Black Water: The plot suffers for the sake of the Message

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBlack Water by D.J. MacHale epic YA fantasy audiobook reviewsBlack Water by D.J. MacHale

In Black Water, the fifth book in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series, the rules seem to be changing. All the things we thought we knew about how the flumes, the territories, the Travelers, and the acolytes work are different. Saint Dane, the villain, has brought that deadly poison he used on Cloral (in The Lost City of Faar) through the flume to use in the beautiful but dangerous territory of Eelong. Bobby Pendragon figures that if Saint Dane has broken the rules, so can he. And so do his friends Mark and Courtney who finally decide to dive into the flume and see what happens. I expect that most fans will be thrilled to see Mark and Courtney in action. Unfortunately, Bobby and his friends will soon find out that breaking the rules sometimes has really bad consequences.

Poison isn’t the only problem in Eelong. When Bobby first arrives, he is shocked to discover that the species at the top of the food chain is a race of walking, talking cats who have enslaved humans! The cats despise humans so much that the Eelong acolyte there, a cat named Boon, insists that Bobby wears a leash when out in public. Bobby is outraged at the demeaning treatment he receives and is constantly in fear for his life on Eelong. He is leashed, caged, and beaten. To make things worse, Saint Dane, who is masquerading as the head of their council, is trying to push through a law that will allow the cats to eat humans.

While Bobby is in prison, he hears about “Black Water” from some of the humans. It’s a fabled promised land where the humans hope to be free. Unfortunately, that’s where Saint Dane plans to release the poison. Can Bobby and his friends (Mark, Courtney, and his fellow Travelers, including Spader and Gunny), stop the poison and, while they’re at it, bring social equality to Eelong?

I’ve enjoyed the four previous PENDRAGON books — they’ve been exciting adventures with just a few teaching moments (though the last one, The Reality Bug, started to get a little didactic). Black Water, in my opinion, crosses the line. MacHale’s plots have never been tight enough, but this book’s plot suffers for the sake of the Message, which is that racism and slavery is evil. The lesson is a good one — but in this case, the plot feels rigged just so it can deliver the Message. The characters are over the top, and the villain’s plans and Bobby’s responses are too convoluted to be credible. I never believed in the far-fetched society MacHale created in Black Water, and it seemed like there were so many easier ways for both the villain and the heroes to accomplish their goals.

Another problem is that since Saint Dane is a shape-shifter, he can appear as any character in the book, a trick that makes the reader feel as if the rules are too loose. It also makes me wonder why Saint Dane doesn’t change himself into one of Bobby’s friends, get close to Bobby, and kill him. The only thing I can figure is that Saint Dane wants to keep Bobby alive so there will be someone to listen to his monologues. Saint Dane is the worst kind of Bond Villain, which is why these books will never get more than a 3.5 star rating from me. However, I feel like I should point out that that I am not the target audience for the PENDRAGON series and that this book has, at this moment, a 4.16 average rating at GoodReads with about 17,000 readers giving their opinion. Clearly, Black Water works for most fans!

There’s another big twist at the end of Black Water. I’m going to read the next book, The Rivers of Zadaa. I’m hoping this unpleasant installment was just a fluke. I will continue to listen to William Dufris narrate the audio versions.

Pendragon — (2002-2009) Young adult. Publisher: Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution. If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning…

book review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 1. The Merchant of Death 2. The Lost City of Faar 3. The Never War 4. The Reality Bug 5. Black Waterbook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 1. The Merchant of Death 2. The Lost City of Faar 3. The Never War 4. The Reality Bug 5. Black Waterbook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 1. The Merchant of Death 2. The Lost City of Faar 3. The Never War 4. The Reality Bug 5. Black Waterbook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 1. The Merchant of Death 2. The Lost City of Faar 3. The Never War 4. The Reality Bug 5. Black Waterbook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 1. The Merchant of Death 2. The Lost City of Faar 3. The Never War 4. The Reality Bug 5. Black Waterbook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 6. The Rivers of Zadaa 7. The Quillan Games 8. The Pilgrims of Rayne 9. Raven Risebook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 6. The Rivers of Zadaa 7. The Quillan Games 8. The Pilgrims of Rayne 9. Raven Risebook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 6. The Rivers of Zadaa 7. The Quillan Games 8. The Pilgrims of Rayne 9. Raven Risebook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 6. The Rivers of Zadaa 7. The Quillan Games 8. The Pilgrims of Rayne 9. Raven Rise 10. The Soldiers of Hallabook review D.J. MacHale Pendragon 6. The Rivers of Zadaa 7. The Quillan Games 8. The Pilgrims of Rayne 9. Raven Rise 10. The Soldiers of Halla

Pendragon: Before the War — (2008- ) A Pendragon prequel with Carla Jablonski and Walter Sorrells. Publisher: Before Bobby Pendragon. Before Saint Dane. Before the war… Every territory of Halla has a Traveler. They lived for years — some even for decades — before learning of their true destiny. What was life like for Bobby Pendragon’s fellow Travelers before they joined him in the fight to save every time and place that has ever existed? What led up to their becoming the guardians of Halla? The answers are here! In this first of three thrilling Pendragon prequels, read about Vo Spader’s death-defying adventures in the underwater world of Cloral, Gunny Van Dyke’s race to find a murderer in 1930’s Manhattan on First Earth, and the tough challenges Kasha faced on Eelong well before Bobby Pendragon arrived…

D.J. MacHale Pendragon: Before the War 1. The Travelers 2. 3. D.J. MacHale Pendragon: Before the War 1. The Travelers 2. 3. D.J. MacHale Pendragon: Before the War 1. The Travelers 2. 3.

Related book:

book review D.J. MacHale The Guide to the Territories of HallaThe Guide to the Territories of Halla — (2005) Publisher: All there ever was; all that will be. For the first time, see the amazing sights of Halla as only Bobby Pendragon has. From the watery depths of Cloral to the rugged mountain ranges of Denduron to the jungles of Eelong, from the Earth territories to the decaying fantasy world of Veelox, it¹s all here. So are the Travelers: Uncle Press, Vo Spader, Loor, Aja Killian, Alder, Gunny, and Kasha, and of course, Bobby Pendragon and Saint Dane. This is your private flume to Halla. Enter and discover old friends while you learn new secrets. But remember one thing: This is only the beginning.

 


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. We have these at the bookstore and I’ve always been curious about them. It sounds like the early ones might be fun.

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