Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Bane's Eyes (IAM Book 4) by Corinna Turner
(Haven't read the series? Skip this review and go over to my report on Book 1!)
So, "spoiler free" section first, for those of you who have read books 1-3 and want my thoughts before you head into book 4.
I will be very honest and admit that "Bane's Eyes" read to me more like a coda than a 4th book. "Liberation" wrapped up a very significant amount of the action - all that was really in doubt was which way the vote would go, and honestly we didn't really need a 4th book to tell that story. The result could have easily been included in the end of book 3.
Personally, I have never been tremendously invested in the Bane/Margo relationship, so for me the focus of the first half of the book was rather slow. (More on that in the spoiler section). What kept me reading was the growing friendship between Margo and an old enemy. However, while extremely fascinating from a psychological perspective, it is very different from the action of the first books, so if you were expecting an intense action-packed finale, you'll want to change your expectations before picking up this book. But that's not a bad thing.
After writing my first draft of this review, I went and talked to someone a bit about it to make sure I'd really written the full picture I wanted to capture here. In doing so, I realized that I forgot to really highlight the main theme of the book, which is forgiveness. And that's what makes this book such an important part of the story. In "The Hunger Games" the story ends after Mockingjay and (spoilers if you haven't read that series) Katniss is so messed up after it that you know her life is not going to be that happy for a long time. The epilogue of that book is a great relief, but it is a very small slice of the picture. The thing about Christianity is that our second greatest commandment is to "love our neighbor as ourself." So, since IAM is a Catholic series, it was crucial that we see Margo deal with the aftermath, and reach a point of forgiveness for those who had harmed her the most. "Bane's Eyes" is a necessary installment to the series, the book that fulfills the Catholic worldview and focuses on that tremendously important step.
I was also asked what I would sum this book up as, the way I called Book 1 an escape story, Book 2 a survival story, and Book 3 a war story. I'd call this one "life goes on after the big adventure." It is, in many ways, what the spoiling of the Shire was to "The Lord of the Rings." The story never is completely over after the "Big Epic Adventure". It may not always be told in the narrative, but it certainly exists. There's no reason why, every now and then, we can't get a story like "Bane's Eyes" wherein the aftermath is told. So - Escape-Survival-War-Life. That's my answer.
Now. SPOILER LAND.
All right, so you know I am not too keen on the depression Bane went through - or rather, the focus on it. Obviously it reads as a very real reaction, and it's definitely in character, but it did not make for terribly compelling interest to me, at least after the action of the previous books. If I had initially been more invested in Margo/Bane, then I think it would have meant a lot more to me. I'm very curious to hear the perspective of those of you who DO love Margo/Bane, and whether you feel differently. I will definitely say, as someone who has had depression and lived with people who have depression, the situation was written very, very accurately.
I loved Lucas. Gosh, he was great. That whole arc made the book worth it, even if the tension of the earlier books simply wasn't there. Sure, he didn't end up being related to Margo, which was a bit of a let-down after all the hype about their similar eyes, but I really appreciated the backstory that was revealed.
Father Mark was an interesting addition, and certainly drove up the stakes, although I wish he'd showed up sooner and gotten that whole plotline moving earlier on.
I do like it when action heroines get pregnant, so I appreciated that bit. I did suspect right away that she hadn't actually lost the baby. I kept wanting to yell at Margo to get an expert opinion, but there were good reasons for why she didn't, so that's not poor writing. Well generated reader frustration, though! ;)
LOVED Bane and Jon taking down the infiltrators in the dark. That was AWESOME. Just. Yes.
Margo being in the dark (kind of literally) during the actual vote... well that wasn't quite so satisfying. I mean, it definitely felt like real life, but from a reader perspective it was a bit of a let down after having the countdown to the vote proceed every new section.
HOWEVER she does get plenty of awesome moments in the book, and I really REALLY loved the "full English breakfast" bit.
Obviously the death at the end was really awful and hard and moving. And it really made sense. It was a shock, but also not a shock. It made sense that this was a choice Lucas would make and while it sucks for Margo to deal with the aftermath, it really works.
I'm not sure how I feel about the recovery of the eyes, however. In real life you work through something like this the way Bane did, and you don't get the reward of getting your missing part back. With my own handicap and experience with depression, it felt a bit like a cheat, and a letdown for me. Yes this technology exists in this world, and so within the story it does make sense that Bane would and could eventually get his eyes back. For me, as a reader with very personal ties to these situations, it was hard to read. It felt, to me, as though the EYES were just a device to force Bane to conversion, and once he had converted, YAY he got to see again. Real life doesn't work like that and those of us with handicaps have to deal with them forever, no matter what choices we make in God's name. ON THE OTHER HAND - well, I see medical advances happening every day and this story reminds me that hey, maybe someday, even within my lifetime, there will be enough advances that I really will be able to hear without my aids again. (And yes, to be fair, I do have aids, which is more than we have yet to accomplish for any of the blind, so I'm still in an advantageous position compared to where Bane was.)
My final feelings on the book are mixed. I liked it, but I felt certain parts could have been stronger, and my personal connection to various aspects is certainly strongly coloring this review. I think that I will read it differently the next time I go through the series and am able to leave behind my previous expectations. Now that I realize that the full point of the story is the forgiveness after the battle, I think it will be a different experience on the second read-through.
I wish to end the review by stating again how much I appreciate what Corinna Turner has done with this series and I am really looking forwards to her next story (which will be a series set in the world of "Someday.")