serenity_abrin: (JeMerik Meer)
[personal profile] serenity_abrin
So, I just finished Scion -- the only CrossGen title that I had basically read none of.  I got the first issue when it was released and the occasional issue when it went on sale but Scion was one of the last CrossGen titles for me to fill out, and I didn't get around to reading it until now.

It's a hard title for me.  Once I started reading, it grabbed my attention and I would go through a huge swath of it in one go.  But once I set it down, it was hard to pick up again.  Unlike a Sigil or Ruse, I just didn't have that urge to get right back to it.

Overall, the world of Avalon is interesting.  I like King Arthur, which this has a flavor of.  But the storyline of the Lesser Races really never interested me, which is unforunate given how the series progresses.  Having high technology while being a sword-and-sorcery world is neat but it's not a selling point for me.  Plus, there are large sections of the story where you can forget they even have high tech.

I'm not a huge fan of political plots but some political storylines can be interesting.  A lot of the stuff between the Ravens and Herons was interesting.  I liked seeing the war in the earlier issues and the strategy both kingdoms were using to win.  However, it was hard at first because the Ravens were using Ethan, who was letting them do it and seemed so naïve, and I didn't like that.  And I HATED when fake!Dane married Ylena off.  I knew it wasn't Dane and I knew it wasn't going to be stopped but I wanted so much for that marriage not to happen (or to be stopped before she slept with Bron).

There was also quite a bit of Deux ex Machina.  Like when Ethan ends the first war -- that seems too convenient really to actually stop the war itself and not just that one battle.  But the big one is that after they travel to Tigris for weapons and learn of their treachery, Ethan just happens to find the exact kind of weapons they need in an abandon castle on the island -- a castle and weapons trove that hasn't been ever been hinted at.  And, it just so happens to have a weapon to destroy that Tigris fleet.  Not to mention that the Tigris nation is all machines so Ethan's not committing genocide.  And just when he needs an army, hey look!  It's an army of apes.  The ending issues felt rushed.  There were a lot of dropped storylines.  I was curious if Bron at the end was really Bron or a robot!Bron (I'm inclined to think it was the real Bron because it was the real Dane but on the other hand, Bron should have some of Mai Shen's juice left to resist the programming).  [ETA: I looked at it again and Ethan slices "Bron" in two -- he's definitely a robot.]

The other thing about the series was that a lot of it felt samey -- especially at the beginning.  You had Ethan getting his mark and messing things up.  You had the introduction of a First from Dexter and a First from Sinister.  The Sinister involved herself more than the one from Dexter and super-charged a bad guy to oppose Ethan and give him a challenge.  Ethan had the same questioning as the other heroes and the same drive to figure out what he should be doing.  I mean, it's not like I hate any of this but it does feel like very well-trodden ground.

One thing I really did love about this world is the equality of women.  Ylena and Ashleigh are generals the same as their brothers.  There's never a hint that they shouldn't be out in battle, and they aren't singled out.  Mariella goes down swinging.  There are often female faces in any group shot of an army.  So, that was nice to see.  It was also heavily implied that the throne of neither Heron nor Raven was passed from father to son.  It was passed from eldest to eldest.  I think Bron's grandmother was queen before her son took over.  If Kai died, I think Ylena would then be queen rather than Ethan.  The only shocking thing about the fact that the old Raven king wanted Ashleigh to rule was because she was the youngest -- not because she was a girl.  And he clearly saw her potential.  Her being a girl wouldn't have stopped her from being a great queen, so he was open to seeing that she definitely had that potential.  I really loved that.  And I also really loved that it wasn't in-your-face.  They weren't making an example of some kind, waving a flag and saying, "Look at us!  See how progressive we are!"  No, it felt like this was a pretty gender-neutral world and that's just how it was.  So kudos on that front.  (Could've done without the snide comments the Ravens made about Ylena after the marraige though.)

I felt, when it came to distance, that Avalon took a page out of one of the Hobbit movies.  I thought there was a great big ocean between Raven and Heron lands, but Ethan and the others travel over it at the speed of the plot quite often.  I also thought the level of technology was a little suspect.  I didn't see many ranged weapons, forcing everyone to fight with swords.  They don't have energy blasters?  I guess I saw a crossbow at one point but they really don't use that weapon effectively in the war-scenes.  And they didn't use their dragons much.  It's weird that they can heal certain wounds but not others.  They have cameras and later they seem to have communication relays, but they don't use these things the way I think the people of Avalon actually would.  And they're only now coming up with submersibles.  They play with genetics but other than the Lesser Races, you don't really see that.  I just seems a little haphazard and unrealistic.

