Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Review of the Halflings Trilogy



About the Series

Book 1: "In the first book of the Halflings Trilogy, Nikki Youngblood discovers she’s the central force of a madman’s plan, and turns to three half-angel boys for protection. With the Halflings, she’s completely safe. Everything except her heart. And Mace’s soul. Falling for him could ensure his eternal ruin."

Book 2: "In book two of the Halflings Trilogy by author Heather Burch, Nikki Youngblood discovers there might be more to her gifts than simply Seeing—making her a central part of Damon Vessler’s plans. Mace and Raven are forced to work together to keep Nikki safe, but will their love and protection be enough to keep Nikki from the future set before her?"

Book 3: "In the third book of the Halflings series from author Heather Burch, Nikki must finally make a decision—not only which Halfling boy she will give her heart to, but where she stands in the supernatural war her godfather has unleashed. Though first she must ward off a demonic Seeker that is intent on ending her life."

[Book descriptions from the Blink YA Books website.]


My Review

The "Halflings" trilogy caused divided reactions in me: half enthralled, half frustrated. I admit that one of my biggest difficulties in approaching the stories was reconciling the presented theology with the awareness that the series is more fantasy than a presentation of angelology and the like. When it comes to novels with angels (or in this case, half angels) as the main characters, some sort of theology is going to be involved, whether the author wishes to highlight it as a valid interpretation of Scripture or not. I occasionally got hung up on things that were probably not intended to be huge statements, but bothered me, nonetheless. It was a bit of a jerky ride - being swept along through some of the action and romance scenes, but then getting snagged by attitudes and beliefs that didn't resonate (as well as some dialogue and actions that confused or annoyed me). That being said, it was still an enjoyable ride, overall, and one that certainly culminated in an exciting conclusion!

Haflings sets the stage by introducing some interesting characters and creating a good bit of intrigue about who Nikki is and what all the hoopla is about (i.e.: why everyone is either chasing her or determined to protect her from the ones chasing her). Guardian continues the romantic drama created in the first book by adding some rather fantastical plot twists (including a yacht ride to Europe vs. flying there) and keeping the Nikki pendulum swinging between her two admirers. Avenger adds a bit more depth by raising the stakes, giving the characters some maturity, and forcing the characters to face what needs to be faced (no matter how painful the revelations are) and decide what they're willing to fight for - and sacrifice for.

Through the books - especially in Guardian - it felt a bit like the Halflings were some sort of "Avengers" or "Justice League" group. It was like they were super heroes with special powers called upon to save the world - or at least their assigned problem in the world. I think this impression was supported by the faith aspect, especially the take on prayer that bothered me in Guardian. There's one scene where Will - the guardian of Vine, Mace, and Raven (the Halflings initially assigned to Nikki) - told Nikki to pray, pointing out the supernatural realm where angels were fighting to keep death from entering the scene and taking certain lives. When Nikki prayed, it came across (to me) as a matter of course vs. a genuine communication with an omnipotent God. She even asks something after saying a prayer to the effect of, "Did I do it?" as if she was the one who was responsible for any change in the situation. That attitude seemed to permeate a lot of the series - a focus on the deeds of the angels and Halflings rather than the source of their strength in the One they were supposed to be serving. The references to "the Throne," while in keeping with the feeling of a group of soldiers getting orders from the General, kept the faith element from really feeling personal or authentic to me.

Like I noted before, it's sometimes hard to keep in mind that this is mainly fantasy, especially when Scripture
is noted in defense of why certain things are the way they are in the story. When biblical references are used to support certain theories presented in the books, I can't help but wrestle with them. I know, I know - it's fiction, and the books certainly don't attempt to tell you otherwise! Yet, it was hard to mark the distinction between when the books were exploring interesting ideas for the sake of a good story, and when they were trying to convey certain beliefs beyond the fiction. I guess it just ended up being more confusing than inspiring or convicting in a theological sense.

