Review: “Memory Hunter,” Frank Morin

Pros: Gripping extended dream battle sequence
Cons: Oh where do I start…
Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Frank Morin’s Memory Hunter (The Facetakers Book 1) started out okay, and headed South from there. Sarah worked for Alter Ego, where she basically rented out her body for other people to have their soul put in her body for a limited time. Apparently she revealed a big plot there and the place was destroyed. Now she’s going to meet up with Tomas, who helped her at Alter Ego, and try to get him to help some of the people who are now stuck in other people’s bodies. However, someone’s trying to follow her–and quite possibly, kill her. Mai Luan, who was apparently the bad guy in this previous adventure, has a new agenda that involves the council of facetakers (those people who can move souls from one body to another–including their own, meaning that most of them have lived for hundreds or even thousands of years). The council seems to have bought whatever it is she’s selling, so it’s up to Sarah, Tomas, Gregorios, and Eirene to save everyone.

That description above probably sounds kind of confusing. When I read a book labeled as “book one” in a series, I expect to be starting at the beginning of the series! As it turns out, there’s a “book zero”. Do not read this one first–while you can get through it, it doesn’t stand alone all that well. Speaking of not standing alone well–the council of facetakers. Because we never get to see them at their supposed “normal”, the fact that they’re all supposedly acting terribly out of character has no real weight to it.

The facetakers and their enemies seem to be responsible for everything. Each chapter starts off with a quote from either a facetaker or a famous figure, all of whom seem to be well aware of the existence of heka, facetakers, and so on. This leads to one of my major problems with the book. An enchanter apparently convinced Hitler to kill the Jews in order to also kill a bunch of hunters (also, Hitler was crazy because of too many soul transfers). The hunters, of course, were “far too clever to get caught and sent off to the concentration camps…” Hoo boy. Let me count the ways in which this was a bad idea. First, there’s the implication that Hitler and the Nazis were tricked into killing the Jews, rather than placing the blame squarely where it belongs: on racist humans. Second, there’s the statement that hunters escaped the camps because they were clever. In other words, apparently if the Jews had just been more clever, they could have escaped the camps too. I can’t even… Wow. Just, if you’re going to write about Nazis, maybe have some people very carefully read over your words to be sure you aren’t accidentally offensive. (To make sure it wasn’t just me, I ran these various issues past some friends who are closer to these issues than I am. Yeah, they weren’t impressed either.)

Oh wait, speaking of offensive:

The slender Chinese-American had inherited the best of both cultures. She wore her silky, black hair long, tied back to accentuate her delicate features. Her face looked more American than Chinese…

Okay. First, the author seems to have confused genetic inheritance with cultural. He speaks of Mai Luan as having the best of both cultures, then goes into physical details, which are genetic. Second, “American” isn’t an ethnic group, so it wouldn’t contribute genetic features. Third, following up “the best of both” with “Her face looked more American than Chinese” implies that American faces are better than Chinese. Whoops.

I’m pretty sure the author wanted me to like Sarah, but it was difficult. She’s fairly shallow. Then there’s this:

She grew accustomed to his new form very quickly, and wondered how she’d never realized he didn’t belong in Carl’s mediocre body.

So… a badass operative is not believable unless he’s also ruggedly handsome? There’s no such thing as a nondescript badass? Ugh. The ultimate case of body-shaming.

One of the characters, Alter, a hunter, starts off with a very erratic personality, and lots of ridiculous mugging and posing. His personality somewhat settles down later on, but it’s too much at first.

Mai Luan is the stereotypically stupid villain, even though she must have needed some smarts to totally bamboozle the council the way she has. She has an untold number of opportunities to kill, maim, and turn in the good guys, yet she just keeps letting them go. I wish I’d thought to count the number of times she lets them go.

Mai Luan’s wounds healed almost instantly, but instead of ripping Gregorios’ arms off, she paused to watch the fight, a little smile on her lips.

She’s exponentially more powerful than anybody else in the book, meaning the author had to make her crazy and stupid in order to keep her from winning. It’s ridiculous.

There’s an extensive semi-dream-sequence battle that’s actually quite gripping, and is the one part of the book I really enjoyed. However, if the characters are able to think guns into being while in that reality, then they ought to be able to think a rope or ladder into being when trying to climb out of a pit.

Ultimately, I can’t recommend this book. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying, and it’s problematic.

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