Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review - The Savior's Champion [spoilery]

Original Title: The Savior's Champion
Series: The Savior, #1
Author: Jenna Moreci
Published: April 24th, 2018

Publisher: Jenna Moreci
*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
In case the warning wasn’t enough, this will contain HUGE SPOILERS, and will be a million year-long. For a shorter, spoiler free review, click here.

I WAS GIVEN A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW

Upon reading The Savior’s Champion, I confirmed that, definitely, gore isn’t my thing. If you have followed me for a while, you know it from the books I normally read and review. But the fact that I’m not comfortable with it, doesn’t mean that it makes up for a bad book. It’s not bad. Jenna is a good writer. My two stars rating just goes according to the level in which I enjoyed it, and some aspects I don’t entirely agree with.

Just as in her first book, Jenna proves that her strong point is dialogue, and a particularly good thing is that the Sovereign’s Tournament is explained through it, instead of prose, but again, exactly as it is in Eve, Jenna throws every single piece of information we need to understand the Savior and Her nature right from the get-go, which, in my opinion, isn’t the best way to go, because so much information in one single moment can contribute to the readers’ forgetting about it as they read the rest of the book. On the other hand, the whole plot revolves around a labyrinth… that’s it’s not really a labyrinth. It’s a long, dark tunnel filled with traps, where everyone will probably die. I mean, it is said that, in the past, it used to be a labyrinth, hence the name. But in the time the story takes place, it’s not anymore, even when the book cover itself mentions it. And it also confuses me when they say that the tournament is for the masses, in the best bread and circuses way, but, actually, people can’t see it, except for one or two challenges, because the whole thing takes place both inside the tunnel, and in Thessen’s royal palace. There’s only this guy, Wembleton, that proclaims the names of the fallen for the people to hear and cheer, but in general terms, there’s no connection between them, and the competitors.

Another thing that confuses me in this story are the names. On the one hand, the four realms are named Thessen, Kovahr, Ethyua and Trogolia, which are completely made up words. But at the same time, characters are named, for example, Tobias, Leila, Naomi and Raphael, which are names from our own dimension. It’s not the first fantasy novel in which I see this, and it completely depends on the author’s choice, but it confuses me, and makes me wonder, is this the real world or not? Also, Jenna mentions in her channel that she’s obsessed with Greek mythology, and that Thessen is very loosely based on Ancient Greece and Rome. For example, there’s a set of twins named Nyx and Hemera (two dual Greek deities, literally Night and Day), and my favorite, Orion, whose laurel is no less than the Hunter, and he’s also an archer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not badly done, but it is kind of an obvious move in a world that it is just “very loosely” based on Ancient Greece, don’t you think?

As for the worldbuilding, it is the best example of “do what I say, but not what I do”. I get that she hates descriptions, but we deserve to know where we are standing. She explained the worldbuilding basics in two consecutive videos, and then she didn’t use more than a half of them. The result? A very un-fleshed out world filled with what appears to be a mix of perverts, warriors, whores, royals, and a very little group of decent people.

The characters are actually well built, the main ones are deep, and can pass for real people. Tobias Kaya is a good man, he enters the tournament in despite of her mother’s fear, for the sole purpose of helping his family, especially his crippled sister Naomi, although I wish there was more deepening in that regard. He’s a person of integrity in the middle of a cruel, corrupted world, in which the Savior is their only hope. That is well done. But, again, something is amiss. In one of her vlogs, Jenna says that when Tobias enters the tournament, he does something that is the furthest thing from his personality, because he’s an artist, not a warrior. But when he actually does it, we have only known him for two chapters, and we couldn’t possibly know everything about him, we can’t be a hundredth percent sure that he would NEVER do this. For what we know, he could.