Characters:
Ethan - Really kind of meh about him.  I had a hard time warming to him.  He didn't really make the decisions I wanted him to.  I wouldn't call him an angsty teen but he does seem so naïve at first but also presented as being someone who should know better.  I don't really get why the Lesser Races became so important to him.  Like, I understand his relationship with Skink but he's also so loyal to his family.  I could see him caring but not him giving up taking down Bron or stopping to protect his people (which he doesn't).  I like him better later on when he's embraced being a leader on Sanctuary.  I don't know.  I might change my mind on him now that I know where his trajectory is going when I reread it.  But, right now, I could take or leave him.  Which doesn't bode well for the series as it's his story.

(Now that I think about it, though, I guess Danik would want Ethan to become the leader of Lesser Races.  Why else would he choose to appear as Skink and form a bond?  It's clearly Ethan's affection for Skink that forms quite a bit of his resolve that will lead him along the path he chooses.)

Ashleigh - also meh.  I had an even harder time warming up to her.  Her wardrobe is ridiculous, especially when they're on the run and she has no time to change but she's in a different outfit for each issue.  Her focus on the Lesser Races didn't endear her to me, as I think it was supposed to.  I just didn't care about the issue.  I wish there was something to show what got her on that track.  What horrible abuse did she witness that made her basically "turn" on her family?  Was it personal?  Like, if she had had her own version of Skink, who was then killed by Bron, I think her deep burning conviction to the cause would hold more weight for me.  She seemed a little cardboard to me, especially at first.  She's the kickass warrior but she's got this deeply moral cause that makes her better than all the other Ravens.  Plus, I don't care for her design (unless her hair is longer or up in a ponytail).

That said, when she finally had a conversation with her father and showed that she did love him and her people -- that was character development I needed.  I wish they'd touched more on her mother.  The other big character moment that helped was when she and Ylena had that talk while Ethan and Kai were beating the crap out of each other.  It was good to get some insight into her mind, especially about her feelings regarding Ethan.  I think some of what bothers me is that the love story between her and Ethan fell flat for me.  I thought its development was a little ham-handed in places and rushed in others.  Again, it focuses so much on the Lesser Races.  They both care so much and I don't really know why.  But, seeing how the other cares, it brings them together or something.

To me, I felt too much of the writers' presence.  It was clear immediately that Ashleigh was going to be Ethan's love interest.  She's "cool" and "mysterious".  She's "badass" but also really cares.  But, the thing is, we don't really get to see what makes Ethan attractive to her for quite a while.  We don't really see the development of her feelings.  And, Ethan is weighed down by the storyline.  Every time Ashleigh showed up, I wanted Ethan to be worried about the Heron kingdom -- either get free to warn them of the Raven invasion or get your vengeance on Bron and get home or go help your sister's army, etc.  She keeps leading him astray.  Now that I've read the whole thing, it's obvious that by "astray", she's actually leading him down the path he's supposed to be going on.  But I didn't like it, so I was lukewarm about her.

That said, I do think there are things to admire about her.  I really didn't care about the Lesser Races storyline and I didn't find her motivation to be explained well or her arc to be convincing.  But, if I accept what the book was going for, she's a strong woman who knows her own mind and has made her choice.  She is a skilled warrior and strong-willed.  She really never wavers from her path.  While Ethan might be conflicted, Ashleigh really doesn't seem to be -- not once her father dies.  She has her goal and she sticks to it.  She will do whatever's necessary to achieve it.

However, once they've built Sanctuary, she seems to be overshadowed by Ethan.  She says several times that her place is with him and that she will go where he does.  She supports him, and that's admirable.  But she seems to yield quite a bit of authority to him.  He's the one who's deemed a liberator.  He's the one who everyone goes to for decisions.  She's moral support and an extra sword.  I would've been happier if she and Ethan talked more about decisions that needed to be made.  Too often, Ethan shows doubt and she says she will support him whatever he decides.  Now, because Ethan is given the sigil and the whole point of the series is to ready him for the Negation War, it makes sense that he's the focus and that he's the one who needs to make these decisions.  But it sucks to see her sidelined.

All of this is my first impression.  It might change later on once I've read it again.  Perhaps she did have more moments to shine and I didn't notice them.  But, right now, that was kind of where it was left.

Bron - I think I like him?  I definitely didn't like him initially -- not even in the way you can like bad guys.  It's just, he didn't learn.  He was already going to be king one day.  His father was trying to explain what he was doing wrong.  But he was so angry and hotheaded -- I don't really enjoy those characters.  But at some point, he did become fun.  He does learn a little bit of patience.  Mai Shen seems to have had at least a little bit of an effect on him.  Certainly after Kort is crowned the first time and Bron returns, he's much calmer.  While I was super sickened by his marriage to Ylena, I liked the calm strategy that he was employing.  But he was one of those that suffered from the rushing of the later issues.  I liked how he was trying to win Ylena over with his talk in the maze -- I would've liked to see him play some mental chess games with her (though I don't think I could've stomached the relationship for any longer).  So, on the one hand, he seems to have learned some strategy and patience.  But on the other hand, he's still out for Ethan's blood -- still easily goaded.  And then the fight where Kort ends up killing him was the lamest thing I've seen.  I mean the fight was probably supposed to be intense but the drawings really didn't show any energy to them.  And, again, he's not really dead.

