Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Thickety: A Path Begins (The Thickety #1) by J.A. White

I appreciate writers that balance light and dark elements of human nature. This story was too dark and violent for me. It slashes through the first chapter with the protagonist, Kara, being abducted from her bed as a five-year-old and accused of being a witch by adults in the village. She's dragged to a scaffold and attacked by a dog that turns into a Werewolf-type monster called a "Nightseeker" that can determine who is a witch and who isn't. He has a long needle that comes out of his paw and he stabs the so-called witch in the eye with it. Kara is terrified as the needle nears her eye while the entire town watches and condones this action. Kara learns that her mother is hanging from a tree over the scaffold already accused of being a witch. She appears to be alive for she moves at Kara's voice, but if she just got stabbed through the eye she should be dead. This is just one of many inconsistencies in this tale. Kara's thoughts and words are more like a teenager than a five-year-old and I just didn't buy that no adult in the village would have tried to stop the murder of a young child. She ends up pleading with the Nightseeker to let her live and it does just that.

The author is trying to replicate the Salem witch trials, but he doesn't show the complexity of a community run by fear or mob hatred. The villagers are fickle at best, but for the most part they are like puppets. The father makes a half-hearted attempt to free Kara and he has a welt on his face suggesting he tried to do something, but he completely falls apart after this event and is not developed as a character. The villagers are fine with Kara being tortured and murdered but then decide to say she's just a child and the Nightseeker declared her innocence so she should be free. Their form of justice is mostly blind acceptance. The villagers are flat characters that do not show their complex human nature or internal struggles over decisions the leaders make for them. The result is a didactic message that turned me off for much of the book. The girl is painted as a saint and the townspeople unjust. In the middle the mother's best friend shows some humanity and at the end, De'Noan does, but it was too little, too late.

Then there are the killings. And dismemberment. And torture. And bullies. I'm not sure if the author was trying to create a horror book or a fantasy book. I was horrified in parts. I know some readers will like being scared. I didn't see the purpose in most of the violence except to point out the craziness of extreme religious zeal. People are also killed willy-nilly with little or no remorse by the characters. Biddle dies (but no one liked him anyway.) Another character dies but he's mentally deranged after an incident and victimized by the villain. Sometimes Kara seems to have more compassion for the worms and insects than other humans. Then other times she is compassionate.  I struggled with her inconsistent character development. I also think it is unfortunate the author made the villain disabled. It sends the wrong message. The end has an interesting twist that makes me really wonder about the villagers. Maybe they are under a spell? I know I won't find out. This heavy-handed tale was too much for me.

2 Smileys

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