Published: October 17th 2013 by The Writer's Coffee Shop
Format: eARC, 375 pages
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Darcy Pennington may once have been an average teenager, but not anymore. Living each year twice, once in her world and once in Alitheia, has made her into someone who cares little for normal teenage activities. She’s got more important things to do, like save the mythical, magical world of Alitheia. But this time, Darcy can’t save Alitheia until she saves Tellius, the love of her life.
A window between the worlds allows Darcy to see Tellius from her home in Chicago. But, far from being reassured, she plunges into despair when she sees Tellius captured, imprisoned, and tortured. All her plans for her future life in Alitheia are put on hold as Darcy faces a singular goal: save Tellius, even if it means giving Tselloch something in return.
This is the fifth book in the Gateway Chronicles, and as expected, sets us up for what is bound to be an amazing and action-packed conclusion. This novel is undoubtedly darker than the others, and our favourite characters are tested to their limits.
Darcy, the main protagonist, and I have a long and rocky relationship. She’s basically a 22 (?) year old living in the body of a 17 year old now (thanks to the magic that makes her live each year twice), and I was honestly expected a lot more maturity from her. There’s no denying she’s learnt a lot since her very first trip through the gateway, but she’s still unthinkingly impetuous and refuses to allow for the possibility that others (people wiser and more experienced than her) could know better than her. Of course, the other characters apparently haven’t learnt from the past, and continue to very obviously keep secrets from her. This plot device is my only big complaint with the book, because it puts Darcy and her friends in a lot of unnecessary danger.
I understood Darcy’s impatience, however, because she finds out that Tellius has been captured by the enemy long before her return to Alithea. She spends the better part a year knowing he is being tortured and being unable to do a thing about it, so her eagerness to get going and save him is admirable. Tellius is an unexpectedly strong presence in the novel, despite has absence, mainly because of how much Darcy misses him. He didn’t make an appearance until right at the end, but swept me (and Darcy) away the moment he did.
I noticed that the rest of the cast spends a lot of time playing cards and otherwise wasting time in this book. This is a failure of such a large primary cast, in my opinion. Aside from Darcy and Sam, the other members of The Six are literally only brought out when their talents are needed: when Amelia needs to sing or Dean needs to sneak around. Otherwise they’re seen occupying themselves playing cards or engaged in some other mind-numbing activity (the boys, in particular, have a lot of weapons training, but the girls seem to just fluff around).
I think The Scroll is the best book so far in terms of plotting – there is always something interesting going on and a new mystery to solve. There were also fewer times where I figured things out before the characters, which is always an improvement. I love how the clues from the previous books are slowly being tied back into the main story-line – things that happened in the first book are suddenly important and I think it’s awesome. The eventual rescue sequence is probably my favourite aspect of the whole series so far.
On the world-building side, I love that we’re still finding out about the royal family and the secrets of their castle, so late into the series, and also enjoy (as usual) getting to see how nark communities live. Narks are one of the most interesting species I have ever encountered in fantasy books, and I wouldn’t say no to reading novels (or novellas) about them. However, we aren’t really exposed to many new places on Alitheia, and the cast spends a ridiculous amount of time staring at a tapestry that readers aren’t even given a picture of. This didn’t help me visualise the landscape at all.
A final note I want to make concerns the romances in the novel. I love the way they seamlessly tied into the plot, particularly since Darcy is no longer the focus of any of these bumbling side-stories and doesn’t whine and agonise as she used to. Her own romantic story with Tellius is almost unbearably sweet, but I’m rapidly growing tired of how Hoyle, and many other authors, treat sex in books. There was a natural place for it in this book, and I don’t see why it couldn’t have happened, with a fade to black – View Spoiler » she’d turned eighteen and they were even married for God’s sake!! « Hide Spoiler – but instead there’s this overly-contrived action sequence and then the book just … ends. As the protagonists grow, shouldn’t the limits of what is deemed acceptable expand with them?
The Scroll ends on a cliffhanger of epic proportions, and I really don’t know how readers are supposed to wait for the next (and final) book, The Bone Whistle. Although I think there are certain aspects of the story that could be improved, The Scroll is the best Gateway book yet. I think this series will be enjoyed by a younger audience hoping to recapture the magic that Harry Potter and Narnia brought them.