The Jedera Adventure (Vesper Holly #4) by Lloyd Alexander

The Jedera Adventure (Vesper Holly, #4)

When I decided to start my current project of reading all the fantasy/adventure books I should have read when I was in middle school, one of the rules I set for myself was that whenever I started a series, I would have to see it through to the end (it’s how I plan to force myself to get through The Golden Compass when I re-read it, because I remember disliking it for some reason when I first read it in seventh grade). I have two books left in the Vesper Holly series, and I’m still going to read them, but the fact remains that if I was reading this series as a kid, The Jedera Adventure would probably be the book that convinced me to abandon the series.

It’s not bad, exactly – Vesper is still an awesome heroine, and I wish her series was more popular because little girls need these books very badly, and there were all the usual moments of action and humor, but this one just didn’t thrill me. The central adventure is more like a long errand – the book starts with Vesper finding an old book that her father borrowed from a library in Jedera fifteen years ago, and decides that she needs to return it – and Vesper and Brinnie take a lot of detours that don’t add much to the story. Smiler and Slider, last seen in The El Dorado Adventure, are back, and they’re always fun, but the other companions aren’t as interesting. There’s a Romeo-and-Juliet-style couple, and the best that can be said of them is that their romance doesn’t take up too much story time (the Romeo of the pair is intensely irritating, always yammering on about how “it is written” and he and Vesper’s destinies are joined by a golden chain or whatever, and he reminded me very strongly of Jar Jar Binks). The other big character is a warrior with blue skin (don’t ask) who decides to keep rescuing Vesper and Brinnie whenever they get into trouble because…of reasons. I don’t actually remember why, he just does. All the portrayals of the Jederans manage to stay on the safe side of blatantly racist, so at least there’s that. We do get a very uncomfortable scene where Brinnie and Vesper are kidnapped by slave traders and almost sold at an auction, and fortunately for this book’s intended audience of ten-year-olds, the unsavory implications of the situation (that the men attempting to purchase Vesper will rape the shit out of her as soon as possible) is not discussed or even hinted at.

But the worst aspect of this book is, as always, Dr. goddamn Helvitius. I know I complain about him in every review, but that’s because he’s terrible in every book. The good news is that here he doesn’t show up until after page one hundred, but this makes it even more obvious that he didn’t need to be in the book at all. There are already established villains and a conflict when he shows up; I don’t understand Alexander’s compulsion to make Helvitius the grand puppetmaster behind every conflict Vesper gets herself involved in. At this point in the series, Helvitius has ceased to be distracting and has become simply unnecessary. And he’s becoming increasingly ridiculous: his obligatory attempt to kill Vesper here is his most ridiculous yet, and it ranks up there with “Put James Bond in a helicopter with a bomb inside and then leave” on the list of Most Ineffective Ways To Kill Off The Hero. I remain underwhelmed by him in every way, despite the characters constantly assuring me that he’s super evil.

All in all, a firm resounding MEH. Hopefully the next book will be better.

Verdict: two out of five stars


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