsels in distress. Loor, who was from Zadaa, got a majority of all action scenes. Not a big deal? Uh I think so. She was a dark skinned, gorgeous, in shape black girl. She was Zadaa-n but in Bobby's territory(Which is known as Second Earth) she would have been considered Black.
She was a little mean, but her upbringing probably didnt have time to feel sorry for the weak. She had her reason to dislike Bobby, and he recognized them. I liked their tension, and I hope to see more in the future for the duo!
What I really liked was that she was treated like a human being. She had a lot of "strong black woman" traits, but she was still worthy of protection and defending when needed be. We need to see more of this with our women of color in books.
The world building is cool. I loved it, but the narration is a little off. Being a traveler is a really interesting thing to be. To be able to travel to different worlds reminds me a little of Kingdom Hearts. This is a compliment, as Kingdom Hearts is my favorite video game series of all times. Travelers have a certain obligation to the territories to help the worlds at their peak of suffering to get a better idea of what they do.
The pacing works for the story, but again, while i'll go into better detail on the cons of this review, the narration is off. The backstory is well formatting into the story so not to get lost. The traveler aspect is unique :) And there's a lot of conflict, in and out of worlds.
At first I wasnt sure about the title, but about 300 pages in, the title wholeheartedly matched the plot of the book. I loved the unique names going around though Loor was my favorite!
What I didnt connect with:
THE PROSE! Bobby's entire narration were journal entries as he told the events of his journey to his friends. It was absolutely terrible!Even though his point of view is clear and he spoke how I imagine most 14 year olds to talk, it came off as juvenile. Narration is supposed to, at best, give a level of maturity to the protagonist. Bobby always came off as too excited. There were too many exclamation points here, to many there, that it made him come off as happy, when he may not have been.
There is a 3rd person narrative when it is not being told from him narrative, which was a bit more polished, but the writing style was horrendous. This not an insult to to author. In fact, upon researching him, he created and penned for many of the tv shows that shaped my childhood. But I cant believe an editor came to the conclusion this was an acceptable way to tell the story. I didnt slow down at all, as it isnt confusing, it just comes off as "telling" versus "showing."
The fat shaming. That has to go. There was a female monarch named Kagan who had her own faulty reputation. But the way Bobby fat shamed her was unacceptable. I cant imagine being an overweight kid and reading this. I would have no self confidence. There were times when the author empowered Black girls, but shamed girls who werent exactly size 2's. So Im not sure how to feel about that.
While I did mention I got a decent description of many of the main characters, the only character I didnt get was the one telling them story. What the hell did Bobby look like? If I have to guess from the cover, maybe strawberry blond hair and blue-green eyes? This is confusing because on future covers his hair is very dark. Huh? The only sense of his appearance I got was his height. He was significantly shorter than his party. But that was about it.
I dont know what research was necessary because it seems rather low to mid-level fantasy. So Im not sure what to say about that.
I loved this book. My score may or may not reflect that, but I just bought the sequel!