Even though I couldn’t properly connect with any of the characters, my favorite was Leila, the healer girl. I loved her personality and attitude, especially the fact that she goes to the sanctuaries to help the wounded competitors, and calls every single one of them by their proper name instead of their laurel, because she doesn’t forget that, even with the tournament’s savagery, and the way the men are treated, they are still people. I loved her because she’s not to be toyed with, to the point that she keeps a dagger under her skirt and has no qualms about killing anyone who dares to cross the line with her. She has her own personality and doesn’t let anyone rule her life. But I’m afraid that she being the true Savior didn’t get me by surprise. I knew it. I so knew it. For some reason I spent chapter after chapter thinking “I bet she’s the true Savior and not Cosima”, and I turned out to be right. I don’t have to explain to you how that felt.

Oh, the love story! I couldn’t like it as I was expecting to. From the moment Leila appears, you know she and Tobias are meant to fall in love. But, actually, the most that is between them is horniness, and lust. Love only appears by the very end of the book. They seem to only like each other physically, because, of course, Leila is insanely beautiful, and Tobias starts having erotic dreams about her, over and over again. It was hard to see love between them when there are so many sexual situations in which they just give in to their physical urges. Their relationship is pure lust, and I know that they eventually fall in love, but until then, I can’t possibly think of love as I read. I was particularly bothered by a scene in which Tobias, after some thoughts of Leila, is aroused, and has to relieve himself with filthy thoughts. I mean, that was there for the sole purpose of adding dirty content to the book, because there’s absolutely no reason for it. If you are like me, you won’t like that type of scene or situation, and mostly because there’s no point to it. I don’t get why it is necessary to even see him in such a situation. I mean, what changes in his character if you remove that from the book? Plus, if he uses Leila to relieve himself of a boner, clearly that’s not love. He just lusts after her and uses her as an object to please himself. And that’s when you lose me. Sorry.

There’s, however, some intense phrases that give the idea of love, and their best scene together is actually the breaking point, the lowest moment in which Tobias is ready to give up and loses all hope. It is actually very well written, is so emotional, there’s such raw frankness between Tobias and Leila, that you can’t help seeing the feelings between them, the pure desperation Tobias feels, and the hope Leila bestows upon him. That was the first part in which I truly saw their connection, and believed there was love there, in needing each other to go on in this soulless tournament that only led to cruelty, blood and death. Well done!

Something that I didn’t like was that the other competitors didn’t seem to have a life before the tournament, and the essence of their personalities are a filthy mind and brute force. At one point I was lost with their laurels, I didn’t know which was which. And for my next point, I’ll refer to Jenna’s 10 Worst Male Character Pet Peeves vlog, specifically, from 5:50 to 6:28. Watch it, and then continue. 


Did you? Ok. After that portion of the video, I was surprised that Jenna decided to write the competitors like that. It makes no sense. I mean, ok, they are guys, but I got exhausted and disgusted with the fact that these men couldn’t talk two words in a row without mentioning their genitals or saying a penis-related sentence. At one point I wondered, can’t they really think of something that’s not sex? I mean, of course, every author can do as they think best, but really, she made a video especially criticizing this, and then she goes and puts it in her book! And it’s not one of two characters that do this, but every single one of them! If it isn’t the dialogue itself, then one of them is touching himself, or… well, you can imagine the rest. And when every conversation has to revolve around that, I feel it as an attempt to mask the incapability to write a meaningful conversation, interesting dialogue points, or worthy content in general. For me, at least, it’s not worth to read characters that think with their crotch, and the constant reference to breasts and genitals was SICKENING. Honestly, there’s no other type of comparison? I repeat, Jenna herself says she hates when that happens, so why did she write it in the first place?

Around chapter five, the competitors get to see Cosima, the Savior, who, of course, is a beautiful woman, and I quote: “The Woman had taken a seat alongside Her court, and the men’s gazes danced over Her hair, Her breasts, Her lips, Her breasts, Her eyes, Her breasts.” They literally obsess over the Savior’s breasts, as if they haven’t seen a woman before, or didn’t know that women are born with them. She’s the future Queen, they are in the tournament to marry her and be the next Sovereign of Thessen, but they think of her as they would of a whore, just a body for sex, and only because they are males. It’s frustrating how none of them has at least a little bit of honor and respect left, that would make me like them. It gets exhausting and makes me ask where the worthy content of this book really is, that this kind of sentences take so much time and space. 

