Title: Exiled (The Never Chronicles #1)
Author: J. R. Wagner
Pub. Date: May, 2012
Summary: James has never known an ordinary life. As long as he can remember, he and his family have been on the run—moving from place to place, never settling down, never growing roots. Now, just when he’s on the brink of manhood, the very thing his family has been trying to prevent tears him from all he has ever known and thrusts him into a place where he is powerless and alone.
Bent on finding a way back, James must brave a place reserved for the worst of his kind. He quickly learns that the land itself poses a greater threat than its inhabitants and if he is to have any chance of returning, he must work with the very people he’s been raised to fear.
James has known magic since just after he was born. As a sorcerer, his skills are exceptional yet when he wakes in The Never, his abilities are gone. Armed with nothing but determination and the will to survive, he braves a land wrought with dangers, mysteries and temptations meant to ensnare both body and mind and prevent escape forever.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
This book sounded so cool when I first read the summary! James, a gifted sorcerer at the ripe old age of 17, is convicted of a terrible crime and exiled to The Never – a place from which no one has escaped – and loses his powers. I couldn’t wait to read Exiled!
Unfortunately, this ended up being a case where the idea was far more impressive than the execution. Wagner’s writing was fine, and there were even a few moments of truly lovely wording and imagery; however, his main downfall was through the flashbacks.
Exiled takes place in Europe in the late 1800s. James Stuart is convicted of murder and as punishment, he is sent to The Never where he is stripped of his powers. Just as you’re getting a feel for The Never, there’s a flashback – and these were more often than not, not told from James’s perspective. I usually enjoy flashbacks, but these ones had nothing to do with the chapter they preceded/followed. …it was just a random point in the story.
The other issue I had was with the characters themselves. It would appear that many interactions happened off-screen so to speak, because you’d come to a chapter and suddenly these characters would truly care for one another despite having showed no signs of affection previously. It felt as though Wagner was forcing me to have some sort of emotion regarding the characters – particularly when Bad Things Happen, but that simply wasn’t the case. The only thing I felt was a hearty meh.
There was a distinct lack of consistency that bothered me to no end. I get that James is a super awesome sorcerer, but he lost his powers once he was sent to The Never. No one is supposed to have any magical ability there whatsoever. …yet nearly every character James runs into can do magic with ease, and after a while James regains his abilities.
When it comes to fantasy novels, a proper explanation of the magical system/world is absolutely dire. I was left confused by Exiled. There are the faithful and the unfaithful – those who believe in magic (??) are the faithful and obviously the unfaithful are those who did not. James’s parents converted and it’s apparently as simple as that to gain magical powers. Who’da thunk.
Also left unexplained were reasons regarding why James was the Anointed One. Again, this didn’t get more than a ‘meh’ from me. I just couldn’t care. I didn’t feel connected enough to root for James in his struggle to find his way home. The Epoch Terminus confused me as well. I’m still not entirely sure what this was. A magical apocalypse of some sort? From what I understand, it was badbadbad for the magical people, but I’m not sure why. And how were these people able to live and work alongside the rest of the world without their abilities becoming known? IT’S A MYSTERY.
And, guys, since this is a young adult novel, let’s discuss the romance! James is 17, remember? His love interest is 27. Yep. Seriously (I kid you not), there’s a “love triangle” with a man who is over 100. Honest-to-goodness, James is JEALOUS that a man well over 100 is ~close~ to his near-30 girlfriend. I…I don’t get it.
Exiled‘s ending seemed more like the ending of a chapter, than the ending of the book. The last chapter discusses something that happened to a random character and James isn’t even mentioned. ..you know, the main character.
Oddly enough, despite all my griping, I actually looked forward to continuing after coming home from work, doing laundry, etc. A LOT happened in this book and I truly can’t remember half of it (even though I just finished this morning!), but for some strange reason I liked it.