Billy: Seeker of Powers

Billy: Seeker of Powers by Michaelbrent Collings made me very unhappy. I really loved Messenger of Powers where we were introduced to Billy and the world of the Powers, people with magic living undetected in our world. However, what I liked most about the first book was Billy himself. He’s small and has no powers of his own, but he’s feisty and fights through his own shortcomings.

That character is effectively gone by the end of Seeker of Powers, and I was not at all pleased with what we were left with. Additionally, while the first book focused a lot on the unique world that Collings has created, this second one was absolutely obsessed with the weird Arthurian underpinnings of the mythology. And frankly, unless you’re The Dark is Rising, Lost Years of Merlin, or some other series rooted in Britain’s weird mythology, King Arthur has no place in your book.

To make matters worse, Collings goes on a killing spree against his characters (not only nipping in the bud a lot of the potentially-interesting character relationships that began to develop in the first book, but doing so in ways that aren’t fully explained), pulls another random villain swap (but this time without having the villain be anyone we had even met before), brings about Armageddon with nary a care, and (sin of sins) ends on a huge cliffhanger.

This was deeply disappointing to me, to the point that I’m having trouble recommending even the first book, despite greatly enjoying it at the time. I will not be finishing this trilogy (or series, or whatever it’s intended to be).

Plot summary

The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.

Billy is taken out of class by Mrs. Russet who asks about Blythe Forrest (who is apparently missing), but they are interrupted by a Darksider named Mordrecai. It turns out Darksiders are overrunning the school trying to find Billy. Mrs. Russet rushes him to a bathroom intending to let him travel by water, but they are interrupted by some Darksiders, one of whom manages to stab Billy through the heart with a DeathBlade knife.

He dies in transit, and then somehow shows up alive in his living room at home. Mrs. Russet, coming in behind him, freezes his parents in place with some spell that will apparently keep them safe from everything. Vester and Tempus show up, and it turns out that Billy was saved because he still has Excalibur’s scabbard, which apparently prevents him from bleeding. And also apparently makes having a beating heart kind of a secondary necessity, as well. Whatever.

However, the DeathBlade(tm) has infected Billy with death, and they decide his only chance is to seek out the rest of Arthur’s magic armaments before his time runs out. Too bad no one knows where they are, or how to get to them. But whatever! Questers will always prevail!

For no reason at all, they head to Fulgora’s underworld city of fire, where Mrs. Russet tells Billy that all the Green Powers are dying because…uh, Black Powers are really good at evil? This remains a mystery for the entire book, presumably because Collings has no idea how this would even be possible given the restraints of the world he himself has created, but he needed it to happen for his plot points to line up.

In any case, Mrs. Russet is certain that by reclaiming Arthurs armaments it will save the Greens because the weapons and armor are mentioned in the prophecy from the last book. So now we have two good, illogical reasons to get them! Phew. I was worried Billy wouldn’t be properly motivated for a little bit there.

They arrive in the middle of the fire city, Billy has a brief and utterly nonsensical dream sequence, and then he is challenged to find the Secret of Fire (whatever the hell that is).

He successfully manages to figure out a simple riddle that apparently has resulted in the deaths of everyone else who has ever tried it, and ends up facing the dragon Serba once again. This time the dragon doesn’t fry him, though, but spouts a bunch of inane crap intended to show us that he’s an Arthurian character of old, and gives Billy a magic fire dagger. Whoo! That was easy; one weapon down.

Billy returns and the old Keeper of the Secret of Fire tries to murderate him for taking the fire dagger. Billy, in a show of unexpected martial prowess, ends up with the knife at his throat and threatens him with a bunch of thees and thous. I would have capitulated to such stilted language, too. After a bit of old-skool fealty-type posturing, Billy dies. Guess the DeathBlade was a mite more powerful than expected.

After an out-of-body experience while Fulgora is trying to defib him with magic, Billy decides that his life is not his own and returns to it to discover that his little tête-à-tête with the ghost of King Arthur past lasted a good two hours. During which they continually “sparked” him. I tell you, these people just don’t give up.

And frankly, I don’t even want to finish this plot summary at this point. You get the jist of how things are going, and they’re all downhill from here. In no particular order, the following things then occur:

  • The oceans rise in giant tidal waves over every land mass without falling, so Billy swims down to have a chat with Blue, who is apparently corrupted by the earth power in Excalibur and also by Mordrecai’s bad advice. I tell you, this guy gets around. Billy goes toe-to-toe with her and hands the epic underwater beat-down of her life, so she gives him Excalibur and as a consolation prize Arthur’s shield, as well.
  • Billy and Vester get captured by the Black folks. Vester gets literally pulled apart by evil magic in order to convince Billy to give Eva Black the Arthurian weapons (no one can take them unless Billy gives them away explicitly, even if they kill him). Billy is rescued by the evil old Blue Power councilor and his Black wife. Turns out they’re the parents of Blythe Forrest, and they want Billy to save her (like all the other Greens, she’s dying). Of course, he is utterly incapable of that.
  • Billy climbs the magical staircase in the air city where they were keeping him, and has a chat with Merlin. He then claims Arthur’s spear. When he heads back down he finds Mordrecai waiting for him, and Mordrecai makes a big ol’ death dragon which kills basically everyone (Darksider and Dawnsider alike). Billy takes his ass down to earth and smites him with his magical weapons.
  • All the Greens die. Whoopsie! Guess Billy wasn’t fast enough with his questing. Also, so much for the interesting “maybe Darksiders have a point to their existence because I lurve Blythe” storyline that was shaping up in book one.
  • Billy claims the armor from the tree that holds up the tower on Powers Island, which results in the destruction of the tree and the tower.
  • Because the Greens are all dead, that means all plantlife is dead, too. (Apparently animal life isn’t related to life? Whatever.) This is effectively Aramgeddon.
  • Turns out Vester isn’t dead! He’s just been dismembered and is being kept alive by Black power. This Really Sucks A Lot For Billy, but strengthens his resolve to kick ass and take names.
  • Billy now has Mysterious Otherworldly Knowledge, and he seeks out his parents, who are actually Lady Guenevere and Lancelot. Lancelot didn’t actually have an affair with Guenevere, they just spread that story around so that people wouldn’t suspect anything. Billy is Arthur’s son, cast forward in time. As the world burns, Billy readies himself to go do…well, honestly, I have no clue. But it somehow involves Guenevere, who is evidently the last living Green Power (who knows why she didn’t die with the rest), and everyone’s existence depends on it. But you’ll just have to take Collings’ word on that one.

By the end of the book, Billy is basically just an ass-kicking automaton who has none of the fun and insecurity of book one, but not because he’s learned anything: no, it’s because his personality has been completely subsumed by some Arthurian ghost or something. Which sucks, because I really liked Billy, and have very little interest in people who randomly kill folks left and right and callously usher in the end of the world for no good reason.