Saturday, August 9, 2014

War on the Horizon in "Shattered Advances"

Today we have TC Squires' young adult novel on tap, something that would garner the attention of your average middle schooler.  It's got action.  It's got sacrifice.  A touch of sci-fi with a bit of intrigue.  Join me in exploring Shattered Advances: The Struggle for Probana.

Book Blurb:
The attacks are becoming more frequent. More calculated. More precise. The Shrouds. They are relentless. Obstinate. Unfamiliar.

And beyond deadly.

Born into the fuming battleground of Probana, Kaene Young is caught in the same treacherous war that claimed his brother six years earlier. His world has betrayed him. His dreams and thoughts are not far behind. The world he once knew has been replaced by this bewildering war, which has transformed a peaceful people into warring machines and wedged them into a slaving state of survival.

This is routine. This is life.

Mystery and misfortune surround the isle of Probana, though some may quickly come to light as scrutiny of the Council matures. The ceaseless combat has given reason for them to call for additional legionnaires and continue the Guard’s rapid expansion, making adamant room for criticism.

Kaene finds himself stuck in the thick of things and must overcome his besieged world or have his life devastated by the coming onslaught. His heartfelt motivation and equaling persistence could be Probana’s only hope in ending this struggle.

The nation is burning. Communication failing. The Guard’s advances seemingly useless against the Shrouds. Will there be peace for Kaene and Probana? Or will the tragedies created by this war leave everything shattered?

An emotionally equipped tale of a character’s dynamic journey into reality, Shattered Advances brings great elegance and richness into the fictional dystopian genre. A new twist on a never-ending story. We learn that war carries great loss but uncovers our priorities and our resolve to change what we have been given for the better.

My Review:
Kaene's life centers around his family and friends - Mom and Dad, older brother Daiv, younger sister Aery, and best friend Jacob - until the war with the Shrouds.

The Shrouds invaded the northern territory years before.  Every attack since is the same: their ships show up suddenly, wipe everything and everyone out, then disappear without a trace.  No one knows where or when they'll strike next.  The rare survivor can't help understand because they're always found in a coma-like state from which they never awaken.

But a coma might be better than death.  Sixteen year-old Kaene, along with buddy Jacob, are preparing to enter service in order to prepare for the next Shroud attack - whenever that might be.  And Kaene's only hope is to make it out alive, unlike his brother Daiv six years earlier.  No matter how long it has been, Keane is still haunted by dreams of roaring flames and choking smoke.  Is that the fate awaiting him too?

Shattered Advances started out promising but soon became a convoluted tale without direction, making me feel as if Kaene was the one in the coma.  Once Kaene and Jacob head to their training facility, the storyline became disjointed, with scenes thrown in here and there that didn't seem to have anything much to do with the overall story.  It nearly felt like separately written short stories with the same characters were simply thrown together to create a full-length novel.

Kaene meets Cassi and falls immediately in love with her, even though she acts repulsed by him.  Every chance he gets, Kaene tries to woo Cassi only to stumble over himself in the process.  Then Cassi is gone until the end.  Jacob and Kaene have fights and arguments over strange and mundane topics, with reactions so over the top they inadvertently are comical.  Communications are knocked out at the training facility, wait they're back on, no they're back off - off, on, off, on - sequencing and flow were so far off at times I wanted to scream in frustration.

Then several times in the midst of fighting, when the small, rag-tag survivors are completely surrounded by Shrouds with no hope of escape, Kaene passes out and then when he comes to the group miraculously has safely escaped.  The spatial jumps were erratic, jarring, and rather off-putting.

Then there are the Shrouds and this mysterious Council.  The Shrouds are supposed to be the antagonists but we really never see them, never get any sort of idea about why they attack - so much happens with no real sense of motivation.  This Council of Probana is referenced yet never shown either, the elites running the show apparently but so far off in the periphery they don't seem to have any purpose here except for the occasional mention.  I realize this is planned as a series, but if this Council needs to be mentioned in the first book at all, I'd have appreciated a little bit more foreshadowing.  Otherwise, it feels more like blips of filler.

The novel could use some additional editing.  Several times near the beginning Kaene's name was spelled Keane so that I wasn't sure which was correct.  There were constant missing small words within a sentence (a, and, but, the, etc) and some not-so-small missing words or incorrect words (like where instead of went).  There were several moments of telling but for the most part the action sequences were shown in real-time as they were happening, which I did appreciate.  Point-of-view was a constant, with Kaene being the POV character throughout the novel, though there were a few tense shifts that could easily be corrected with simple wording changes.

Once I wrapped my mind around the fact that Shattered Advances was written more toward the middle school age range, I actually enjoyed the early part enough that I was thinking of offering up four stars.  It was once the characters traveled to the training facility, however, the disconnect grew so severe and the character actions, reactions, incidents, and involvements became so convoluted I simply wanted to finish reading so I could move on - and this made me want to give it one star.  Maybe Kaene is one of the coma victims, and he's actually only dreaming, which would explain a lot here.  Ultimately, I have no interest in continuing with the series.  For the promising beginning, I'll compromise and give it two and a half stars.

To purchase click here on Amazon.

Author Bio:
A recent graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, T.C. Squires is an emerging star in the vastly expanding
world of fiction writing. Drawing inspiration from the children he teaches, he has released his first two books in the series, The Struggle for Probana, a remarkable tale of epic scope that will bring you hours of entertainment. As a part time writer, T.C. spends his days teaching Outdoor Education at a non-profit camp in East Texas, while his nights are spent enjoying and writing about the beautiful creation that surrounds him.

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