Monday, July 02, 2012

Zero Sight (B Justin Schier)

Overall: 4.3
  • Plot: 4.5/5
  • Originality: 4/5
  • Language: 3.8/5
  • Believability: 5/5
Zero Sight by B. Justin Shier

Meet Dieter Resnick. Dieter is the sole child of an abusive single father, a perennial schoolyard brawler, and Ted Binion High's number one academic prospect. Dieter is terrified of staying poor. He has few friends and is absolutely obsessed with earning a college scholarship. He's also a latent mage--one of the few humans left that can bend the manaflows to their will.

Too bad no one told him. Now a boy is dead.

Meet Rei Acerba Bathory. Rei is a second year student at Elliot College, the premiere magical training academy in North America. She's also on an all-liquid diet. Rei acquired her odd speech and mannerisms living among her centuries-old kin--strange vampiric creatures that have carved out the Midwest as their playground. She can kill a man without blinking, but has a serious weakness for puppies. Thanks to a childhood spent living cloistered from the public, Rei knows little of modern society. She'd do well to make some friends, but her fellow trainees despise her. Rei is the first of her kind to be admitted, and many hope to make her the last.

Dieter was raised in the grimy outskirts of Las Vegas. Rei was homeschooled in a Chicago mansion. Both are on their way to Elliot College. Both believe the other is a creature of idle fantasy. In ten hours, they're going to be at the center of a war fought by shadow actors. In eleven hours, they're going to become a weft-pair, bound together by the most sacred spell in the magic canon. And in twelve hours? Well, in twelve hours, they've got to get to class...
Genre: Fantasy
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Times are hard for Dieter Resnick. In a post-depression America, his only hope of getting out of the economic wasteland called Las Vegas is to earn a full scholarship to a private university. The problem? He just accidentally killed a boy while trying to avoid having his head crushed in. Magic is messy, and Dieter soon discovers that in evil or unskilled hands, it can often be lethal. At least he has a vampire on his side.

With I first read the summary of this novel, I admit that I was less than enthusiastic. The two main protagonists sounded like your typical underdogs: one a talented but untrained "nice guy," and the other an angst-ridden social outcast with immense skill. It was an unexpected delight, therefore, to discover original, well-defined personalities and odd bits of humor that elevated these characters beyond their tropes. Dieter was surprisingly charming for a total nerd, while Rei's dual nature and strange appreciation of puns were as entertaining as they were fascinating. Other characters received the barest of consideration in terms of development of personality, however, and while this is not unexpected for a plot-driven novel, one could only hope that they are not as one-dimensional as they seem.

Following the idea of cliches and overused plot devices, the concept of a "magic school" has been done, and done quite thoroughly. Even so, the author manages to differentiate Elliot College by its particular approach to magical theory and education. There is a tongue-in-cheek handling of supernatural stereotypes that is executed particularly well.

Deviating from the squeaky-clean approach to YA fiction, Zero Sight is unabashedly frank in its use of crass language and its descriptions of violence. While some may protest the inclusion of expletives and intricate detailing of battered bodies, these literary choices lend a sense of realism to an otherwise fantastical novel. Battles are brutal by nature, and shying away from the ugliness would have detracted from our understanding of the characters involved. Similarly, Dieter's struggle with his libido is one to which all teenage boys can relate (or so I surmise, never having been one myself).

As a whole, the book is very well written; the biggest drawback lies in the great number of typographical errors. They range from "forth" for "fourth" and the occasional extraneous word to the unforgivable misuse of "it's" for "its," or rather, of apostrophes as a whole. Further proofreading is definitely warranted.

Overall, Zero Sight is an engaging, realistic fantasy novel with likable protagonists and a fast-driven plot. I look forward to delving into other books in this series.

(Review copy provided by the author)

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