My rating: ★☆☆☆☆
I’m very glad to be near finished with this series. When it started out weak, I was sure it was going to get better. Unless something amazing happens in the last two books, it looks like I was wrong–things have actually gotten worse over the course of the past few books. Ari has turned into one of the worst Sues I’ve ever read, and any nostalgia I had for this series has been duly purged.
Really, I’m genuinely confused as to how I could ever have enjoyed this series. As I am now, it hits just about all of my least favorite fantasy and children’s lit cliches: hypocritical pseudo-hippy spiels, an exceptionally hypocritical Messiah protagonist, a pseudo-Christian deity whose supposed supremacy and holy righteousness goes completely unquestioned, strict black and white morality, and villains that even Disney would have rejected for being too stereotypical. Oh, and everyone’s white. Everyone.
Generalities aside, Secrets of the Scepter is the low point of an already disappointing series. After retrieving the Scepter and removing the immediate threat the Shifter posed when he had the Indigo Star, Ari must learn how to use her new magic properly. To do so, the Scepter must be joined with three golden rings. (At this point, even Ari seems to realize the “making it up as we go along” nature of this series. These rings are supposedly part of a tradition as old as her royal family, but even she’s never frickin’ heard of it before.)
So to find these rings, Ari runs around the wilderness of Balinor, foisting her opinions on people and animals who want nothing to do with her. And when the various groups expressly inform her that she has zero authority in their domain, everybody looses their shit. Chase starts roaring about how the land belongs to no one but a thinly-veiled Expy of the Judeo-Christian God, and how Ari has authority over everyone on her side of the Gap because God gave her family the Scepter.
Seriously, that’s her argument. God gave her family the Scepter, so she gets to tell everyone what to do. Because monarchies touting claims of Divine Right are always the right way to go.
And gods freakin’ forbid anyone doesn’t bow at her feet. Secrets of the Scepter introduces a bit more background into Balinor, most prominently of which are the Lords of the three remaining Houses. Two of them are bumbling dunderheads ready to go along with anyone who claims to be part of the royal family. Rexel, on the other hand, is not.
Lord Rexel demands proof that Ari is who she claims to be. Reasonable enough, right? Apparently not, because everyone loses their shit about this, too. Ari launches into a rant about how he’s always enjoyed causing problems for her parents and now he’s doing it to her, too.
Because he wants her to prove who she is and isn’t ready to risk his people on a war that might just be one of Entia’s tricks, Rexel is absolutely vilified. Besides Lori, he’s is the first person in the series to show an ounce of critical thinking, and he so obviously he’s cruel, hateful, and possibly villainous.
What problems, then, has he been causing Ari’s parents for years? He questions their decisions and makes some of his own. (God, no; someone stop him!) Worse yet, he insists on calling his castle a castle! Everyone knows that only the royal family is allowed to live in a castle! (Quick, off with his head before he does something crazy!)
…seriously, what is going on here? If I hadn’t already realized Ari was a self-righteous little brat, I would be surprised that her supposedly noble and well-loved family is such a bunch of pricks. At this point I’m sure that if I were living in Balinor, I’d probably signed up to work with the Shifter by now. Because this is ridiculous. Start a revolution, people. Where’s your George Washington?
Kidding aside, the Shifter’s rarely-seen subplot is the last bit of potential interest this series has to offer. I’m so desperately hoping to see some awesomeness from him in the last two books. Let’s at least try to end this with a bang, please?