Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Last Secret

Authors: Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore
Publisher: Midnight Ink
ISBN: 0-7387-0931-X

The Last Secret
is the second installment of a new series featuring a heroine with the distinctive name of Cotten Stone. In addition to her idiosyncratic name, Stone carries a unique heritage: she is half-human and half-Nephilim.

The Nephilim are a legendary race of giants featured in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Having cast their lot with Lucifer, they were condemned by God to roam the earth forever, unable either to die or re-enter heaven. They seek to avenge themselves by corrupting God’s favorite creatures, humankind. Notwithstanding her Nephilim blood, Cotten Stone identifies with humanity and fights for its survival in the eternal war between the forces of iniquity and purity.

In The Last Secret, Stone is engaged in a race against the Nephilim. The prize they seek is an ancient crystal tablet engraved – perhaps by the hand of God himself – with mysterious glyphs. Stone wants to uncover its message, which is vital to humanity’s survival, and the Nephilim want to destroy the tablet before its message can be revealed. Although Stone’s encounters with the Nephilim are sinister and deadly, she ultimately prevails in this struggle. She finds the tablet, translates its message and leads many humans to safety. Stone knows, however, that she has merely won one battle against the Nephilim. Many more people need her help if they are going to have any hopes of winning the war against evil. Thus, the book closes with Stone preparing for the next stage of her war against her ancient foes.

Sholes and Moore are experienced authors whose expertise is evident in the careful manner in which their plot is revealed and resolved throughout the book. Key pieces hold together throughout the book and no inexplicable threads are left dangling at the end of the story. Moreover, the story closes in a satisfactory manner while successfully setting the stage for the next book in the series.

Additionally, Sholes and Moore’s development of their main character, Cotten Stone is subtle and appealing. In spite of her unusual lineage, Cotten Stone is a surprisingly accessible heroine with whom the reader can identify. She suffers personal and professional setbacks. She is frequently plagued by self-doubt. She is intelligent but not brilliant. Her athletic prowess is average. In short, she is an ordinary person, not a superhero. Achieving this balance in an unusual character like Stone is a notable accomplishment that would have eluded less skilled writers.

Unfortunately, Sholes and Moore did not take similar care in constructing their secondary characters. For example, the mathematician who helps Stone decipher the tablet’s engraving is a stereotypical brilliant nerd with no social life and the personality of a rusty nail. Resorting to this sort of cardboard character cheapens the quality of an otherwise engaging story. Why are so many bland characters across so many books in so many genres cast as mathematicians? Why can’t someone write about a mathematician with sex appeal or a sense of humor? Such mathematicians exist in real life. Surely they can exist in an author’s imagination.

Another weakness is that Stone’s relationships with key characters, such as her mentor and her best friend (a priest with whom she is in love) are undeveloped. I hope that both of these relationships, particularly the latter one with its enticing portent of passionate tension, will be fully cultivated as the series progresses.

Overall, in spite of these weaknesses, The Last Secret is an entertaining book. I recommend it to readers who enjoy fantasy and adventure stories.


Barbara said...

Excellent comentary on the book.

Is it just me, or has your blog changed a few times over the past few days?

Evie Sears said...

I've been playing with the blog template. After I downloaded it, I decided to replace the red and gray banner at the top with one of my own photos.