You’ll have to bear with me on this one because it’s a bit of a rollercoaster of ‘Do I finish this?’ to furious page turning, and if you’re interested, you’ll find out why. By the end of it we may even work out where I fall opinion-wise after reading this.
Leonie Woodville wants to live an unremarkable life. She wants routine, she wants repetition, she wants predictability. So when she explodes in a blaze of light one morning on the way to her college, it’s enough to put a real crimp in her day. And things only get weirder…
By weirder, they mean that Leonie is the Pulsar, the last remaining phenomenally powerful type of magical species, the highest of all high Chosen, and it will be her sole duty to protect the Imperium from its enemies. In a matter of pages she’s swept from her normal life into this alternate magical realm, where she has gone from a nobody, to the most powerful and longed after somebody for centuries.
Now, I hoped high. The cover is gorgeous and I do like a fantasy YA. At 6% I put down my Kindle to predict the entire plot based on how I have seen these stories go before. At some point down the line, something caught me off guard and I was officially really interested in where it went. For the record, smugness knocked down a few levels – I was only about half right.
The problems begin with the clichés: the normal girl (normal is drilled in the entire time), the indifferent rude male who gets too much niceness from her, the mutual “she’s average” and “he’s otherworldy”. She’s got a position of power and both relishes and mocks it all at once. And so on, and so on.
Then there’s the writing. I don’t think the dialogue has ever been read aloud, because there’s a lot of speeches as if the character turns from the other to look to the sky, or a theatre audience, and deliver a well crafted turn of phrase while being in death’s grips. The repetition is also noticable: copper hair, normal, not social. These descriptions are never altered, these messages are almost drilled into your eyes in case you forgot from a few pages back that they’re not social.
And it’s an almighty but. It did get somewhere. I can see a lot of DNFs at the 20-30% mark, and I feel ya. It took until about 60% when I was caught off guard by plot stepping away from these tropes a little bit that I was like, “Hey, you know, this could go somewhere.” I think, as I write, I’m not fully convinced that it did yet. I think that a lot of the clichés need to be dropped and forge a more original story in a new world. If they are something you like in YA (which is still fine!), then this will be good, with maybe a few rubs from the dialogue. In the sense of fitting into the fantasy YA genre, it’s absolutely ideal.
The story ha(d/s) potential, but the author needs to stop telling the reader everything in a theatre-esque step away, or in depth thought-splaining session. There were hints of where it was going, not particularly subtle ones, so to underpin that by just blatantly explaining whole backstories to strangers in a passing moments takes away from the mystique of her past, his past, their situation, etc.
As an addition to the YA fantasy area and how those stories go, it’s good and stays rigidly true to the tropes. As part one of a series, it’s got a lot left up in the air ahead of the sequel, so again, good. It just needs a little ironing, and maybe reading aloud, to bring it up to the level that the (amazing! gorgeous!) cover suggests.
December 2015 | Quercus Books