I did like the dynamic between him and Kort.  I still didn't like Bron at the point when he killed his dad and he was out for his sister's blood.  But as he tempered, I grew to enjoy him.  He upsets the applecart.  I sort of ship him and Ethan in a hate!sex kind of way.  I wish there had been more exposition about his appearance in the last issue.  Was that really Bron?  When did the machines get him?  And did he care for Mai Shen or was he using her as she used him?

Mai Shen - not a fan.  I mean, she was definitely an interesting character.  Like I said, though, she seemed samey.  She certainly showcases House Sinister traits.  Very manipulative and ambitious and also used her sexuality a lot, which seems like what Sinister does.  At least she didn't seem quite as prone to anger as some other Sinister First.  She just came off as a little slimy.  I didn't care for the way she glomped onto Bron.  I mean, one of the first things she does is tattle on the King, which gets him killed.  But, it also got her what she wanted -- Bron as King, which gets her closer to be a goddess on this world.  So, she's focused on herself (which is how Sinisters are) and she's achieving her own ends.  I really started to actively dislike her when she killed Bernd Rechts.

Bernd Rechts is a character that interested me.  I mean, at first, he was kind of meh because we've seen this before -- Dexter and Sinister both exerting influence and circling each other.  Also, he doesn't really have much of a personality.  But, I was really interested to see one of the Dexter First trying to manipulate the politics of a world and also get close to a Sigil-bearer.  Also, I thought it was going to be really interesting to see Bernd Rechts and Mai Shen using Raven and Heron armies to go after each other.  But, since they don't have any personal reason to hate each other, it would be like a real-life chess match.  I thought that would've been awesome to see.  I definitely thought the promise of that character was cut way too short.  I would've liked to see more of a fight from him when he took Mai Shen on.  It seems like House Dexter often gets the shaft.  I guess because House Sinister is so self-centered and ambitious, they make for more interesting characters who are more prone to go off-script.  But it would've been nice to see more of a House Dexter whose not on the level of Yala or Trenin.  So, that was disappointing.

And then she compounds the injury of killing off the character I liked by giving me a moment's hope that he survived anyway.  But, no, she pretends to be him to lead the Herons into a trap.  That's another thing I dislike about her.  I knew as soon as Dane was kidnapped that it was Mai Shen posing as him, which pissed me off every time I saw fake!Dane.  And it leads to that icky wedding storyline that I can't stand.  At least she does seem to care for Bron (although I can't tell if that's because he's useful to her ends or she enjoys him as a toy).  I was glad Ethan finally killed her, though it seemed a little anticlimactic in a way.  I would've liked Bron to have been there to see it.  And, it seemed like a bit of a turn for her.  While ambitious, she was also pretty cautious.  She saw what Ethan had done.  I didn't really see her taking him on and expecting it to be so easy.  I mean, on some level that is true to House Sinister to believe themselves gods, but it didn't feel right for her character at that time.  Like I said, the ending storylines felt rushed.

Heron Royal Family - I really did love how much love and affection there was in this family -- how they're a close-knit family.  There's no backstabbing here.  I liked how Dane and Mariella talked over their problems together.  Dane was king but he clearly valued his wife's input.  They clearly had been together a long time and loved each other well.  They clearly loved their children too.  Dane was definitely a fair, wise, and good ruler.  I was so irritated by what Mai Shen did when she was parading around as him because of the contrast to what you know he would've really wanted.  And it was so sad what happened to him -- a drunkard in Raven lands with no memory of anything.  And the pressure to pretend to be a king when he can't remember anything at all.  I felt so bad for him.  His storyline is one that I wish I could've seen a more satisfying conclusion to -- to see him remember and then see the real Dane react to what happened while he was gone (Ylena's marriage, the war, etc.).  Mariella went out like a BAMF but I was so sad to see that.  And to see Dane as a puppet once more.  I was so glad to see him break free to protect his son.  Some things are too deep and he clearly loves his family to the core.  And his talk with Ethan right after Sanctuary was formed showed what a good father he is.

