Book: Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang

"Si Janus SIlang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang"

Apat na buwan na si Janus sa mansiyon nina Manong Joey sa Angono, pero naroon pa rin ang sakit ng dilang-karayom ng manananggal sa puso niya dahil sa pagkawala ng mga mahal sa buhay at sapilitang paglayo kay Mica.

Sumula ng Christmas break nang mawasak ang proteksiyon ng mansiyon laban sa Tiyanak at sa mga kampon nito. Matinding barang ba ito? Nawawala rin si Mira, ang isa sa kambal na baganing kasing-edad ni Janus at inampon din nina Manong Joey. Ipinagtapat naman ni Renzo kay Janus ang matagal na palang sinusundan ni Manong Isyo: bumalik sa mapa ng utak ng dalawang manong ang brain imprint ng Papa ni Janus at maaaring buhay pa pala ito!

If you don’t understand the Tagalog synopsis, it goes like this: time has passed since the events of the first book. Janus has already spent four months in Manong Joey’s mansion in Angono, but he can still feel the needle-tongue of a manananggal that was left in his heart by the loss of his loved ones and by him abandoning Mica. During the Christmas break, the protection around the mansion has been breached–and no one can explain why. Mira, one-half of the twins who are waiting for their powers to develop, has disappeared. And Janus finds out from Renzo that their elders are investigating the possibility that Janus’s father is still alive.

And now, the verdict:

Book 2 of Janus Silang is still very bottom-heavy. It took me three days to get through the first half of the book, and less than an hour to finish the last third. But unlike the first book where the bottom-heaviness could be fixed by a rearrangement of events that doesn’t change the plot structure at all, I don’t really know how to improve the second book.

Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang has a very solid plot structure. It makes sense why certain things happen when they happen. And although I disagree with some of the actions made by the main character, I can’t fault the reasons behind why Janus does what he does. My problem with the book actually stems from the digressions.

Teacher Cris, of the Teacher’s Pet blog, commented on my post for the first book about how the attention to detail contributes to the twist in the plot. And I agree to a certain extent. But I don’t think the same can be said for the digressions in this book.

Yes, certain events need to be set up. Yes, we need to learn more about the histories and background of familiar creatures because they are being remade into something different from what they were. But the digressions feel disjointed for me. Mostly because we are presented with pressing dangers, our characters are rightly alarmed, and yet none of them are acting like there is an emergency. They’re all so relaxed. That is, until the last third of the book, when the action finally picks up–and the exposition no longer feels like digressions, and flow organically from what is happening in the present.

I’m on the fence about this book. Unlike the first book that’s teeming with potential, Book 2 feels like a retread on a formula that was already problematic the first time. Which is a shame. Because, more than a year later, the first Janus Silang book is still the best local young adult novel I’ve read. And I was really looking forward to this one being better than the first book because we need less set-up than before. And yet…

And yet I will still pick up the third book when it comes out. Because I have to admit that I have higher expectations for Janus Silang than I do for other local published works. Because there is potential here. Because, although I am not completely in love with the second book, I can still say with confidence that this is better and more original than a lot of imported young adult series that I’ve been reading. And because I look up to the author in real life, and I believe he can churn out something better than this.

So I continue to look forward to the next book. And I’m crossing my fingers that the next book will, indeed, be better than the first two books in the Janus Silang series.

Book: Mythspace

What if creatures from Philippine folklore — the tikbalangs, nuno, kapre — were inspired by actual alien races? That’s the question that fuels the Mythspace stories.

"Lift Off!"

Lift Off! wraps up its story with the third issue, ending with a promise of more adventures. But before we get to the end, let’s talk about the journey going there.

This is still not my favorite story off the Mythspace lot. But having read this final issue of Lift Off!, I can now say that I don’t hate it. In fact, I can even admit that it is a good story. If only it came out all at once.

Honestly: the story took way too long. Couple that with the fact that I found it hard to like the protagonist? The title really dragged for me.