Also, there’s this bath scene in Thessen’s palace, as the servants clean up the competitors, that I know it’s meant to be funny, but I just didn’t think so. There was no need to get so graphic. But men are naked in that scene, girls bathe them with their bare hands, and again, every word and dialogue, is sex-related, that’s basically all the chapter seems to be about, and it adds nothing worth reading to the general plot. If I had skipped it, nothing would have changed.

If that weren’t enough, the language! Oh, my God, there’s so much swearing, and trash talk! And the extreme, graphic violence and blood are there just for the sake of it, because most of the time, there’s pretty much no point to it. There’s a lot of challenges in the Sovereign’s Tournament, but I’ll only be referring to three of them. There’s this one in which they get attacked by a herd of fanged pigs… pointlessly. It only led to more blood and even more swearing. Besides that, it could have been removed and nothing would have changed, both in the tournament and the plot. The only challenge that truly got me at the edge of my seat was the one with the poisoned wine and the antidote; it was also a little too disgusting for the sake of it, although it was totally expected. It’s the author’s style. As for the one with the three paths, the one that was deemed as the hardest wasn’t the one taken by Tobias and his group, and we never get to know why it was, in fact, the most difficult one. They make a big deal out of it, and then we don’t even get to see why. What surprised me was that no one got killed in that challenge.

Sometimes, characters in this book overcomplicate things, when simple logic could have got them out of trouble. And I mean, the challenge around the gift for the Savior, when Tobias tries to draw a portrait of Cosima, and ends up getting Leila’s face, over and over again, because he can’t stop thinking about her. My question here is, am I really the only one who thinks a very simple solution could have saved him the trouble of his humiliation and the fight with the Giant? Buddy, just tell Cosima you would like to spend time with her working on her portrait to capture her beauty in person, or something like that, because, in case you haven’t noticed by this stage of the game, flattery can get you anywhere!

And finally, there was this line in which Tobias’s bursts out and says: 

They treat us as things […] We’re not men, we’re animals trained for entertainment. We kill one another, and they cheer. It’s savagery!

For once, I agree with Tobias, the tournament is a slaughterhouse, and the lives of those who enter it are just disposable. But upon reading this line, in chapter 18, I only could roll my eyes. Really, Tobias? You are realizing that NOW? There’s only days left for the tournament to end after a month of suffering, challenges, blood and entrails, and he only realizes this after most of the men are dead, he fought in the arena in front of a crowd, and is about to do it again? Knock, knock, is logic in there somewhere? I thought that was clear from the very start.

And finally, a word on the villains. It so obvious that they are the villains, there’s not even a surprise or a shocking reveal about them, because clearly, the bad guys are the biggest and ugliest of them all (cliché?). By the hype about Kaleo in the vlogs, I thought I would hate him, that he would be this amazing villain I would just hate on sight. But it didn’t work for me, sorry. I mean, yes, the guy is a piece of garbage, he’s evil. He pushes Milo to his death, and kills for the pleasure of it without even flinching, but I really thought he would have a bigger role in the story in general. Pity he’s dead, he would have gotten better as a villain in future books. As for the other bad guys in the tournament, as I said, men like the Dragon and the Giant don’t have much to offer besides brute force and sexual innuendos. The worst villain in this story was Brontes, hands down, but I felt he lacked depth. He’s just evil, and as the Sovereign, turns it into his most effective weapon. But that’s all there is. He’s evil for the sake of it, and his motives aren’t sufficiently clear; there wasn’t any depth in his character. I didn’t get why he had the Savior’s mother dead in the prologue, and why did he want to kill Leila. Although I think that’s material for the sequel, so I won’t delve deeper.

