Captivity: The Inevitable Turnoff

I’m about two-thirds through THE WARRIOR HEIR and enjoying it pretty well. The middle dragged a bit, and for awhile my attention flagged. In fact, I almost lost interest in the thing and stopped reading entirely. Here’s why.


Teenage warrior Jack is on the run from two wizarding Houses, the Reds and the Whites, both of whom wish to catch him and force him to participate in the dangerous Tournaments on behalf of their House. He must also avoid the Traders, who want to capture him and sell him to the highest bidding House. About midway through the book, it looked as though the Traders were going to get him. I expected the rest of the story to play out as follows: 1. Jack is shuffled through the grim slave trade world, and all escape attempts fail. 2. One of the Houses buys, trains and manipulates him, and all escape attempts fail. 3. Jack is forced into the tournament, and all last-minute escape attempts fail.

The bottom line is, I cannot stand stories that revolve around heroes in captivity.

Captivity is such a common theme that you really have to do something innovative to impress me.  A proud and patient hero suffering a thousand little indignities at the hands of gleefully cruel enemies sends me to sleepy land faster than tranquilizers.

Now, stories which begin with the hero in captivity and go on to chronicle their escape interest me. Think Maerad at the start of the PELLINOR series, or Harry living with his cruel relatives in HARRY POTTER. They go on to bigger and better things, making us think that maybe we can, too.

But when the hero’s capture and imprisonment interrupt the middle of the story, I begin to suspect the author of falling asleep at the wheel. First of all, nothing much happens plot-wise. Secondly, what does happen plot-wise is just a series of events constructed to prove to the audience just how trapped/humiliated/impotent the hero is. Such incidents pile up to ridiculous proportions, as if the author worried that he hadn’t accurately portrayed the utter hopelessness of the hero’s situation, and so added in “just one more” scene of failed escape/villain humiliating hero/hero being frustrated at own impotence. Think third season LOST (come on, writers, where were you?).

But I’m happy to say that THE WARRIOR HEIR did not disappoint. Thank the sweet heavens Jack escaped his would-be captors, and we actually got to see more action in the storyline–rather than a long exposition on how cruel the magical slave trade is.

I hope to be done with this book soon and post a full review.



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Filed under YA lit

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