Title: A Wish Upon the Stars (Tales From Verania #4)
Author: T.J. Klune; Narrator: Michael Lesley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: November 28th 2018
Genre(s): High Fantasy
Page Count: 450 pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 5 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Nearly a year ago, blinded by grief and betrayal, Sam of Wilds made a desperate decision to follow the Great White into the Dark Woods. Now, he emerges to a world changed.
The City of Lockes is a prison. The King has been locked away in the dungeons. The Kingdom of Verania has fallen, and the Dark wizard Myrin sits on the throne.
But soon after his return, Sam learns of a resistance fighting in his name, led by a courageous knight, a defiant prince, a pissed-off unicorn, and a half-giant who wants to smash everything in sight. If he has any hope of defeating the villains who have taken their home, Sam must face the consequences of his choices—and the friends he left behind.
The final book in the series is not a disappointment. The plot lines have been getting progressively darker and this book is no exception. It marks the hero’s transition from apprentice to wizard and, to a certain extent, boy to man. The central theme of the book is one of choice. To a large extent in earlier books, the hero is led into situations, but now he is required to make the choices himself. His actions, as you would expect, appear frivolous, but the consequences are not trivial. Life and death are at stake and the hero has to decide between them.
The characterisation of the audiobook is interesting that the narrator seems to have an affinity for ‘poor’ Scottish accents. It is difficult to tell if this is part of the humour of the book as such accents are not always applied at humorous moments. It is strange however to not that peasantry have more in common with a dragon than they have with the central characters who are most definitely American in presentation. It is good that there is consistency between the different books in the series in terms of both narrator and characterisation. This makes the characters more familiar.
New characters are introduced that provide the opportunity for digression. Similarly characters from earlier books make an appearance. What is noticeable is that none of them have any real impact either as individuals or to the plot. This is true not only for frustrating characters such as the hero’s grandmother, whose presence adds nothing to this book, but also critical characters such as the big villain. It is here that the story seems light. Certainly the baddy is not very nice, but given the complexity yet similarity of their common history, the meeting of the hero and villain is no more special than any other scene.
The author strikes a balance between humour and the underlying tension of the plot. The effect is that the bad guys remain caricatures and the hero’s success against them is more about their inherent stupidity than any particular skill of the hero. That both good and bad guys die in quite unpleasant ways sets this frivolity into context and it is here that the hero is required to reflect on his actions. The narrator clearly has a good hold of the humour within the book and plays to the punch lines, such that the audience can take a laugh pause without losing on-going dialogue.
For those characters that in earlier books have been frustrations to the hero and yet on the same side, in this book they are either marginalised or are given new roles that require the hero to re-evaluate their irritation. This tidies up the plot and allows for some limited character development, but the reader may feel that this leaves things just a little too neat. This is also picked up in the narration as there is a clear frustration emanating from the central character that not all is as it should be.
The relationship between the two leads is still marked by an enduring, but in this book there is clearly development and growth. Whereas previously their love had maintained them through the hero’s individual frustrating acts, in this book there is a more mature focus with mutual trust being required and given. It is clearly through this that some of the key successes are achieved. Thankfully the passion is still as potent as it has been.
The book draws the reader in and keeps them occupied with action, adventure and humour. The pace is not rushed but there is always something going on and so there is always the tendency to read just a little bit more. For such long books, they are incredibly easy to complete. This is the mark of a craftsman. In addition the narration reflects the pace of the individual scene. There is no sense in which this is rushed. Pauses are if anything longer than necessary.
The book concludes with most of the loose ends neatly tied off and with all of the key anticipated events having occurred. Of course there is a happily ever after for the central characters. This is preluded by one last piece of silliness, just to ensure that the reader doesn’t forget that this is humour and not just romance. The narration adds to and complements the writing throughout and the character of Sam is just about how he was envisioned.
The author makes clear that this is the end of the current series but that at some future date the world may be returned to that would allow other characters to be the focus. This will be eagerly anticipated.