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2 out of 4 stars
Review by Duende Knocking
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The world within a world is that of vampires versus werewolves. Spirit mediums, aka necromancers, are desired by the vampires and werewolves alike as powerhouses in their war. The key difference here? Werewolves are nice. They want the spirit mediums to join them willingly. Vampires are not so nice, and don't mind forcing their hands. Essence and Eternity, best friends about to begin their junior year of high school in Texas, are inadvertently dragged into this war at a time in their lives when they should be focusing on school, friendship, and most exasperatingly, new boyfriends. Essence is a self-declared "classic southerner". She is also a spirit medium, though she doesn’t come to full awareness of her powers until fairly late in the book. Her father and sister left under rather mysterious circumstances when she was a child, and her first hint that not everything is quite right is when she begins to be plagued by dreams of them. Eternity's parents also vanished under mysterious circumstances, and she lives with her older brother Samuel. The story opens with her discovery that she is a werewolf, and her first “turn” will be on her rapidly approaching 16th birthday. As she struggles to adapt to her new life, she must decide if, and how, to tell her best friend, who might be in more danger than she realizes due to her own secrets!
Unlike most YA novels I have read, the pairings (Eternity with fellow werewolf Conner, Essence with her friend’s brother, Samuel) develop some level of romantic stability very early on. Instead, the relationship that gradually reveals itself over time is that between Eternity and Essence. Thankfully, the angst of many YA novels (he loves me, he loves me not!) is absent, rendering the romances uncomplicated, and giving room for the friendship of Essence and Eternity to develop. Never do either one of the girls forget their lifelong friendship and concern for one another, not even on dates. This was a nice, and a surprising, change of pace – I enjoyed seeing the two girls show their love and support for each other. I also appreciated how the girls were very different (Eternity’s “sassiness” is hilarious at times) but had enough similarities for their friendship to be realistic.
Perhaps what this book struggled with the most was the believability factor. Eternity's reaction to discovering that she is a werewolf is hardly relatable or believable. As it turns out, this is only the beginning. One of the girls kills someone and is over it within a page. Missing family members return after over ten years and there is little internal struggle. When Essence finds out she is a necromancer and saves a spirit from Limbo, she has no reaction and actually complains about being bored minutes later! These are just a handful of the puzzling scenarios that unfold, and the laid-back reactions are not limited to the heroines. At one point, a paramedic casually says that someone is in critical condition one evening but "should be fine later tonight”. While I understand the need for brevity (and this is a YA book!), I felt that some more introspection was needed in a tale that revolved around two girls discovering that both they and the world around them are far more complicated than they believed.
Another problem was that of worldbuilding. This vampires-vs.-werewolves war, one of unclear motives, is mentioned briefly very early in the book, but fails to be incorporated in or elaborated on throughout the tale. Even more frustratingly, it seems to have barely any effect on one main character, who is caught up in an entirely different supernatural drama (that of territory spats between werewolf clans). This can perhaps be tied into the believability issue – if characters had talked and contemplated more, the author may have been forced to reveal more about the world. Unfortunately, this is not how things panned out, and the reader is left constantly wondering how and why things work.
The story alternates between the POVs of the two girls. While the writing itself is standard for a YA novel, there are enough typos and punctuation errors to be distracting at times (homonyms and missing letters are common). There are also some problems of tense consistency, with the narrative in the past tense for the most part but jumping into the present for a few sentences every chapter. Finally, there were a few concerns with originality. It’s unavoidable that there will be some in a YA vampire novel, but I think that naming the main vampire character “Edward” was not unavoidable! The Native American werewolves were also unnecessary (especially when written no more tactfully or inoffensively than Twilight’s). These are relatively minor concerns, as the heroines and general message are drastically different from Twilight, but they are hard to ignore.
I regrettably give this book 2 out of 4 stars. I would like to give it higher, simply because books where friendship between two girls takes priority over new boyfriends are few and far between in the YA fiction world, but the unclear worldbuilding and the lackadaisical reactions to life-changing events do need some work. These are, however, things that the author can work to improve in future works, as she does show promise, and I will read the sequel!
A World Within Our World
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- Cyril Connolly
Another vampire named Edward? - ha ha ha
bookowlie wrote:Great review! I know what you mean about having a book end abruptly. With a few books I've read, I have felt like there needed to be another chapter or two to wrap things up.
Another vampire named Edward? - ha ha ha
This one ended so suddenly I almost reported a problem with the file. I checked the Amazon reviews and compared page numbers/word counts I found elsewhere, and it looks like the book really just end smack in the middle of a major event. I understand that there is a sequel so there will be more to the story, but a warning could have saved me a lot of confusion.
Escapeartist wrote:Good job on the review. It sounds like you had some very valid concerns, and knowing these ahead of time, it would be too much for me to want to pick this book up. I have never read Twilight, and not sure if I would want to, but I would definitely avoid mirroring it. If you like this genre, check out my current review book, it has become one of my favorites.
Indeed! I did actually like how the focus ended up being about a friendship between two girls and not an absurdly dramatic heterosexual romance (like Twilight), but the peculiar behavior of the characters made it difficult to really enjoy.
I will check out your review in a bit. Thank you!
- Cyril Connolly
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