It's closer to 2.5 stars, really. I thought it was less than bad, but I did not find it enjoyable.
So the good:
Even reading an ARC copy of this book indicates how beautiful it will be. With glimpses of the full color panels on the front and back, this book is going to be gorgeous. The few times that the book melds the story along with the illustrations gives those scenes a cool impact, reminding me of reading the Brian Selznick stuff, though Baltazar doesn't go to the extent that Selznick did. First and foremost, it's an action adventure book, highlighted and made unique by its illustrations.
And that's about the only thing that makes it unique? The concept is very interesting, with the idea that time periods have become sequestered into their own sort of countries after a calamity made it so that they all exist at the same time and that electricity doesn't work anymore. It allows the techy stuff to be techy without necessarily being comprehensible, which is sometimes the downfall of children's books that have engineering elements.
But the plot and the story and the characters are very staid. The tropes that it uses, though I don't have a problem with books being trope-y, are just used in really boring ways that bring nothing new to the table. It's a generic wonder boy action plot wearing a very fancy coat. It's a nice fancy coat, but it's all it is. I thought I'd appreciate Diego more in the sense of actively seeking children's lit with more diversity and the idea of him being in full color on such glossy, professional picture brings me a lot of happiness for children who aren't me who will read this, but beyond that Diego is very bland. He's unique because he is the protagonist, and he gets away with stuff because he's the protagonist.
Nothing could get me over Lucy and Paige in this book, because I spent the whole time trying to not be annoyed as to how they were used. They're both very "strong female characters" who still need some saving at some point or another, and can't exist in the same circles without attraction because boys and girls are different, and is that Avril Lavigne kicking up another chorus of Sk8ter Boi again? I never felt like Lucy was given a real active role other than to create drama. We're told she's cool and that she's Diego's equal (being that she is the obvious love interest), but like most "strong female characters" she's just below equal. She still needs to be saved by Diego, Diego is the one who finds their parents, Diego is the one telling her she needs to be free and independent. A scene that reflects one done in Pacific Rim, and maybe it'll still go that way, but that was a movie where Mako was indeed actually for real beat Raleigh in his same field of punching things and is never treated like a plotpoint of destiny. She doesn't happen to have the magical MacGuffin for the Thing to further anyone else's plot. Lucy does, though.
I see what the author was trying to do, but man, other than a lot of pretty set pieces, the book was a little hollow. I understand that you can't stop children from being in a war when that war is the only thing that makes the plot interesting, but if you're going to talk about moral ambiguity in war, there is little else more ambiguous than a bunch of 13 year olds being on the front lines and an adult man who is totally fine with that. I get it; it gives the action to the plot - but then why even bring it up, why then show an impact of "war is hell" at the end. War is
hell; if you're going to talk about that - talk about it. The whole Animorphs series basically ends with teenagers being so psychologically damaged by the war they've been fighting since they were young teens that they go on a suicide mission. I don't see this series ending in a similar way - it doesn't have the depth. I can take fluff, but I can't take a book trying to act deep when it's also trying to be actiony fluff.
I didn't hate this like I hated books like [b:Click Here to Start|27272299|Click Here to Start|Denis Markell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1453056773s/27272299.jpg|43103080] because that book made me claw at pages with hatred, but I was rolling my eyes a lot with this book, especially in Lucy-heavy sections. And a couple of the "Diego is the chosen one" sections. I definitely didn't really enjoy it though. The explicit messages are blunt and hollow, the implicit messages are outdated.