I wanted to shake Kai.  I mean, you know as a reader that he's in the wrong -- that Ethan has to do what he's doing because of the Sigil and because of the plot.  And it sucked further because Mai Shen's presence sort of let their animosity fester where it might've healed if Dane had been there.  I generally sided with Kai though -- I would've rather Ethan stayed with his family.  Kai and Ylena are interesting, complex characters.  The book does a great job of showing Kai not expecting to be the heir and how he deals with this change.  I adored that the siblings were all clearly close.  They clearly loved each other.  I just really enjoyed this family.  I was glad that Kai and Ethan made up in the end.  I adored Ylena.  I loved that she was a general but she also wore pretty clothes and was traditionally feminine -- they were all just different facets of her that didn't need comment but her concern was always about the relevant things in the plot (i.e. the war or what was going on with her family, etc.).  I HATED that she married Bron.  You could see how much it hurt her to do, and I just wanted it to stop.  I did like the beginnings of a sisterly bond between her and Ashleigh.

I wish we'd gotten to see more of Artor.  If there were a Prompt Meme for CrossGen, I would prompt the idea of Artor being alive and how that would've changed things.  Like, I don't think Kai would've been so quick to jump on Ethan for being treasonous if he wasn't feeling the burden of being Heir to the Crown.  And Artor seemed more easygoing -- I think he would've been like Dane and understood what Ethan was doing.  And, if Kai wasn't so upset with Ethan and there was another set of eyes, I think Mai Shen's deception would've been uncovered quicker.  Artor seemed more sure of himself.  I think he would've felt more comfortable confronting the king, and more comfortable standing up against him when he realized the king wasn't acting like himself.

Nadia Thindi/Tigris -- Man, did I end up hating these guys.  I mean, it's clearly by design.  The leader-lady is so smug and self-righteous (things I can't stand anyway).  They're all that way.  I actually missed that the leader-lady was a robot too.  I *think* all of Tigris is?  It was hard to tell.  Are there still regular people in Tigris and they're basically slaves?  Or is Tigris really all robots, meaning that they would end up wiping out the other lifeforms?  It runs counter to their philosophy, but then I didn't catch what was up with them when they were first introduced.  It wasn't until the invasion that you realize they were going to be tyrannical and despotic.  On paper, they could've been right that removing the Heron and Raven royal families would lead to peace.  So, I didn't catch how terrible they actually were.  And then I wonder if maybe they were supposed to have more nuance and present a grayer world but they suffered from being rushed.  It was very noticeable how their invasion held off for so long -- for Ethan to return home, learn of his sister's wedding, travel to Raven lands, go after his sister, then spends weeks searching for his father, and then returning home.  Then, only once all that was done did the invasion happen.

And at that point, they were all robots, all wearing the same face, and all utter dicks.  The way they treat Dane.  The utter disregard they actually show for life, regardless of the philosophy they're espousing.  You just wanted them to be taken down.  But it's convenient that none of them are really "alive" and that they can be taken out the way they take out the bad guys in The Avengers movie.  It wraps up so nicely (especially for a *war*).  I knew that Nadia was going to be a traitor before she showed up but it was noticeable how weird she acts -- joining up with the group without really any reason why.  She was kind of cool.  I wouldn't say she was a character because she turned out not to really have any inner life.  In one of the glimpses of the future they showed, I was really confused that it showed Nadia by King Ethan.  But it must be a different robot.  Ethan must make peace with Tigris at some point.

Ending
It was mostly satisfying.  The school-group shows that Ethan will eventually be triumphant.  He and Ashleigh will likely come to be king and queen of a united Heron/Raven dynasty (as shown in the window art in the future).  It would be interesting if Bron ever makes peace or is ever finally killed.  Like I said, the Dane-storyline was the one that was still in the air for me.  It's pretty clear that Ethan's on his way to settling down.  His island has become self-sustaining and is armed.  Kort and Kai are coming into their own as leaders.  There's going to be a ton of rebuilding for both nations, which I think could be used to foster peace (after some initial tension as Bron likely tries to take advantage of the situation).  Tigris won't be a threat any time soon and now Raven/Herons know to be worried about them.  Everyone's sort of starting from scratch.  It probably is a good time for Ethan to go off with Danik.  I'm not sure where they would've gone from there except a lot of rebuilding.

I also feel like Bron is the kind of character who would eventually be turned to being an ally (after a LONG arc).  He's just too fun as a character and he's already mellowed a little bit.  Being imprisoned would've given him time to plot but I'd like to see more forward momentum on his character.  Unless they would've decided to go back to how he was in the beginning as he's without Mai Shen's influence (which would be a BIG mistake), I think he and Ethan eventually have an uneasy, untrustful truce.  So, that's an arc I think they would've done if they had continued on.  I don't think they ever would've killed Bron off for real.

The one other prompt I would make is for Skink to reveal himself as Danik and to see Ethan's reaction -- everyone's reaction, really -- to Skink being the most powerful being in the universe.  That's what I want to see.

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