Si Janus Silang: AT ANG LABANÁNG MANANANGGAL-MAMBABARANG

By Edgar Calabia Samar

This review contains SPOILERS
This is the 2nd book of the Janus Silang series by Edgar Calabia Samar.

Four months after the events of the first book, Janus has settled in at the mansion owned by Manong Joey and his brother, Manong Isyo. There, Janus lives with M. Joey and M. Isyo along with Renzo, and a whole bunch of other “pusóng”, including a pair of twins who are about the same age as him.

In this book, we see Janus adjust to life in Angono. Despite having his life crumble around him, living in Angono is made easier by Renzo and Miro who he befriends. Unfortunately, he gets off on the wrong foot with Miro’s twin sister, Mira. Later on in the book, we discover Janus has a bit of a crush on Mira, but is still confused about his feelings for Mica, the friend he left behind in Balanga for her own safety.

The book starts out with Janus having a nightmare wherein a winged female monster is chasing him through the streets of Angono, and none of his friends help him. Apparently, he’s been having this for months now and he’s told no one. Renzo also reveals that M. Joey and M. Isyo has sensed Janus’s father somewhere in Manila and so M. Isyo and Renzo set out to investigate.

On Christmas eve, Janus receives a message from Mica, the girl he left behind in Balanga. She tells him that she remembers everything and that she’s in trouble. He messages her back and they talk. She tells him that she was waiting right outside her family’s store for someone to pick her up when a child walks up to her. She thought the child was going to start carolling, but when she turned to him, she saw a child with dark black eyes and dark skin. She falls backwards, and the Tiyanak pushes his face against hers and asks if she knows where his sibling is (In Tagalog, the word for “sibling” is “kapatid”, but it is also used as the Tagalog word for “brother”. In the book, the word “kapatid” is used so I’m not sure if he was referring to his fake brother Janus, or his sister Tala). Next thing she knows, the monster has left and she’s alone again, but this time, she remembers everything. Mica also tells him that the guy who owned the video game store and is like him, Boss Serj, contacted her and is looking for him. Mica tells him that Janus is in Angono and warns Janus that he is probably on the way. When Janus goes out to get help for Mica, he sees Boss Serj outside the mansion and decides that it really is him, not realising it was a trick.

Now, instead of doing the sensible thing and not caring that it is 4 in the morning and just wakes up an adult, he wakes up Miro instead. Miro and Mira have the magical ability to cross to the “other side”. It’s basically the world as we see it, but in the “other side”, you get to see all the magical creatures of the land and interact with them. Janus asks Miro for help to bring him and Boss Serj to the other side, but when Miro starts the process, a whole bunch of roaches come in and attacks them and somehow rips Miro’s body in half, one half being left on actual Earth and the other half transporting to the other side. Janus blacks out after this event, and when he finally gains consciousness, the news (of his stupidity) has spread, and Mira has gone to the other side — I’m assuming — to grieve.

When Miro first tells Janus what his and Mira’s power is, he brings Janus with him to the “other side” to show him how it is. There, Janus sees the creature haunting his dreams with Mira and he runs away. We enter the next scene with the twins bringing an unconscious Janus to M. Joey, M. Isyo, and Renzo. They bring him to the hospital immediately where a friend of theirs, who is a doctor (and is the same as them), is waiting for them. They find out about the “needle” in Janus’s heart that has been there since the 1st book. M. Joey and M. Isyo tell Janus about a woman named Ester. Ester is a Manananggal and she confesses to Janus that she was the one who put the needle in his heart.

In the first book, we find out that the “big bad” — the “Voldemort” of this series — is the Tiyanak, and the only person who can defeat him is Tala, his twin sister. Unfortunately, no one knows where the hell she is, so M. Joey and M. Isyo lead the hunt to find her and finally defeat the evil. From my understanding, M. Joey suspects that if he just digs in deep enough in Janus’s mind, he can find information on Tala’s whereabouts. However, in order for M. Joey to find the specific information he needs, Janus’s mind needs to be doing some specific brain activity, so whenever Janus plays the video game M. Joey created, T.A.L.A., M. Joey makes sure he’s digging around, but when Janus surpassed the last level, Level 8, M. Joey still finds nothing and goes on to create Level 9.