But now that it’s over, I see the potential in the title. As a prequel to other stories, Lift Off! is great. Hopefully though, when it does get a follow-up, the pacing will be better.

"Uncommon Ground"

Uncommon Ground is a solid noir story. So solid that you can actually have it take place in a different milieu and the story would still stand.

Unfortunately, that’s also my main complaint about the story: the characters are interchangeable. This could happen anywhere, any time. The main selling point of Mythspace is not integral to the actual story.

But it is good. I just wish it were more.

And now, I’ve saved the best for last:

"Unfurling of Wings"

Unfurling of Wings is the story I’ve been looking forward to since first being exposed to Mythspace a couple of years before now. And it does not disappoint.

If you’re looking for something to introduce people to the world of Mythspace, you’d do no wrong by giving them this title. The characters are interesting, the milieu is important to the story, and although it feels like a prequel of bigger stories to come, it’s an origin story that can stand on its own.

And the art? I normally don’t talk about the art as that would only draw attention to the fact that I know nothing about it, but I want to commend the artist here. It’s clean, easy to follow, and you can distinguish the characters even when they’re surrounded by creatures that look like them.

Unfurling of Wings is awesome.

Book: Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata

"Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata" by Ricky LeeEleksyon, 2010. Isang baklang impersonator, si Amapola, ang naging manananggal at nakatanggap ng propesiya na siya ang itinakdang magliligtas sa Pilipinas. Ang naghatid ng balita: si Emil, isang pulis na Noranian. Ang pasimuno ng balita: si Sepa, ang lola sa tuhod ni Amapola, na nanggaling pa sa panahon ng Kastila at may unrequited love noon kay Andres Bonifacio.

In English; it’s election time in 2010–and a gay impersonator, Amapola, becomes a manananggal and receives a prophecy that says he was fated to become the savior of the Philippines. The bearer of the news? A policeman named Emil, who turns out to be a big fan of Nora Aunor. And the root of the prophecy? Sepa, the great-great-grandmother of Amapola, who traveled through time from the era of Spanish Colonization–and who has unrequited love for Andres Bonifacio.

I have to say, I liked this better than Para Kay B, Ricky Lee’s first novel. Although, thinking about it, the two novels do share a similar format, in which we get vignettes of story-telling tied together by a bigger arc. In this book, it’s the prophecy that Sepa foresees: that Amapola will be the one to bring forth change in the country–that she will begin the campaign to have everyone, including “monsters” like them, be accepted by society.

What the synopsis doesn’t say though is that we’re not dealing with just one protagonist in this novel. We have three–for the most part anyway. See, Amapola has split personalities: aside from the gay impersonator, we also meet his straight persona Isaac, and his closeted persona Zaldy. Though Amapola appears in the title, it’s not just his story–and he is not the only one who sets things into motion.

As I mentioned before, Amapola employs the use of self-contained vignettes that tie together in the end. For the most part, it’s a great ploy to keep the book a page-turner. Until, that is, you start jumping from one character to the next. Once we meet Emil, Sepa and Giselle (Isaac’s girlfriend), we also get involved in their lives–whether we want to or not. Personally, I would’ve have preferred sticking with Amapola and his other personalities. They were entertaining enough for me. Emil’s chapters, in my opinion, bordered on depressing. And Sepa’s were just disorienting. Giselle’s chapters prove to be entertaining too, but they’re ultimately distracting when you mull the whole story over.

My opinion on the book is that it suffers from having too many voices. Distinct voices, yes, which shows you how well Ricky Lee knows his characters–but the distinctness of each character only serves to underline the disjointed narrative. And when you’re reading a book to entertain yourself, like I do, you don’t really want to tax your brain.

I’m not saying that the book is confusing. It’s not. It’s pretty straightforward. And it’s well-written. It all just boils down to the fact that it has too many lead characters vying for the spotlight.

But this is just my opinion. Check out what other people have to say about the book on Good Reads, and in the only other blog I saw with a … review.

Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata is available in bookstores nationwide.