On the Fence

No, that’s not the title of the book I’ve quit, or are trying to read, it’s a new segment I’m going to try right now. I haven’t actually quit anything or read anything good recently. But I am actively listening to several different books and I am on the fence about quitting them.

Granted, I’m far less likely to quit one than the other.

The first, and least likely one, is The Dark Lands book 5 of the AngelBound Origins Series by Christina Bauer.

The Dark Lands (Angelbound Origins #5)

So, as it says above, this is the fifth book in this series. I won’t go into the history of the series or anything, but this was one of the first series I got into when I started listening to books on Audible. Once I got through all the books I’d already read and wanted to revisit in a new way, Angelbound was the third new book I picked up. Out of the 87 Audible books I still own, it’s number 18. I am pretty sure I’ve returned a book or two between it and one, but whatever.

The first book is good, like above average. I think it would be even higher in my eyes if Bauer didn’t fall into the repetitive pattern that is seriously frustrating to me?

That, and, well, I don’t know to say this without sounding like a bitch? And like, Christina, if you’re reading this, it’s nothing against you personally. Especially as time goes on there’s a… well, William Shatner-esque quality to her performances? I like her voice, she sounds a lot like one of my aunts so it’s like having a story read to you by a beloved family member. It’s just, especially in The Dark Lands, there’s a pattern of reading two or three words then pause then two or three more words then pause, rinse and repeat.

It was one of those things that once you notice it, you can’t not hear it? And it starts to bug you? Thankfully, if you turn up the speed from 1x to something higher it’s not as noticeable. I usually listen to books at 1.25x or 1.5x, thanks ADHD, but I’d gone down to 1.5 since the book is only about 6 hours long.

But that wasn’t what made me want to quit The Dark Lands.

The thing is… Bauer has a beautiful world. It’s an intriguing amazing world that she’s built, it’s a new take on Angels and Demons and I absolutely love it? It’s the sort of thing I wish I’d come up with. I love the idea of Quasis, I love the idea of their tails. I love the world building that Bauer has done.

She’s amazing at pacing, for the most part. She knows how to raise the tension, even if sometimes I catch myself getting slightly annoyed at things the characters are saying. It’s usually smaller things like when the main character Myla says something along the lines of “slipping into battle mode” when the fight she was in hadn’t finished? Or when she kicks a lava angel in the butt and wants to do a happy dance.

Time and place Myla. Time and place.

Okay, I’ve actually just been complimenting her (for the most part), that’s still not what made me want to quit. It does relate to pacing.

So to avoid too many spoilers, Myla and Lincoln, her husband who she calls “my guy.” Momentary tangent? I don’t really like that? I dunno, it just… hits the ear wrong? Maybe it’s just me? I was never a big fan of Myla calling Lincoln that. But I guess she could call him worse things. Tangent over. They go on a morning talk show in Purgatory, where Myla is from and is… well, basically a goddess of?

First book spoilers, Myla is what’s known as the Scala, also known as the Great Scala, the only being who can decide if souls go to Heaven or Hell. This happens because she has the blood of an angel, demon, and human. There can only be two beings with that combination living at one time. All souls go to Purgatory and are stored there until the Scala sends them to one of the two places.

In fact, in book one, Myla describes seeing the former Scala like this.

He’s like the human’s Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, and Tooth Fairy all rolled into one. Seeing him is a huge deal.

Angelbound, Angelbound Origins Book 1 by Christina Bauer

And now that’s Myla. Unlike the former Scala, she’s got a much bigger presence in Purgatory as people see her all the time. Now she’s going on a talk show. The show gets derailed and we get introduced to the looming threat of the book, “the Viper.”

From here we leave the studio abruptly and go on a mission to a worm farm in the middle of nowhere Purgatory. Now that might seem like a de-escalation of the tension, but Bauer manages to keep ramping up the stakes until Myla is fighting an angel made of lava in an abandoned grain silo and even starts losing. Which if you know the series is pretty big. She gets pretty mangled in the battle with Inferno.

Her husband ends up saving her, which is super rare because she’s not the kind of chick who needs to be saved. They manage to chase Inferno off, and get Myla to safety and healed up.

During her time walking to the worm farm her honorary older brother gave her what I took to be a magical Apple Watch with the message that if a countdown starts on it, shit’s about to pop off. Then he disappears and makes it clear that he’s going to vanish forever. Myla doesn’t believe that last part, she is pretty sure she’ll end up finding him.

So fully healed up, Myla goes to speak to her mother, the president of Purgatory and her father, the leader of heaven’s army.

This… is the part that made me want to stop.

I was ready to quit and just move on. It ground my gears so thoroughly I was bitching on the phone with my mom for half an hour.

Two hours, or so, into this growing tension where we know that countdown is going to start any second… we stop the entire story dead… for… well…

Watching a Renesmee style baby smashing banana into things.

