Anthea Sharp, $12.99, ISBN 978-1466408715
Set in a distant future when video games have developed to such an extent that you pretty much enter a virtual world and “live” out the game, Feyland: The Dark Realm is an interesting effort to update and adapt the Scottish legend of Tam Lin for a young adult fantasy story. If you are familiar with the story of Tam Lin, there are many things here, from the name of the heroine to the developments in the plot, that serve as an easter egg of sorts.
Jennet Carter has a problem. Her father is a game developer working on a top-secret MMORPG game, Feyland, and Jennet had been secretly playing it. She finally reached the last boss, the Dark Queen, only to end up losing her soul to the Queen. It’s just a game, sure, but Jennet feels that she is dying inside day by day after her defeat. She will need someone to help her get back into Feyland and reclaim her soul.
Her father works for VirtuMax, and as such, she gets to enjoy the perks of his job, such as living in the luxurious compound called the View. Therefore, Jennet is already marked as one of the privileged ones the moment she steps into her new school, Crestview High. It won’t be easy getting to the gamer community who tend to be from less privileged background – they already view her as pretty much a creature from another planet. But she has to, since they are her only chance at getting her soul back. Tam Linn, the boy from the poorer parts of town, is one of the best gamers in the neighborhood. Can she persuade him to help her out?
Before I go on, I have better mention some of the more head-scratching depictions of video games here. For example, if Feyland is an MMORPG, why is Jennet facing the last boss alone? Unless the principles of MMORPG had changed in the future, it typically takes a raid comprising a bunch of over-geared players to topple down such a boss. Also, why do skills in a fighting game have cool-down times? In fighting games – as opposed to PVP in RPG-type games – spamming of skills is overcome by start-up and recovery frames, or in cases of super arts, the need to fill up a special gauge before the skill can be activated. I think there may be some confusion here between PVP in an RPG game and a straight-up fighting game. Not that these issues affect the story considerably, I feel, as I can overlook some of these head-scratching bits to get into the story. But I can’t speak for everyone in this, of course.
The best I can describe Feyland: The Dark Realm is solid. It boasts an interesting and entertaining read and the build-up of momentum is good. The last few chapters are especially good, with me at the edge of my seat all that while. Jennet is a likable heroine, although I often feel that she is a bit too nice and normal for someone of her background and hobby. Gamers tend to be a bit… well, let’s just say that, in my experience, both good and bad stereotypes associated with the gaming community are more accurate than not, and I doubt things will change so drastically in the near future. Still, I like Jennet. Tam Lin also has some pleasant moments of poignancy in his interactions with his family.
Unfortunately, his relationship with Jennet tend to fall into a familiar pattern that is almost stereotypical of a young adult romance. He’s surly, she’s persistent, and I have read this many times before. The romance is this story’s biggest weakness: they are both kids, at the end of the day, and they fall in love in such a predictable and familiar pattern. So, when the last chapter goes all melodramatic and grand on me about how it will be Tam and Jennet against the world, together and forever, I can only go, “That’s nice, kids, but finish school first and use protection. Let’s talk about forever only after you have a stable career and more mature outlook about love and life.” I know, I’m such a cynic – comes with being too old to buy all this idealized true love thing among high school kids, I guess. But the romance is actually a part of the story instead of its focal point, so this isn’t a big issue in Feyland: The Dark Realm.
Hence, my finding that this book is solid. The plot is interesting and well-developed, the characters are fine enough to carry the story, and the setting is interesting. The author has succeeded quite well, I believe, in incorporating the more familiar elements of legend and myth into this story. It doesn’t resonate with me in an emotional manner, but all things considered, it’s a good start for a series.