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I want to like this series. I do. The problem is that it wants to be a self contained story, yet has thousands of words worth of lore that are mentioned offhand and never returned to again. Intersting creature? Oh, sorry, the story demands we never mention it again. Ancient Conspiracy/ies? That's not important! Other worlds? Don't expect any info on them to pop up. This feels like it should be a series of tie in novels for an Urban Fantasy tabletop game, and there it would work, but wihout this hypothetical game's existence, this just feels like a(n), if inspired, mess.
The Grey Griffins books - at least the first three - are a guilty pleasure of mine. There's so many things wrong with the books, yet I find them fun and enjoyable for the elements that I do like.
First off, there's a lot of forgotten plot elements. Max gains the ability to "sense" portals, and can transport through them at will. The story even mentions how he's finding portals nearly everywhere at his school, and where he goes. Then, a week later, he can't sense them anymore. Darn. Why not? Because it would resolve the plot too easily if he and his friends could just warp out of danger (which they actually do at one point)? Either way, there's many other examples of this. Ernie gains superhuman speed, but is told that actually using it would rapidly speed up his gradual transformation into a changeling. So The Load, The Scrappy, gains this cool sounding power, yet he can't freaking use it for contrived reasons. Except for the one time he actually does use it and becomes the hero.
Events are ridiculously random, and there's a lot of deus ex machina rescues. Goblin is about to skewer the kids, except that a car suddenly drives up and rams it - a car driven by Max's bodyguard (Max is rich). There's others too.
So how could I possibly enjoy something so amateurish? Well for one, I like the story when, random as it is, it's making consistent sense. When the kids portal their way to an underground base in the Arctic and work to stop the villain's plans, the whole situation may be absurd, but it's enjoyable and fun. The book's mood takes itself strangely seriously, considering how random the plot is, but I feel that actually works to its favor in this case. It's just serious enough.
That and especially the character interactions are what save the story, in my opinion. Although the characters are somewhat archetypal, they're fun. Natalia is ballsy and cool, even for being "girly". Max is pretty likable for a millionaire who only wishes to be normal. Ernie is an outright scrappy, and Harley is okay. Brooke, Max's love interest, goes from being a Shallow Love Interest to being a surprisingly cool character in her own right in the third book.
The 4th book ruins everything by throwing out the characterization and making the dialog implausible, as if the writers forgot how to have fun. Stay away from it.
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