As for the plot and the characters, there were some things that bugged me: Nikki's role, especially, as well as the repetitive back-and-forth interactions between her and her two guys. I could sympathize with her often enough to keep me reading, but her flip-flopping emotional extremes and her drastic personality shifts from warrior to wounded girl did annoy me. I admire that she was supposed to be a "tough" heroine, and I certainly understand why she had difficulty figuring out her affections when both boys did crazy things to her heart. But when Nikki noted in Halflings that she had taken six years of martial arts and was therefore basically able to take on any man, I scoffed. I realize that different types of martial arts can better prepare you for real-life combat than others, and different people can learn more quickly than others, but still...six years? That hardly makes anyone an expert in any field, especially considering Nikki is a teenager! (Yes, this is sort of a minor element I'm picking on, but the whole martial-arts thing didn't jive with me. Nikki ended up being open to learning more about fighting techniques, but I guess it was more that her character's personality and activities didn't always mesh for me, in general.)

Despite my complaints, I did find the books to be engaging. I devoured them pretty quickly, and I really appreciated being able to read them nearly one right after the other. The plot held my interest, and I think it and the character development came together the best in Avenger, which was my favorite of the three. (Although I imagine I enjoyed it that much more because I had been with the characters through two previous books and I could finally see them grow and find some resolution. I certainly recommend all of the books being read together and in order, if possible, for the most enjoyment.)

So, what's the verdict? I was personally frustrated by some of the faith elements (as they were presented) and some of the ideas behind the story and the characters. However, it's an intriguing and creative series that ultimately challenges and changes its characters, leaving an impact on the reader. Some parts feel ridiculous, and some end up working well when all is said and done - not to mention that it is a mostly fun reading experience, despite the little annoyances. The "Haflings" trilogy is one that can leave the reader rather torn, as I am...but I'm still glad to have met the characters and been given the opportunity to ponder some interesting topics because of them.

*With many thanks to Zondervan and DJC Communications for providing me with a copy of each book in the series in exchange for my honest opinion.*

16 comments:

Rebeka B. said...

Oh, a love triangle. *sighs* I don't know if I'll pick these books up, then. I've read too many books with love triangles and the girl unable to choose, and it always detracts from more interesting plot points. I want action-adventure fantasy with the sprinkle of romance as a cherry on top. When the romance becomes all-consuming, or the biggest plot point (at least, in books that are marketed otherwise), that's when I check out.

Good review, Amber!

Samantha Jo said...

I'm so fascinated with your divided opinion on these I think I have to read them for myself! To my Kindle they go... thanks for a great review Amber :)

Amber Stokes said...

Rebeka,

Ah, yes...love triangles, LOL. ;) In this case, I think that aspect of the book is made fairly obvious in the marketing and everything, so what you see is kind of what you get. ;) These are definitely romances that are carried along by high-stakes situations and drama. Doesn't sound like it would be your cup of tea, exactly, but maybe some other reviews will help you decide for sure!

Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to read this rather long review!

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Samantha,

Hahaha, that is awesome! I was worried that my review didn't really convey all I wanted to say and might be too negative or not as helpful as it could be...so it means a lot to hear you say that my ramblings made you curious, if nothing else! :) Now I will be curious to see how you like the series! And the prices are pretty sweet for the Kindle books now, so I'm glad you were able to snag them. :)

It was my pleasure - thank you for reading my review!

~Amber

Rebeka B. said...

Gotcha. I'll definitely check out other reviews--and I might end up picking up the books if I see them somewhere. I don't mind romance so much, it's just--I've read too many love triangles that have simply rubbed me the wrong way.

And you're welcome! I enjoy long reviews! :)

Samantha Jo said...

Book One down, Two and Three to go... I really enjoyed the fantasy with the spiritual element mixed in (and without all the "creepiness" that can sometimes come with more secular reads similar to this). Totally agree with you on the struggle with mixing Biblical elements and Fantasy fiction, that's a but tricky I think.
A good story though, overall. There's something wonderful about the imagination required for stories like these...