So, in short, this isn’t the book for me, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be perfect for other readers. Fantasy is still one of my favorite genres, just… not like this. There’s many things that were off-putting, and overly violent and disgusting, and I felt if the author had toned down the blood and entrails, the swearing, and the sex talk, to invest that effort into deeper worldbuilding, backstories and characters (especially the villains), this could have been so much better. That the book is meant for an adult audience also means character development, and deeper situations and scenes, not just mature content. So, I’m sorry, but this book is not for me. 

Thank you for reading, I know this was insanely long, but at least I could go through all of my points. 

‘til next time!


10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. No, thank you for commenting, you're awesome, Thomas!!

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  2. This is the reason I didn't and won't buy a book of Jenna's. From what I've read on sample chapters her writing style is pretty simplistic. Her videos on Youtube are good from the financial/promotional end of things but there is no real advice given to writers who just want to be able to understand the process from the basic beginning. I've been watching a lot of Travis McBee and his channel plus Vivien Reis and both of them offer more advice in terms of the process than Moreci does. This book sounds more like Gladiator on steroids. I don't care about language or "violent" content, but if that's all Jenna has then she's seriously lacking in the understanding of what we as fledgling writers are watching her for. Like I said I'm learning more from McBee and Reis than I have in the year or so I've been watching Jenna. Thanks for saving me the money in not ordering this book. In the reviews of her first book "Eve: The Awakening" it sounds pretty much like another video of hers.... the one where she says don't put yourself in the story. Yet clearly Eve is a Mary Sue from the jump. Sounds a lot like the author putting herself in the story to me.

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    1. First of all, thank you so much for commenting. And second of all, I have to agree. It confuses me that someone who says she's not into cliches wrote this book, and moreover, she gives advice to other writers. The way she makes her writing sound in her channel, it seems she's writing the book of the century, and upon reading it, I found this piece of fiction filled with profanities, and sexual language. As I said, if she had invested all that effort into better worldbuilding and deeper characters, it could have been so much better. Another thing I thought as I read was that this book would have never got traditionally published, for obvious reasons. She broke her own rules upon writing this, and this person gives advice! I mean, I liked Eve, it was so much better than this, and I don't know what happened along the way.

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  3. Thank you for this, I bought the book because I liked her channel and the stuff about writing made a lot of sense, so I assumed it's gonna be a good book... but it was so disappointing. And it made me irrationally angry because I value my time and I felt as if i fell into the trap of marketing.
    You sum up everything that I didn't like.
    Thanks for the review because I was starting to think I lost my mind with all of the good reviews the book has.

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    1. You did not lost your mind, and yes, the book is popular because her channel is popular. I don't really watch her anymore, because if her advice is not reflected in her books, and the only thing I can get from her work is horniness and eagerness to make everything as dirty as possible, then I can't take her seriously. She gives advice and she doesn't apply it to her books herself, so... I can't deal with it. I just can't. I admire that she goes for her dream, and everything, but after this book, is as far as I can get. Besides, she left very clear in her videos that most of the characters in this book were written to die, so there's no possible attachment from my side, because I know what's going to happen. Thank you so much for your comment! Happy New Year!!

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  4. Finally some honest review... when i first read the book the emotion was real, but page by page was like "she couldn't wrote this" but no... the only thing i can say is that it doesn't matter if you're a good writer or even good at give writing advice, nothing beats hard work, polished skill and a original idea, three things i felt instantly the Savior's Champions seriously lacks, or even worst, replaces for dilatory narrative...

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    1. You are right. I felt the same way. She sounds like an author who knows what she's doing and can give professional advice, but when I read her book, all I could think of was that it was written by a horny 16-year-old. If she didn't apply her own advice, well... It's not possible to take her seriously. I'm really, really sorry to say it, but that's what I think.

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  5. The entire plot of her book made no sense. There is literally no reason for the sovereign not to have killed her as a baby. I really wanted to support her but by the end of the book I was cringing at how hard the plot had fallen apart.

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    1. Exactly. It was like the whole thing could have been avoided. You already have a girl to pose as the Savior, why can't she keep playing the part after the real one's death?

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