In the 2nd to the last chapter of the book, M. Joey reveals that he has finally finished creating Level 9, and he sits there while Janus plays T.A.L.A. from start to end. However, something happens when Janus completes it. While M. Joey successfully finds the information he’s been looking for, Janus suddenly disappears without a trace.
At the end of the last chapter, Janus is back in his house in Balanga, and there he meets his father who reveals that Janus has travelled back in time all they way to 2009. His father is the father he (thought he) lost 3 years prior to the beginning of this series. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I’ll have to pick up the next book to find out what happens.

I think I’ve made it quite obvious that Janus has annoyed the living shit out of me in this book. I mean, come on, you see someone you thought was dead and your best friend who’s memory was wiped clean is telling you she remembers everything, and YOU DON’T WAKE UP AN ADULT??? Yeah, they’ll be pissed cause it’s 4 in the morning on Christmas and they were probably having a really good sleep after the Noche Buena feast, but they would have understood! And now one of my fave characters is dead. I swear, if something happens to Renzo, I WILL FLIP.

It took me FOREVER to finish this book. This book was so slow-paced. It was just a whole lot of information overloading into my sad little brain that could barely understand Filipino. My main problem with this book was that there was barely any action happening. The entire book is about 200 pages long, and seems to take place in the span of 4-5 days, possibly even less.

I think I mentioned this in a different review (though I can’t remember for which book) about something called the “show-don’t-tell” method in writing. This is a technique writers use to let the readers know what is happening through the eyes or of the character/s instead of just simply narrating it. It is described by Wikipedia as, “Show, don’t tell is a technique used in various kinds of texts to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarisation, and description.” A writer “telling” the readers what is happening personally comes off as lazy to me.

Years ago, a local movie called “She’s Dating the Gangster” came out here in the Philippines, which was actually based off a Wattpad story. From Wattpad, this story later became a published book. I read the book and I also hated it. Like this instalment of Janus Silang, it was around 200 pages, and the writer chose to “tell” its readers what was happening. When I first expressed my feelings for the book to the friend I borrowed the copy from in the first place, she told me that the original story that was posted on Wattpad was actually really good, had better writing, and was much longer. I went online to check it out, but since it had been published, the writer took the story down from the site and I can now never see for myself if what my friend was telling me was the truth.

Now, why did I bring this up?

“Janus Silang” and “She’s Dating the Gangster” may have both been published from different publishers, but could it be that the reason why these books are so short is not because the writer wants it that way, but because the publishers are the ones who are telling them to shorten it? Was Samar perhaps given a page limit he had to follow, and in the end, in order to fit in all the important details of the story for us to better understand it, he saw that this method was the only way for it to be done? IF this is the case (and I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying IF), then we might have been robbed of a really amazing book.

One of the characters I loved in this book was one of the twins, Miro. Miro and Mira are fourteen-year-old twins who were raised by M. Joey and M. Isyo ever since their parents died in a battle when they were a year old. Mira and Miro get off on the wrong foot, and for the entire 4 months Janus has been living with them, he and Mira have basically ignored each other. Unlike Miro who has the sassy and bubbly personality of a KWEEEEEN. And Janus later finds out that Miro is indeed gay, and honestly he gave LIFE to this book. Most of my favourite scenes was because Miro was just the life of the party (or in this case, this book). So did his death piss me off? You abso-fucking-lutely bet it did!

If I find out in the 3rd book that his death was for naught, I am going to be so pissed.

Reading this book was so hard cause, as I said, it was just information, information, information. There was barely any story-telling, and if there was, it was saved until the very last part of the book. I just. I can’t. I really do hope the last book is good, because this book was a down-er. The 1st book was SO GOOD, but it went downhill. I seriously hope this isn’t like the Divergent trilogy wherein the 1st book was good, but the 2nd and 3rd were shit.

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

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