Amber Stokes said...

Rebeka,

Sounds like a good plan! And I understand... I LOVE romance, but there are some love triangles that are just annoying. This one does get that way, especially in books 1 and 2, but I did end up really appreciating and being moved by some of the character growth it produced in book 3.

I tend to be short-winded, as I've said before (LOL), but once in a while I'll write a longer review. Glad to know you enjoy them! ;)

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Samantha,

WOW - you already finished Halflings?? That didn't take you long! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

I agree with both of your assessments - it does seem like the premise creates a tricky balance to maintain between fantasy and faith, and yet the imagination behind it is admirable. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and enjoy Guardian and Avenger (my favorite)!

~Amber

Kara said...

Yeah, you've highlighted some of the reasons that I've been hesitant to try this series, Amber. I've been waiting until it was complete before even thinking about attempting it.

Love triangles? Not really a fan of them. And when dealing with angels? Hmmm.

Good to know they are a fun adventure regardless! Nice review, Amber dear. :D

Amber Stokes said...

Kara,

It's certainly an interesting series! Guess it makes us curious but also wary. ;) It was very kind of DJC Communications and Zondervan to let me give the books a try and review the whole series! I'm also glad I could read them all together and avoid the added drama of cliffhangers followed by long waits. ;)

I think I have a love-hate relationship with love triangles, LOL. I mean, I'm obviously fascinated by different romantic journeys, as evidenced by Bleeding Heart's premise, and I'm moved and intrigued by a well-done love triangle (like, say, Phantom of the Opera, for instance). But sometimes they can be too formulaic, too unkind and unnecessary, and too annoying. This one often bordered on the annoying side, but I have to say I was touched by some parts of it, especially in book 3. :)

Anyway, thanks for reading my review, and thanks for the sweet words! :)

~Amber

youngadultbooks said...

These are on my reading list! :) Thanks for providing more info on them. I'm really interested in checking them out, though I'll have to keep the faith/fantasy conflicts in mind.

Amber Stokes said...

Hey, Kasey!

Fun stuff! It was awesome to get a chance to review this series, so I'm happy to spread the word and share about the books. :) I hope you enjoy them if you do check them out! I'd be interested in hearing your impression on the faith/fantasy conflict. :)

~Amber

Samantha Jo said...

Finally finished book two... I agree with the comments on the love triangle. However I'm still torn between the two which isn't what I'd normally say about a love triangle that has lasted through multiple books. Looking forward to book three since you said it was your favorite! SO glad I read your review, I'm enjoying this series - thanks again Amber!

Amber Stokes said...

Samantha,

I hear ya! Through most of the first books I was pretty frustrated with 1/3 of the love triangle...but he must have stolen enough of my heart to make me care for him as much as I did in book 3. Doesn't mean he wasn't still frustrating...but still. ;) Hope you enjoy book 3 and how it all turns out!

And *I'm* so glad my review made you want to read the series, and that you're enjoying the books so far! That makes me happy. :) Thank you for stopping by to share your thoughts on what you've read!

~Amber

Rissi said...

Hmm. I must say that once upon a time this series made me excited. Now I've read so many ho-hum reviews that I'm not sure I'll take time to read the trilogy. We shall see. Perhaps I shall still and maybe I'll get rid of the first two books I already had. Time will tell.

Thanks for the informative review!

Amber Stokes said...

Rissi,

Ah, I'm sorry to hear that! I was rather torn about the series, but it did hold my interest and I did enjoy certain things about it. :) I hope you like it if you do give it a try! But I understand how books can be put on the back burner, and it's easy for the excitement to get lost over time... I know I say this a lot (and I'm not the only one), but there really are so many books, and so little time to read them!

I hope my review was helpful and not too all-over-the-place! Thank you for reading it. :)

~Amber