A Fantasy Adventure with a Heroine to Love
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Starred Reviews: Booklist
Why would Quentin Herms flee into the Quag? There was nothing in the Quag except certain death.
Vega Jane has never left the village of Wormwood. But this isn’t unusual — nobody has ever left the village of Wormwood. At least not until Quentin Herms vanishes into the unknown.
Vega knows Quentin didn’t just leave — he was chased. And he’s left behind a very dangerous trail of clues that only she can decode.
The Quag is a dark forest filled with terrifying beasts and bloodthirsty Outliers. But just as deadly are the threats that exist within the walls of Wormwood. It is a place built on lies, where influential people are willing to kill to keep their secrets. Vega is determined to uncover the truth — but the closer she gets, the more she risks her life.
Bestselling author David Baldacci is the newest comer to the fiction for young folks party. Not having read his works for adults, I came to The Finisher without expectation, beyond the usual trepidation I reserve for popular writers venturing into the Kids/YA market.
My reading experience started with the thrill of having won a copy of the book from a This is Teen giveaway. With a beautiful new hardback in my hands, I was primed and ready for excitement.
Did Baldacci deliver? Yes, and no, and yes….
Let me explain. (The following contains slight spoilers. Be warned!)
First things first: The Finisher is not for reluctant readers. There are some issues with pacing and editing that require patience and persistence. While Baldacci grabbed my attention immediately by thrusting Vega Jane into mystery, danger, and suspense, I was initially frustrated by what I considered random digressions and distractions. The plot would move along, until suddenly, in what felt like detours, the author threw random beasts and creatures in Vega’s path. I grew restless and testy waiting for Vega to leave Wormwood and venture into the Quag. If you read this waiting for that to happen, you’ll be disappointed. Because that’s book two.
Back to book one….
Just past the midway point, I was bogged down in what was beginning to feel like a bloated novel of seemingly disparate elements, all popular trends for young audiences — magical objects, fantastical beasts, a manipulative governing body (Council), and tournament fighting (the Duelem). Things just weren’t meshing. I was afraid the book would end up less than the sum of its parts. One of my greatest quibbles surrounded the fantastic. When magic was introduced, it felt random and unexplained. Without grounding in logic or a set of rules and explanations, it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief and buy into this reality.
Having now finished the book, I can breathe a sigh of relief and say that part of the fault for the bumpy ride was mine. For once I threw all expectations and judgment out the window, and sat down to give the book a good chunk of my time, I began to finally take pleasure in the reading. While my questions still remain, they have quieted. For instance, after further thought, I have decided that it wouldn’t have made much sense for Vega to go into the Quag without first beginning to uncover the truth about Wormwood. We need a context for her to leave behind.
After my love/hate tug of war, I was happy to discover that I wanted to learn what would happen in the sequel. If the measure of a series’ success is in engaging and keeping readership, Baldacci has succeeded. He’s made me anxious to read the next installment. And, going into book two, equipped with all the knowledge and experience Vega has gained, readers will presumably have enough familiarity with Vega’s world that Baldacci should be able to hit the ground running and focus on the story without detours. This could make for a very good volume two.
In the end, Baldacci’s biggest win is his heroine, Vega Jane. Though the novel could have benefited from an editorial diet, the author manages to use the many pages, even the seemingly disjointed episodes, to affect character development and growth. He has crafted a brave, determined young woman for whom readers will develop a real affection. And with a movie deal in the works, who knows, Vega Jane, like Katniss Everdeen, could become a household name.
— Dawn Teresa
3.5 of 5 Hearts. A Fantasy Adventure with a Heroine to Love.
The Finisher weaves together elements of adventure, fantasy, magic, and mystery. Not for reluctant readers, the novel will require patience and persistence. Though a bit uneven due to pacing and editing issues, readers who stick with it will not only be rewarded with a likeable, kick-butt heroine, they’ll await the next volume in hopeful anticipation.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Scholastic’s This is Teen for their book giveaway contest in which I was awarded a copy of the book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”