Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review - The Antagonists: Book One



First, before we begin, allow me to say that figuring out how to rate this book was one of my bigger struggles. As a whole, I really do like the concept behind the book. It's about a young colored woman, confined to a wheel chair, down on her luck and suffering with the trials of day to day living when she meets a group of superheros. It's only after she's had a moment to deal with them that she realizes the heroes are in fact a bigoted and hateful group that use her for their own means while the villain (ahem: Antagonist) is the one who sides with her.

This is a fresh concept that I can say I've never seen before. It's fun. It's funny. It's thought provoking. I absolutely love the idea behind it and would like to see more done with it. Unfortunately, while I was hoping for an analytic examination of the superhero/villain genre along with some smart/funny commentary on social treatment of a main character that doesn't fit the "White Male Hero" trope; that was not what I got.

To begin, it's quite clear that Burgandi Rakoska is an amateur writer. I've done some quick and dirty research and I've realized that this was a book of passion. A story that she came up with out of the blue and, given drive from friends and family, was encouraged to make her idea a reality. In a way this is fantastic. Nothing good will ever come into this world without the passion to drive it. On the other, I believe she would have benefited from more writing practice.

I will start with the easy one: Formatting and Typographical errors. I won't beat the dead horse here since literally most every review talks about the excess number of formatting errors and typos, so just know that they're there.

More to the point, the book has two primary issues: Control of Time and Awkward Narrative and Phrasing. Regarding Time, it's clear that Rakoska had a number of ideas that she wanted to deliver but wasn't sure just quite how to run them together. This gives the story a bit of a "choppy" feel. You'll have this sudden speed up to one thing or another coupled with a very slow and precise detailing of another scene. Entire days are missed utilizing the 'character knocked unconscious' trope, resulting in the characters telling us rather than showing us what happened.

Couple this with the Awkward narrative and some sections of the book can be extremely difficult to get through. Again, it's clear that Rakoska had a very genuine love for and wanted to see an atypical main character. However, she begins inserting things that are just odd or don't make sense. One scene (a fight scene), out of the clear blue sky, starts talking at length about the sexuality of Merlin. In the context of the fight it might have made sense to have a one off here, but we're talking a LENGTHY discussion arguing like kindergartners. Another example has to do with no one is supposed to be able to enter Victor's home but, because of the specific wording of the spell, Minnie (the main character) is able to roll in. This is funny on it's own, but then her sister is able to run into the house later on, basically making it seem like the only people who can't enter the house are those on a casual stroll.

When all is said and done, the book has a number of fun ideas. Aside from the attempt at social commentary, the book features appearances from greats like Nicholas Flamel, the creator of the Philosopher's Stone. It has an amazing twist with one of the superheroes having a rather unexpected power. It even has a very pleasant ending that will make the toils of the book seem worthwhile.

Overall, the book has heart but is in desperate need of an accompanying editor and maybe even a second, more experienced author to help Rakoska focus her abilities and thoughts. I understand that she's in the process of creating a second entry into the Antagonists series and I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was looking forward to it. This is a series that deserves to do well, it just needs the technical delivery to get it there. Heck, if Rakoska were to re-write Book 1, I can assure you I'd be one of the first ones to pick it back up.