Review of BLACK HALO by Sam Sykes

Sam Sykes’ Aeon’s Gate series continues to vex me.

The first book, TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, dragged heavily through the middle parts, but then picked things up in the last 100 pages. I was disappointed in it largely due to the effusive and glowing praise the book had received from others, but was willing to read the next book in the series because A, I’d already bought it, and B, the ending gave me hope.

But BLACK HALO continued to suffer through many of the same issues I had with TOME.

First off, the characters are all terribly immature, so I have a hard time rooting for them, and when the action dies down in the middle parts of the book, all we’re left with is 400 pages of adolescent characters whining about how hard they have it and speaking to apparitions that aren’t really there. In this book, Lenk, our main protagonist, speaks to two different voices in his head, which can get awfully confusing since we still don’t know why Lenk hears the voices or who the voices are. Gariath, hears the voice of a dead ancestor, and wanders around talking to it throughout the book. Asper can’t figure out why God doesn’t treat her better, and wanders around the island complaining about it. Denaos sees the ghost of a woman he killed several years ago (this island if freaking loaded with ghosts!). Dreadaleon mostly stews over the fact that Asper doesn’t love him. Katarina wanders around around the island (but thanksfully doesn’t see or hear apparitions) trying to decide whether or not to kill Lenk, since her people are supposed to kill every human they see. Inexplicably, she doesn’t whine over whether or not to kill the other humans — in fact, she mostly ignores their existence.

There’s an occasional fight scene mixed in, but it’s mostly just an occasionally interrupted stream of each character’s melodramatic whining, and Sykes hams it up as much as he can. Sample line:

She stared off into the forest as though looking anywhere else would kill her. Perhaps it would.

Really?

The copy editing mistakes (where and were are two different words, folks) don’t help matters. But then at the end, there’s a moment where (see?) I almost want to read the next book. Lenk finally realizes that Kataria will probably kill him if given the opportunity, and under the guidance of the dual voices, he decides he’s going to recover the Tome they’ve lost and kill anyone in his path, finally becoming the total badass I’d actually want to read about. It’s as though Sykes has finally realized that this isn’t a love story between Lenk and Kataria, it’s a bloody adventure book that to this point has spent far too much time with its characters wandering blindly around an island.

But I’ve already been fooled by one of Sykes’ solid endings to an unspectacular book. I won’t be following him down the rabbit hole again.

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