Well, once again I have run out of genius ways to open a review. Normally it’s a story, a glimpse into my boring life or an over-analyzation of something so miniscule that; short of other bi-polar, OCD, hack-jobs like myself; most of you would find horrifyingly insignificant. This time…no such luck. Despite my (often questionable) brilliance *snort* I am not a nuclear engineer, (I’ll pause a moment while the shock of that sinks in.) Also…I don’t see spirit animals. (I’m not saying I wouldn’t enjoy it, but something tells me that all of those bunnies I’ve been punching lately might see it as their rare opportunity to take revenge.) So alas, that leaves me with this…a normal, hum drum, everyday book review. (Quit booing…it’s rude!)
“Claire Milton lives in Moscow with her husband, Jack Bowden, a scientist working in support of the Nuclear Threat Reduction treaty. On the plane returning to Russia from the States, she is restless and hopes to calm herself a meditative trance, a Journey which takes her to a mystical world to seek support from her Spirit Animal, Jaguar. Instead of experiencing a soothing meditation, she and Jaguar are attacked by gruesome animals. When she awakens, Claire finds inexplicable bloody scratches on her arm.
Back in Moscow, Claire buys a lacquer box at the craft market. Soon after, dangerous men appear, threatening and pursuing her just like the creatures in her Journey. Confused and just plain angry, Claire heads out to meet Jack in Siberia and discovers that the box carries the secrets of a tactical nuclear weapons smuggling ring. It’s up to her and Jack to stop them.
Claire ends up in a pine forest of Siberia with nothing standing between her and death but Jaguar, and Jaguar isn’t even real. Or is she? Real or not, can Jaguar save Claire’s life and keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists?”
Alright, now comes the part where I start that “over-analyzing” thing I was talking about earlier. “Jaguar Sees: The Lacquer Box” is (constructively speaking) a tad confusing. (Ann, please read the whole review before you freak out) Paranormal/Thriller is not an unheard of combination, as a matter of fact it’s probably the most common combination in this particular occult ring, but the twining of “spirit animals,” and a “nuclear smuggling ring” might have been just a little TOO abstract.
I am in no way saying Simon’s writing was bad, actually…if you separate out the elements it was quite good, the problem came with the connection. In an effort to solidify the “thriller” aspect of “Jaguar” Simon would go chapters without a single paranormal reference. Because of this, (unfortunately) the story became slightly disjointed (or lopsided) when reading. Separately the concepts were very intriguing, but for the two to work together, the “paranormal” side of the story would have had to be a more prominent feature instead of (what read like) an after-thought. Yes, we know Claire has “visions” (or maybe she’s just off her rocker, that was never really established) and that is (ultimately) where Jaguar materialized from, but why? As a reader I felt I was missing the point of her animal. Protection…yes. A unique early warning system…yes. But WHY NOW? What is the connection between the two? If she had stayed awake on the plane would she even be able to see Jaguar in her “real life?” There was no point in the plot structure that allowed for an explanation.
Now, the thriller element of the story, (on the other hand,) was bursting with information. We were introduced to Moscow (and Siberia) through American eyes, shown its culture, and given details that someone (who has never been there) could form a solid picture from. This is were Simon’s aptitude for writing really shined. The plot surrounding the nuclear weapons was the plot that ultimately kept my interest, it was fast paced, curvy enough to show the complexity of the issue without getting lost inside itself, and more importantly exciting to read.
Do I think the disconnect in the plot lines is enough to condemn the read? No. When it comes right down to it, the book read as a well thought out thriller with a few interesting (yet abstract) bumps a long the way. Do I think the two elements could have worked together if they had been developed properly? Yes, of that there is no doubt.
So where does this leave me at the end of the day? Well…let’s just call it a split decision. Average read, for an average price.
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: If an angry Russian pulls a gun on you insisting that you hand over the $10 box you just bought at a souvenir stand…for the love of God..give him the damn box!
Click image for complete details