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Reiffen’s Choice by S. C. Butler

Posted by travizzt on March 22, 2010

A story about kidnapping and friendship. Is Reiffen’s Choice easy to befriend or would you rather have it stay away?

Reiffen’s Choice
by S. C. Butler- This is the first book in The Stoneways Trilogy. The second book is called Queen Ferris (released in 2008) and the last book is called The Magician’s Daughter (released in 2009). Reiffen’s Choice was released by Tor publishing in 2007 and is S. C. Butler’s first novel.

Reiffen’s Choice is about a boy who is the rightful heir to two kingdoms thrones, but is unable to claim them as of yet. So the boy, Reiffen, lives in an area called Valing until the time he is able to become king. While living in Valing, he befriends another boy named Avender, a girl named Ferris, a dwarf named Nolo, and a shape-changing bear named Redburr. But living in the secluded country of Valing hasn’t stopped the attempts at Reiffen’s life. While each has failed in some regard, a plot to kidnap the young prince is successful in delivering him not to his uncle, who rules in his place and is the one responsible for the attempts, but the evil Three Wizards. It’s up to Avender, Ferris, Nolo and Redburr to brave the underground road called the Stoneways to save him before the Wizards can change him. But things aren’t what they seem.

1) Dull. The story was really hard to read. Everything just felt boring. The pacing is slow and bogged down by a number of problems. The biggest reason for this is the descriptions. While they were very good, it just was too much describing and not enough story telling, thus causing the overall pacing to become dull and dry. Then there were times in which the description jumps into a place where I had no idea what was being described and I found myself thoroughly confused. This happens mostly when the rescuing party is underground, a lot of caves that were described were just really confusing and nonsensical. Even without the confusing descriptions, everything is just overly described. It seemed like you were given instructions on what you were supposed to be seeing instead of using your imagination to picture various things. It felt like I was reading instructions. This also caused the dullness of the story. The amount of names, also causes the pacing to slow. I always have a problem with too many names, it annoys me. Here, you get at least two or three new names dropped each chapter with little to no explanation or reason for a new person. Some of the people added were needed, but others just were extra and useless. Because of the insane amount of names, I found that at one point, characters were mixed up. It really didn’t help the pacing to sit there and try to remember who this was or why this person is needed. Because of these reasons, the story felt slow and was hard to read at times.
2) Main Characters. The characters were awful. They weren’t developed, most of them were cliché, and were mostly unlikable. I’ll start with the worst character; Redburr, the shape-changing being. He grated on my nerves and every time he appeared, I felt angry and cheated. He is supposed to be this lovable character that the children love and adore, but what I see is a cruel, lazy jerk. He is so unlikable and annoying that I wanted him to die, oh and he has the dying and coming back thing down, which is a disappointment. He is shallow and stupid. He thinks that everything he says is right and because of that, everyone buys into what he says and that is just wrong. At times, there are parts in which he starts to become something likable, but somehow, someway the moment gets ruined by what he says and does. Oh and not to mention that almost every time we see him, he’s either eating or complaining about not eating. It’s annoying. Nolo, the dwarf, is another problem. He has almost no real personality and mostly just seems there to be a superman-like character. Dwarves, in this world, are basically invincible. At first, it’s not a big problem, but as the story progresses, there never seems to be a situation in which Nolo could be hurt. Acid? No problem, let’s just walk through it. Getting bashed by a sword? Not even a scratch. There is one good thing about Nolo, he didn’t get on my nerves. Avender is another problem. He just isn’t interesting. It’s more like he is just there and that’s it. Towards the end he becomes something, but it just isn’t explored because we’ve come to the end of the book. But we do get a healthy dose of him in the first part! Oh joy for blandness! The other two main characters, Ferris and Reiffen, weren’t as bad. Ferris had her problems and was annoying, at various times. At least she had a personality and some sign of character development, but not enough to be out of the negative. Reiffen, on the other hand, almost saves the book. Almost, being the key word. The problem is that he is only interesting at during the middle section of the novel, which I thought his parts should have been the main story. But everywhere else, he has little to no personality or presence, and for someone who gets kidnapped at the beginning, I found it hard to really care. There is a simple reason the characters are terrible, the dialogue. Almost everything said felt either forced or unrealistic. It just didn’t work and caused the characters to not really have a personality. Even though the main characters at various times showed some depth and development, it just was forgotten for more descriptions.
3) Songs and Poems. This may be the more mundane or silly point I’m making, but they just really got under my skin. They were pointless and unbearable to read. The rhymes weren’t clever or even good. For example you had this to read, “Sky and peak!/ The breezes blow! The mast goes creak!”. Clever. They felt childish, and I just didn’t care for them. It pained me to read them.

