“I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars.”
-Jorge Luis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths
I must admit, I love mazes! I adore labyrinths! I crave a well-designed dungeon.
I have since I was a kid.
I grew up on the myths of Theseus and his defeat of the Minotaur, and just the idea of a structure built to confuse and trap stimulated my imagination to no end. And clearly I was not the only one, because popular culture loves to utilize a good labyrinth or maze nowadays. From the third challenge in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire to the titular location in The Maze Runner, authors love to stick their characters inside these prisons of paths.
Now, I do realize that mazes and labyrinths are different things (only mazes are meant to confuse.) but they both serve as great symbolic locations. Inside a labyrinth, you really have no idea what’s around a corner, and you can’t see where you are in relation to everything else. It’s an effective place for conveying a feeling of loss or uncertainty.
Which of course brings me to this book: The Labyrinth Wall. A book that by its own promotional statement says:
“The Hunger Game’s darkness and chaos meets The Hobbit’s magical charm in The Labyrinth Wall, an Amazon Best-Selling YA Fantasy Novel.”
An apt description really. This novel does feel like a marriage between the dystopian world of The Hunger Games and the adventurous trip that is The Hobbit. But instead of coming off as some kind of hybrid, it utilizes the qualities of the latter to improve the former. Creating a new thing entirely that may, in some ways, even surpass its famous ancestors.
By utilizing the genre of fantasy, instead of the standard dystopian science fiction format, this book skirts around the issue of unrealistic technology. It’s a world of magic, which means it can have a lot more interesting things occur without breaking the suspension of disbelief. This allows the story to have a very natural flow.
In fact, that might be the best aspect of this book: the flow.
It’s really an engaging read, the story has an excitingly fast pace, and really only stops to have character moments when absolutely necessary. The main character is not one to sit around and brood, and when she does think over her feelings on various matters, it’s usually during a dangerous situation. It’s really nice to see a character that is proactive, who continuously goes towards her goals instead of moping around all the time.
Sadly, this is also a bit of a double-edged sword. With so much focus on the continuation of the plot, there’s not enough time or room for any of the supporting cast to get much focus. Outside of the main girl Araina and her rival/mortal enemy Darith, none of the other characters are really given enough time to establish who they are outside of their stereotypical roles.
I think the main reason for this is the fact that the story is told from Araina’s perspective, and without spoiling too much, she is not a big fan of working with others, so we only view them from a distance like she does.
And while that might be an excellent tool for forcing the reader into Araina’s mindset, it did leave me wanting to know more about the other labyrinth dwellers.
Finally, there’s the setting. It’s certainly an interesting one. While reading, I found it more like a traditional dungeon than a labyrinth. Because all the characters already know their way around to a more or less degree, the walls of the labyrinth only seem to exist to force the characters through specific areas and set pieces. This isn’t really a problem though, because the locations they do travel to are quite interesting. My personal favorite being a pit of snakes that you can only cross via a bridge.
And then there’s the mystery of the labyrinth itself.
Despite the events of the story being easy to follow, there’s an aura of secrecy to the whole thing. The book seems to continuously hint at the idea that there is more to the labyrinth than meets the eye. This, I imagine, was done on purpose to make us need to read the sequels. A trick that certainly worked, as I am quite curious to see what the author plans to reveal.
All in all, this book is a delightfully easy read that pulls its audience in, and holds them there with a surprisingly dark tale of danger and mystery. One that, from what I can tell, will only improve with its sequels.
- Personal score: 7 out of 10
- Worth owning: Yes
- Recommended audience: 13 to 18
- Multiple readings: Yes
- Warning: Contains a surprising amount of death. It’s not heavily described, but the actual events are fairly graphic in nature.
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