CSFF Blog Tour—Trackers Review

If it’s true that Trackers is the final book in Kathryn Mackel’s Birthright Project, at least the story is ending on a high note. Mackel is a talented writer, and she has crafted an intriguing, action-filled story with depth.

The series, set in a future time following the Endless Wars, began with Outriders, a story about the Birthrighters from the Second Ark, charged with spreading the gospel and collecting samples of plants and animals unharmed by sorcerous transmutations. Trackers continues where that first book left off, meaning that the characters must deal with the consequences of the previous events while initiating a new group of rooks (rookies) into their community.

I have to admit, reading Trackers without the benefit of the background laid in book one was not ideal. For the first forty pages or so, I did little more than try to keep straight who was who while I adjusted to the “rules” of this new world.

Soon thereafter I found several characters I could easily root for and who I cared enough about that the story mattered, their danger mattered. From that point on, the story flew by.

Strengths. Mackel’s world building is exceptional. She created a believable place with incredible danger because of man’s efforts at playing god. Whether in the palace with its opulence or the squalor of the surrounding streets, the Birthrighter camp, or the outlying village, the places felt real. Nothing unestablished surprised me (a tree to duck behind when the tree had not previously been situated, for example), yet all this was done without any long, intrusive descriptions that did not advance the story.

For the most part the characters were just as realistic. Certainly Nikki and Brady were well drawn, with strengths, histories, passions, weaknesses. In addition, they grew, developed, learned, and overcame.

Because the characters had clear goals, the plot was well constructed. As each person tried to accomplish what he or she wanted, the events they initiated created new obstacles and larger challenges that demanded more from them.

The result was a fast-paced story that also had meaning. The themes of the book were powerful, in large part because Mackel crafted them well. She did not shrink from the Christian elements nor did she resort to any of the characters explaining the lessons they learned.

Weaknesses. Without a doubt, much of my early confusion while reading Trackers was because of the fact that I had not read Outriders, a situation I hope to rectify in the near future.

However, as many of the current novelists are prone to do, Mackel switched point-of-view characters so frequently at the start, it was hard for me to attach to anyone. In addition, she adopted the point of view of the antagonists from time to time which kept me from truly dreading them or feeling the horror of their evil.

I know this is not peculiar to Mackel. Many others may actually applaud her for this tactic. I disagree. In a story of good versus evil, I don’t want to feel sympathy for the reprehensible, and putting me into their thoughts somehow softens my reaction to them—just the opposite of what I think a fantasy should accomplish.

One other minor problem to note. I thought two of the more prominent characters (not the protagonists exactly—there was actually a cast of protagonists) were so similar—in their doubts about their own abilities and the way they rose to the occasion when they needed to—that I wished there had been a little more individuation. I suspect that is a fairly picky criticism and one that would not trouble most readers.

Mackel has a wonderful imagination and the result of her efforts in Trackers is a story of light and redemption in a dark world. It’s a story that can encourage and uplift even as it entertains. I highly recommend you read Outriders first, then follow it up as soon as possible with Trackers.

Don’t forget to visit some of the other bloggers on the tour, if not today, then a few each day this week.

  • Jim Black
  • Jackie Castle
  • Valerie Comer
  • Frank Creed
  • Gene Curtis
  • Chris Deanne
  • Janey DeMeo
  • April Erwin
  • Beth Goddard
  • Todd Michael Greene
  • Karen Hancock
  • Elliot Hanowski
  • Katie Hart
  • Sherrie Hibbs
  • Sharon Hinck
  • Joleen Howell
  • Jason Joyner
  • Karen and at Karen’s myspace
  • Oliver King
  • Tina Kulesa
  • Lost Genre Guild
  • Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 – The Compendium
  • Terri Main
  • Rachel Marks
  • Shannon McNear
  • Rebecca LuElla Miller
  • Caleb Newell
  • Eve Nielsen
  • John Otte
  • Cheryl Russel
  • Hannah Sandvig
  • Mirtika Schultz
  • James Somers
  • Stuart Stockton
  • Steve Trower
  • Speculative Faith
  • Chris Walley
  • Daniel I. Weaver
  • Timothy Wise
  • Published in: on December 13, 2006 at 11:49 am  Comments (6)  

    6 Comments

    1. Blogger is being a bear and not letting me comment in places I would like to, so may I say here that on my blog today I’ve posted a message from Kathryn regarding the cancellation of the third book? http://invalslittleworld.blogspot.com

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    2. Valerie, I’m so glad you did. I’ll have to go back and read that myself.

      It’s Beta Blogger that is shutting me out. I’ve been able to post comments on regular Blogger without problem.

      I’m sad for the folks that maybe are thinking that no one cares about their post, not realizing the problem.

      Becky

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    3. Great review, Becky. I so loved the way Kathy doesn’t “shrink” from Christian elements as you put it!

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    4. Yes, Beta Blogger has been insisting on my Google login…and then telling me it is invalid. Repeatedly. Grr. Almost enough to make me want to switch to a LiveJournal account!

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    5. Thanks, Beth. I always appreciate your feedback.

      Valerie, I even tried to register for a Google account and got a 405 error message. Go figure. That at least made me think it wasn’t my computer that was the problem. Too bad it hit during the tour.

      Becky

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    6. Wow, Rebecca–are you ever right–amazing how many similar points we brought up in our reviews. That’s encouraging. As I’d read trackers, I consitered many of your observations. Nice work!

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