I get it, Maxon is a magical baby, he’s one of two living beings with the blood of an angel, demon, and human, making him the Scala Heir. But… I just… Myla’s pregnancy ended up lasting something like three months in the previous book? And now Maxon is six months old and he’s as big as and as smart as a two-year-old?

That whole situation gave me serious Renesmee vibes.

So not only is this our first time seeing Maxon, we stop the whole plot dead to tiptoe through the president’s mansion to watch Myla’s dad Xavier give him a battle strategy meeting about going to sleep. It’s cute. He doesn’t know how to treat a kid. But then Maxon gets a banana and we see him smash it all over Xavier’s suit and it just… goes on and on and then he’s smashing banana into the super nice expensive chair?

My exact reaction

I live with a toddler, she’s the light of my life, so I get it, kids are adorable. I just… don’t think it was the time or place.

I understand that it serves the purpose of trying to put us in this calm mood that makes us caught off-guard for when the countdown starts at the end of the chapter.

Except I got a few sentences into Xavier’s battle strategy talk and I turned off the audiobook.

The face I made when the segment started

It took me over a week to come back to it, and yeah, it was as painful and awkward as I remembered it being. So I turned it off again.

I got the audiobook the day it came out, 8/25/19 and I started listening immediately. It took me until 9/15/19 to finally get past that section. Yeah, I don’t really like cringe moments. Those moments of second-hand embarrassment? I always had to plug my ears and hum through them. I can’t handle second-hand embarrassment.

But that’s it.

Bauer is great at pacing, except about a quarter to a third of the way through her sequels. I had the same problem with the previous book. There was some moment that killed the momentum, then it picks back up and is good again.

Item number two on my list… a little less serious than killing the pacing is just… how immature Myla is.

This is the fifth book, so spoilers ahead again. At the beginning of the book here’s a list of the things that Myla is. The daughter of the president, the daughter of the leader of heaven’s army, a wife, a mother, a Queen, a goddess.

Yet we still get moments where she wants to do a happy dance after kicking an angel in the butt. I just… I was hoping that she would have grown up just a little bit. We don’t ever see her show that maturity. She stayed about the same through the series, as far as I can tell.

I get it, she’s fun. I like her, but I guess I just keep forgetting she’s nineteen. It feels like she should be a lot older at this point.

I don’t think she’s mature enough to be married or to have a kid. Let alone being a queen. I just don’t see her there yet. I understand being a goofy person, but the kind of pressure on her shoulders and she still has this flippant immature attitude over most things… I don’t know.

I guess I’m just a bit disappointed. But whatever, she’s not the worst, and I don’t mind her perspective.

There’s one more petty thing that’s been annoying me extra about The Dark Lands.

The primary villain that Myla keeps encountering, an angel called Inferno. As stated above she’s described as being made out of lava. She’s a molten rock angel.

The one… utterly infuriating thing that Bauer does… and I cannot stress this enough… is she uses magma and lava interchangeably.

My inner geology geek absolutely loathes this.

They are not synonyms. Both are words to describe molten rock however, magma describes molten rock that is stored in earth’s crust. Lava is magma that has reached the surface.

Lava is magma, but magma is not lava. It’s like how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.

So if Inferno were to get buried six feet under she’d be a magma angel. So long as she’s exposed to air, she’s a lava angel. Magma is stored in the volcano, but a volcano releases lava. Also, there’s the fact that there are so many different kinds of lava?

I’m assuming that we’re going with classic pahoehoe lava, pictured below.

And that it’s not a’a lava which is characterized by razor-sharp fragments along it’s exterior and a molten interior.

Image result for a'a lava flow

It also probably wasn’t block lava, which is known for its large smooth-sided fragments on the outside of the molten interior. Also probably not other felsic flows, or pillow lava.

Yeah. I’m serious about lava apparently. Bet none of you expected me to go full geology lesson at the end here, did you?

I know I certainly didn’t plan on that.

I don’t expect Bauer to go into all of that detail because I know that most people don’t know the difference between basaltic lava, andesitic lava, and felsic lava. I just kind of expected to not have two words that aren’t synonyms used interchangeably. I don’t care if thesaurus.com lists them as synonyms. They’re not. At least not when it comes to the field of geology.

No, I didn’t almost quit over that bit. But like… I do shout at the audiobook whenever that happens.

Wow, I’m pretty sure I spent more on the lava/magma thing than I did on my real problem with the book. That’s kind of amazing. I guess we know what I’m really passionate about.

But considering that I’m now an hour from the end I’m pretty sure I won’t be quitting.

But man I did come so close. I had decided to quit, but I chose to give the book a chance.

What is the second book? Well, you’ll just have to wait until the next on the fence… because holy crap did this go a lot longer than I thought it would. The next book is similar, but I am losing interest for different reasons.

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