Title: Kingdom of Scars
Author: Eoin C. Macken
Publication Date: September 25, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Sam Leahy is a shy, fifteen-year-old boy navigating two social worlds: the uptight bullies at his all-boys’ private school and the small uncouth gang in his neighbourhood. This gang of five follows the typical teenage-boy pattern: they drink, smoke, cause fights and vandalize property. Sam desperately wants to be accepted, but he soon finds that the only way to gain respect amongst the crew is to fight violence with violence. And it hurts.
When it comes to girls, Sam is clueless, but when he inadvertently meets Antoinette, the girl of his dreams, who is perfect, blonde, slender and sexy, he is enamoured . . . only to learn that falling in love has a price. But being a teenager is all about redemption and recrimination, small events becoming catastrophic, and seemingly huge moments eventually meaning nothing. Through these events that shape a teen, Sam discovers the boundaries of sexuality, friendship, authority, and the possibility of death. (Goodreads)
I have to admit I may be a little biased when it comes to this book. I have been a fan of Eoin Macken for years, ever since I first saw him as Gwaine on BBC’s Merlin. So when he published a novel I could not wait to get my hands on it, and finally had to order it from the UK since it still isn’t available as a physical book here in the US. (It was completely worth it though, as my copy arrived signed by Macken himself.)
Kingdom of Scars is a coming of age story about a teenaged boy growing up in Ireland. It depicts some of the issues boys face – school, girls, and trying to impress other boys. Macken’s writing style is straight-forward and makes for an easy read. As I was reading the book I kept thinking this would translate well into a film script. And in all honesty, I think I would enjoy the movie version more than the book.
Despite my possible bias concerning this book, I struggled to really get into it. I don’t think my issues with the book had anything to do with Macken’s writing, but rather my inability to really connect with the main character. I am neither male nor Irish (in this case I don’t think my ancestry really counts) and I didn’t really have to deal with any of the issues Sam does in this book. Though I do know what it’s like to try to fit in.
While I didn’t find the book particularly engaging, I still enjoyed the overall story and Macken’s writing (this may be my bias showing) – enough that I didn’t want to give up on the novel before I reached the end. I did want to know what happened to Sam by the end of the novel.
That being said, I’m not entirely sure there is anything in this novel that would set it apart from any other coming of age novel; the story seemed fairly standard to me. There were also a few plot points that I actually wished were developed a little bit more, as I would finally start to get interested in what was happening then the story would move on to the next event in Sam’s life.
If you’re interested in coming of age novels – and growing up in modern Ireland – then this novel may be of interest to you. While I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, I didn’t feel like reading it had been a waste of my time – which I know isn’t exactly high praise. However, a reader with different tastes than myself – someone who enjoys realism and coming of age more than me – may enjoy this book much more than I did.