1) Secondary Characters. Some of the secondary characters were actually wonderful. They really did bring some interesting points and added to the story in some way. For example, late in the story, Avender finds a talking rock named Durk, who I really enjoyed. I won’t give more away, but he just was interesting. The other secondary character I’ll mention is Molio, who befriends Reiffen while Reiffen is imprisoned with the Wizards. His timid personality and the way he is scared and worried about Reiffen is really touching and heartbreaking. Which makes a later scene so much more potent and devastating. I really did enjoy reading about these characters and it’s a shame that they were only bit players.
2) Plot. While not the most original story and marred with cliché, it did have promise. The concept of Reiffen being captured was interesting, but it just wasn’t executed very well. Instead of having the main story line focus on what Reiffen is doing, we are forced to read through the boring and unexciting rescuers. Really, the middle of the story should have focused more on Reiffen’s struggle, because it was done very well and the novel could have been better. Instead we are focused on two to three chapters of Redburr, Nolo, Avender, and Ferris traveling. That’s the main story line, the travels of the group. But even with the boring chapters of the traveling, when Reiffen’s chapters came up, they were wonderful and just great.
3) Wizards. I loved the Wizards. They were the most interesting characters in the novel, mostly because of the mystery and the unknown behind them. They each had a distinct personality and were developed very well. They may be the reason why the middle chapters with Reiffen are so good. They have a presence of evil, but at the same time, you don’t think they are. They are just wonderful.

Side Notes:
1) Cliché. I didn’t want to mention it in the negatives because I didn’t have to much of a problem with them. Basically, the story is cliché to the extreme. If you shook about ten or so fantasy novels out, you’d get Reiffen’s Choice. There are times when the novel has neat idea, it just gets buried by clichés.
2) Why? Why is the main story about the rescuers and not about Reiffen? I mentioned this above, but why have the main story involve traveling that has almost nothing exciting happen? There’s no fights, just sights. There’s no drama. At least with the Reiffen subplot, it’s exciting and it had a lot of great dramatic moments. Just why have the main focus be on something so boring?
3) Cover Art. If you were to judge the book by the cover, you’d stay away (which wouldn’t be a bad idea) from this one. Honestly, the only thing good about it is the bear. The boy looks gross and wrong. It doesn’t help that it reminds me of a Fabio-esque romance novel cover, with the dwarf holding the boy oh so closely. Then the muted, dull colors really reflect the story. Plus, when did this scene that’s depicted on the cover happen? I never remember Nolo riding Redburr with Reiffen (if that’s who it is) in his hands towards enemies. Wait, there were no enemies except at the beginning who were killed off by one of the Three Wizards. This kind of cover is why fantasy novels get a bad name.

Overall: 1/5
Final Thoughts:
This book fails. It fails at engaging characters. It fails at being an exciting rescue attempt. It fails at describing anything. It just fails. Even with the saving grace that was Reiffen’s scenes in the middle, it fails. Sure those helped the novel from being a worse than what is it, but not by much. The real problem I had with the novel is Redburr. I hated him. He wasn’t a good, likable, or heroic character. He is why I didn’t enjoy the story. His laziness and unsatisfiable hunger wasn’t charming, it was pathetic. I can look around the slow pacing, the descriptions that were like poorly explained instructions, the story bogged down in cliché, and the bland characters. I just can’t look pass one of the worst characters I’ve ever read. Redburr is what made this novel unbearable.

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