Sunday, May 25, 2014

Spirit Bear by Rod Raglin

Kimberley is an ambitious employee for a prestigious corporate relations firm whose client wants to build a ski resort in Northern Canada. Jonah is part owner to a lodge within the desired real estate and is intent on sabotaging the deal by rallying an environmental activist platform centered around the rare Kermode bear, a subspecies of black bear renowned for its cream colored coat. Kimberly and Jonah find themselves attracted to each other but differing priorities and ideals results in heated conflict. This is the first book in the Eco-Warriors series that can also be read as a stand alone.

Spirit Bear was an okay book that I picked up because I was interested in the environmental activist aspect and I like Kermode bears. I enjoyed how the nature landscapes were portrayed with vivid visual descriptions and a sense of appreciation. I also liked the personification of the animals and their short side stories highlighted in the book.

This book utilized a lot of story telling stereotypes and cliches that made the story easier to absorb but also created an off-putting reading experience for me.

The characters felt two dimensional in their characterization. I didn't like how absolute their personalities and morals were or how they were portrayed in over exaggeration.  I'm not sure if they were just meant to be symbolic caricatures but the result felt like a strange morality play.

Due to my ethnicity I'm hyper aware and critical of how Native Americans are portrayed in the various forms of media. The story's inclusions of cliche stereotypes such as being "adopted" into a tribe, vision quests, selling land without comprehending the contract, and metaphorical dialogue left me feeling exasperated. I also didn't like that the Japanese businessmen were portrayed as poachers wanting superficial trophies for shallow medicinal purposes.

I disliked that these ethnic stereotypes were included but I recognize that this may be in combination with the poor character development overall. I appreciated that it wasn't overly excessive and I acknowledge that the author did try to edit the perspective when the story allowed.

The initial story setup was simplistic and left me wanting to know more information and details about the situation to make it feel realistic and heighten the tension. As a result the beginning didn't feel that strong to me and I couldn't get into the story until chapter four.

The story utilized the vision quest literary trope as a pivotal part to character motivation and plotting. My ethnic apprehension aside, I felt it stole the impact away from elements of the story such as character growth and revelations. It created a mystical component to a contemporary story that came across as odd and slightly forced.

Jonah and Kimberley's romance storyline was awkward. It was cute that they were strongly attracted and pined over each other. However, I think they were established too heavily in opposition without a middle ground courtship. I didn't like how their emotional outbursts and betrayals were easily dismissed and neutralized without being acknowledged or reconciled. It made their constant conflict seem nonsensical and only made them seem farther apart. The lack of intimacy created a dull physical relationship that I wasn't invested in as a reader.

Overall, I thought Spirit Bear was just an okay book. It invoked familiar stereotypes and cliches within a vivid setting. I liked that the story unfolded slightly unpredictably with the ending completing the story and resolving the main problems. The issues and situations were overly simplified which made the story easier to read but it also hindered its ability to have a larger impact and feel realistic. I'll be continuing the series because I requested the books all at once so I'm curious to see how the writing will evolve.

[Disclaimer: I received my copy of this book through Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review]

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your articulate and well considered opinions on my novel, Spirit Bear.

    I hope you find that some of the issues you commented upon have been addressed in my subsequent novels Eagleridge Bluffs and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients, books two and three in this stand-alone series, Eco-Warriors

    Thanks again, I look forward to reading your reviews on my other two novels.

    Rod Raglin