The novel totters between the timeless simplicity of Hans Anderson, the magical premises of Tolkien and the amorous convulsions of a Mills & Boon.
It never rains but it pours. Especially when it comes to certain writers…… Close on the heels of Switched and Torn, comes Amanda Hocking’s Ascend, the last in the Trylle trilogy. The grand finale, steadily building up over the last two novels, comes with every possible kind of pyrotechnic needed to delight Hocking loyalists.
Taking on from where Torn left off, a battered Loki — from the rival Vittra camp — returns to Forening begging for amnesty thereby heralding the beginning of a swift turn of events for the Trylle. The novel moves innocuously enough into Wendy’s birthday bash being celebrated in the royal palace in Forening. Looming large on the horizon is Wendy’s impending marriage to Tove, a loveless liaison of convenience forced on the princess for the supposed welfare of her kingdom. Also in the background is the queen mother with her rapidly deteriorating health and Wendy poised to take over as queen. So far, so good!
Oren, the powerful king of Vittra and Wendy’s father and arch enemy, decides to attend his daughter’s wedding as an uninvited guest. Almost immediately after comes the brutal attack on the Trylle kingdom of Oslinna by the Vittra. Barely a new bride, Wendy is forced to take urgent measures; one of which involves an unpleasant barter agreement with the enemy. As palace conspiracies and undercurrents heat up, the dutiful and romantic princess — besides planning war strategies — finds herself caught between the love of two virile men, Loki and her bodyguard, Finn.
Hocking is in her usual form, energetic to the extreme. She races her protagonists from one crisis to the other at a breathless pace leaving no room for introspection or detailing. The plot is linear, straightforward and over simplistic. There are lashings of passion — quite expected with so many teenaged characters romping about the pages — and also a hint of adultery, quite unexpected given the novel’s childish tone.
The novel totters uncertainly between the timeless simplicity of a Hans Anderson story, the magical premises of a Tolkien tale and the amorous convulsions of a Mills & Boon romance and, in the process, reveals a disconcerting identity crisis. There is feeling of great potential not being realised because the author was in a tearing hurry to finish her trilogy.
The descriptive passages are surprisingly well written with a rich visual feel to them. Wendy’s nocturnal ambush is well etched as are the sketches of the palaces of the rival kingdoms and their respective grounds. Magical feats and their technicalities are confined to the bare minimum. There is the odd heart-warming moment like the experimental kiss and snowball fight between the betrothed couple who are not remotely in love with one another. The thrust is clearly on the heroine’s emotional coming-of-age; the rest of the plot is a mere prop for this core theme.
Wendy, as a heroine bestowed with attributes of valour, sentimentality and integrity comes across as appealing and credible. Loki, Tove and Wendy’s best friend, Willa, are merely shadow satellites around her. Hocking tosses every possible ingredient into her smoking cauldron- filial loyalty, passion, action, devastation, resurrection, mush, magic and war. The resultant dish promises to be hugely palatable for the juvenile reader on the run and in need of a quick literary fix. For the connoisseur however, who likes to mull over words and ideas, preferring his action in well-crafted homeopathic doses, the pace of this novel could cause severe respiratory distress.
Ascend; Amanda Hocking, PanMacmillan, Rs.299