Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Daisy's review of The Study Train

Title/Author: The Study Train Vol 1: Reunion of the Untouchables by Kurt Frenier
Publisher/Year published: Eloquent Books in 2010
Why I read it: it sounded interesting.
How I got it: the author sent it to me. This will not influence this review in any way.

Summary from GoodReads:
"Five hundred years ago, Master Magician Mikhail Pilkington III created a magical flying train, the Study Train. His vision: to take average teenagers aboard, show them the world, and turn them into leaders. Ethan is invited on the train, escaping his miserable life in Switzerland, and soon discovers that the train is all but ordinary. It is filled with magic, secrets, people with interesting histories, and much more. Ethan's intrigue and hunger for knowledge and power catches the attention of a hidden, ancient alliance called the Untouchables. Soon, Ethan learns all their mysteries, powers and sorcery. He stands out from the rest of the students and is recognized as the long-awaited leader for the Untouchables. But his dark side - The Dark Fire Inside - grows and becomes much stronger than anyone thought it would. Ethan gets sucked into a web of conflicts and feuds while battling his own inner feelings. Will he go for power, or turn toward good?"

Sounds interesting right? I thought so too. But (yes here it is already) it didn't live up to it.
For me it went wrong almost from the start of it, I didn't believe the picture Frenier painted of Ethan's home life with a mom working two jobs who Ethan claims not to know at all and a dad who refuses him his dinner when he's 3 minutes late. After that it didn't really get any better, the characters seemed to act unnaturally and I still don't really know what kind of person they are. Or even what kind of person Ethan is. One minute he's antisocial, then he's uber-friendly, he's in awe of his headmaster Althulos and the next things he's defying him and going all powerful maniac on us. It's a bit confusing, most of all because he's only 15 years old and completely new to all of it.

Which makes me come to another thing that bothered me: the Study Train is supposed to be a school where they train people to become world leaders, then TELL ME what it is that makes this school so special other than the fact that it's a flying train. Never once in the book does Frenier mention what kind of classes they are taught, where is the magic that I expected them to be studying?

The magic comes for Ethan, though not very gradually. One day Althulos decides to teach him how to fly the train and he masters this instantly. The same goes for other skills he picks up. In one afternoon he acquires at least 10 different magical abilities it takes others ages to learn. Maybe it's just me, but I enjoy it when characters have a hard time or at least some difficulty with stuff like this. It makes them more real and in this book not even the instant mastering is described. Frenier just tells us Ethan's spent an afternoon with someone who teaches him this and POOF! he knows how to do it. I always enjoy it more when you show me what is happening, not when you just tell me it did. This happens most of the time with a lot of things I would have liked explained more extensively.

Ethan goes against Althulos' wishes pretty early on and doesn't really get into any trouble because of this. He does something way out of line and Althulos only shouts at him and that's it. I mean, really? My parents were pretty easy going, but even I would have gotten sent to my room (at least) for that. They're not really big on discipline on the Study Train.
I also didn't really feel Ethan struggled with the good vs evil dilemma, he doesn't even seem that impressed he's supposedly the new long-awaited leader of a group of mostly grown men.

One last issue I had: at some point Frenier mentions people who've been students of the Study Train (it's been around for 500 years generating influential people) and on the list is Alexander the Great. Who lived from 356 to 323 BC (I googled it). Which is way more than 500 years ago. Maybe it's not that big an issue, but it bugged me.

But of course, this is only my opinion. The Crazy Bookworm loved it, you can read her review here.

As for me, I can't in all honesty give this book more than 1 star.


  1. The telling and not showing is a biggie for me, too! I hate that. Also, that thing about Alexander the Great would bug me too. Do the research!

    Sorry this one was a big stinker for you!

  2. Interesting review. I appreciate that you linked to a post by someone who enjoyed the book as well. Writing reviews of books you didn't care for can be hard. You did it with class. :)

  3. I agree with the other commenters, I think you did a really good job of writing a negative review. You gave reasons why you didn't like it, and you even linked to a positive review. It's too bad that you didn't enjoy the book, and I know how hard it is to write a negative review, but you did a really great job.

  4. It kind of makes me laugh that he's taken from his miserable life in Switzerland. When you think of miserable lives, you think more of 3rd world countries - certainly not Switzerland!

    (Not saying you can't be miserable in Switzerland, it just struck me as funny, that's all.)


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