"Order Of The Seers" by Cerece Rennie Murphy
Order of the Seers is the first book by author Cerece Rennie Murphy, and the first in what came to be her “Order of the Seers” Trilogy. A solid entry into the bookshelves of any fan of Young Adult Fiction, it also boasts a strong sense of Sci-Fi Fantasy that delves outside the typical “sparkly vampire” and “dystopian future” tropes. Instead we are introduced to a world much akin to that of Marvel’s X-Men, but instead of adamantium claws and laser-eyes, those that develop powers receive the ability to see the future; to read minds; to project mental images. But you’re not here to read me try and imitate a Wikipedia article, you’re here for my opinion on the book. So let’s get started!
Though we begin with only the primary protagonists Lili (Lilith) and Liam, it isn’t long until we are introduced to an increasingly diverse cast (whose names I won’t divulge here due to spoilers). Some of them are good, others clearly evil, and many more fall into those shades of gray that makes them so very human and relatable. Considering how “normal” people in the universe of Order of the Seers tend to treat anyone labeled as a “Seer”, the attention to detail in making the characters relatable and feeling real/human is necessary and well executed.
As a whole, the story is solid and well constructed. The first segment (or I suppose you could say “Act 1”) of the book feels almost like a standalone story within the main story itself. I would go so far as to consider it the prologue; an extended prologue, but a prologue all the same. Then from the beginning of “Act 2” to the very last page, a web of new characters, places, conflicting emotions and motives begins to form. A web of intrigue and suspense that pulls you in, not wanting to stop until the final page is turned.
One thing that plagues so many books, movies, games, etc is a lack of consistent pacing. In my eyes, Ms Murphy avoids this rather skillfully throughout Order of the Seers. She keeps the story moving forward like an F1 racer, easing back and giving the characters (and the reader) time to breathe and take in the details; then escalating to breakneck speed during times of action, but still easing back just enough so that certain details can be taken in.
I admit that the pacing of a story, especially with books, can be highly subjective based on each person’s experience. But as described above, I feel that the pacing was spot-on from my perspective. It always felt appropriate for me. Never too slow, never too fast.
Although we get to experience very little of the world Order Of The Seers takes place in, the world we are exposed to is rather intriguing in my opinion. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a “dystopian future” like in The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or Divergent series. Everything is very modern day, and except for the exceptional lives led by our protagonists and those in The Order, life just goes on for the regular citizens of the world. Yet, to once again draw a comparison to Marvel’s X-Men, there is a great fear among the general population regarding seers and their powers due to ignorance and the spread of propaganda.
Liam & Lili’s Exposition
From the moment they leave home, Liam and Lili’s lives are chronicled through large amounts of exposition, occasionally interrupted by events like almost getting caught. Not that this is a major negative, as it keeps the pace of the book going, but it did leave me wanting more. More of what Liam and Lili went through during their time on the road. More time to get a stronger connection with these characters that I had already connected with. More detail on how Liam learned to fight and protect his sister instead of a flimsy explanation that essentially boils down to “he was really good at martial arts and then started learning from street fighters”.
The times when Liam and Lili are able to talk, to reinforce the bond between brother and sister, to just be themselves with the reader…I wanted more of those times. If Ms Murphy ever releases an extended cut of the book where the siblings’ travels take up about half of the story, I would buy it in a heartbeat.
Too Many Characters
Yes, I did in fact say earlier that the cast is one of my favorite parts of this book. The problem is that eventually we reach a point when the names just start to blur together. There are the primary characters like Lili and Liam, but then there are people who “appear” for a scene or two then are never heard from again. It’s like Tolkien’s The Hobbit and all the dwarves we’re introduced to. There are a handful of people whose names we recognize and we know who they are, then there’s the rest. We may learn their name, but never develop a connection with them. They may be there for important events and act alongside the primary & secondary characters, but for us they just become Person #23.
Lack Of Consistent Focus
This concerns both of the previous points, but actually goes beyond that. When I say “lack of consistent focus”, I mean primarily who we focus on from chapter to chapter. In the earliest chapters, we go from following Lili and Liam to the sociopathic and murderous Miguel and Jason. This works well, as we get a good balance of the characters and what they’re experiencing. Then as the book progresses further, any focus on Miguel or Jason all but disappears; following anyone else within The Order is even more rare; and there are sometimes entire chapters dedicated to following unknown characters that meet up with the protagonists...who more often than not become background characters and little more.
In fact, I believe this lack of consistent focus is what was sacrificed in order to maintain the relatively strong pacing. While one normally compensates for the other (pacing vs focus) throughout the story, when the focus suddenly changes to unknown characters (who become background at worst and secondary at best) and their detailed personalities, only to switch back to the main characters when they meet…Let’s just say that it feels shoehorned in and unnecessary from my perspective.
While it certainly has some issues at times, and had me feeling that certain parts of the story “needed more” while others had [what felt like] unnecessary extras...this is a damn good book. Not even “good for Ms Murphy’s first book”, but damn good in general. It’s an exciting tale that stands well enough on its own as a work of fiction in the Sci-Fi Fantasy genre, yet has left me ready to read the next book in the trilogy (The Red Order) as soon as possible!