When Vega Jane’s uncle goes missing, lost in the deadly Quag that lies outside Vega’s isolated town, Wormwood, she is drawn into a mysterious web of secrets. Nothing in Wugmort is as it seems, and the town council seems determined to keep the truth hidden. Only Vega can uncover the past and discover the true nature of the Quag, and what lies beyond.
The world of The Finisher, centered in the town of Wormwood, is undeniably odd. Prolific author – and ex-lawyer – David Baldacci has written many, many books for adults, but this is his first fantasy aimed at children, and it is certainly an interesting first work for the genre. The story is intriguing from the beginning but there is a lot left unexplained – Vega refers to herself and her fellow townspeople as “Wugs”, though they appear to be human. One scene involving an apparent wave of blood leading to a mysterious room came out of nowhere, and the purpose behind it is never entirely clear. Sometimes it is left to a sequel to explain things missed in the first book, but I somehow feel this obscurity is intentional. Luckily, Vega is a very likeable lead and this makes the story easy to continue with. I couldn’t help wanting to know what would happen to her, and wanting her to emerge victorious in the end.
The unusual plot, strange settings and even more strange invented names and creatures and species get more and more tangled up as the story progresses, and once a hint of magic is introduced it becomes almost impossible to understand exactly what’s going on, but despite this, The Finisher is somehow charming through the confusion. I remember reading similar books as a child and completely missing the fact that nothing quite made sense, because the story was so strange and exciting. Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series comes to mind, though very different from The Finisher. When re-reading the series as an adult, trying to make sense of sudden leaps and jumps into plot-lines that came out of nowhere made for a rather dazed and confused reading experience, but as a child I simply accepted these transitions and focused more on enjoying the unique plot. Some children’s books transcend age and genre, and others do not, but this is no fault – after all, if a book appeals to its intended audience then it is a success, and I believe The Finisher is one such book.