David Logan – The League of Sharks

davidlogan-theleagueofsharksJunk’s sister has been stolen. Snatched from her bed in the dead of night, Ambeline doesn’t stand a chance.

No one believes Junk saw a monster take his sister. No one believes he’s not to blame.

So begins Junk’s quest to find Ambeline’s kidnapper. His journey will take him to a future world where animal species have evolved, and where the cult of the League of Sharks – the cult that stole Junk’s sister – is etched into folklore…

The League of Sharks is a fun YA novel about a time-traveling teen. The premise of the book is insane: time-travelling shark men? How on earth was Logan going to make that work? But the book also sounded insanely entertaining and it was. However, no matter how much it entertained me, The League of Sharks is very much the equivalent of a big summer popcorn film. One you enjoy hugely, but you shouldn’t ponder too closely or critically afterwards, otherwise you’ll break its magic. Something that is distinctly difficult if you are to write a review for a book. As such, even if this review might be quite critical in places, one thing that should be remembered at all times, reading this book was just plain fun. 

Our hero, Junk, is a cool protagonist with an interesting development throughout the novel. I loved the description of Junk’s reaction to the birth of his sister and the stunts he pulls in making her look like the bad one and how it backfires on him. The dynamic felt quite recognisable and felt very much like your typical sibling rivalry turned up to eleven. What made Junk more than a spoiled brat was the fact that Logan showed us his feeling of being displaced by his sister in his parents’ affections – a feeling all elder siblings will probably recognise to some degree – and that once she was taken, he genuinely misses her. At the end of the book he clearly has grown up quite a bit and has learned to think beyond his own immediate emotions and desires and put himself in other people’s shoes.

Junk acquires a number of companions in the future, all of whom will help him in his quest. The first is Garvan, who sees Junk as a prophesied saviour and becomes his staunchest ally. Then there is Lasel, a young thief, who helps Junk and Garvan and becomes somewhat of a love interest for Junk. The last two additions are Doctor Otravinicus, who can help them find the League of Sharks in return for helping him find the Room of Doors, the key to Junk’s time travel, and Cascér, a Pallatan a.k.a. shark woman, who is recruited by Otravinicus. They deal with other people on their journey, but these are the most important. While all of them are fun, somewhat-fleshed out characters, they all seem to remain stuck in their archetype. They add to the feeling that this is a book more geared to the younger end of YA, a feeling re-enforced by Junk’s age progression. We start with him being far younger than your regular YA protagonist and when we get to the meat of the story he is still only fifteen.

The world building of the narrative was cool, more so for the future version of our world, than for the current one. I liked the concept of the Room of Doors and the way humanity was gone and animals had evolved to take our place due to genetic modification. One aspect that especially pleased me was the way Logan created languages for his future people. I loved that there was a glossary in the back of the book and while perhaps not developed as full languages, there did seem to be some thought of declination and grammar rules. The language geek in me rejoiced at that.

The book does require a lot of suspension of disbelief and sometimes a little too much. For one, the fact that twelve-year-old Junk can run away and earn his money as a sailor for three years seemed a little far-fetched. Similarly, the three million years into the future just seemed so ridiculously far into the future, that it lost me. And lastly, and most strongly, the fact that all the animals have developed into a humanoid form, though some more so than others, just puzzled me. For the shark men and birdmen their ancestors are easily identifiable, while Garvan is identifiable by his size, but both Lasel and Otravinicus are portrayed as almost completely human-looking. I kept wondering why. Why would all animals have evolved into bi-pedal creatures, who communicate through vocalized language, close enough to human languages that Junk can easily pick it up in about three days? That just didn’t make sense to me and I had a hard time setting that aside. It would have been interesting to have seen some explanation for this or even to have Junk at least consider the question, because now it all felt a little “Star Trek” alien—give them a weird forehead and coloured contacts and you’re done.

Despite my problems with suspending my disbelief, I had oodles of fun reading The League of Sharks. It’s madcap and very well-paced and I found myself rooting for Junk intensely hoping he’d succeed in getting his sister back. The book ends at a natural break, though it contains a cliff hanger of major proportions and the story isn’t resolved. The League of Sharks is definitely a fun story to read together with your young teen, but there is plenty of entertainment value for adults as well.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.