Friday, March 16, 2012

Review of Anathema

For a people who have been conquered and subjected to slavery, believe in a prophet meant to save them is difficult to give up. Their faith that they will one day be rescued spurs hope and planning. Reychel, a simple slave, has no notion of the prophecy. Her life has been sheltered beyond any other slave’s, even to the point of never being allowed to go or look outside except in her master’s presence. She knows nothing but the life of a slave…until her best friend goes missing and a mysterious coin is left in her place. Her friend’s disappearance changes everything. Reychel is thrown into more intrigue, secrets, and danger than she ever imagined could exist in the outside world.

This basic idea of Anathema sounds interesting. That’s what I thought when I downloaded the book. The idea behind the story is a thought provoking one with a lot of potential.  Unfortunately it didn’t live up to that potential. As a whole, the book was interesting. There were many chapters that finished with a good enough hook that I wanted to turn the page, but in general the book fell short of my expectations.

The lack of consistency throughout the book was frustrating. The characters did not use consistent speech patterns. At times they spoke like old world villagers. At other times they spoke like modern teens. The characters themselves were often inconsistent, being clever at one moment than oblivious at the next, or sure of something then speak as if they had hardly considered the idea. The flow was also a problem in many cases. The idea that there were “gifted” people was never brought up until Reychel met one, but then she suddenly recalled many times that she had seen gifted slaves in her master’s house. I wasn’t sure if the author forgot to mention these gifted people earlier on and thought having Reychel remember would suffice, or she thought she was revealing some secret.

Many authors like to drop subtle hints as they write to either increase curiosity, guide readers toward the right conclusion, or trick them into leaning the wrong direction. This can be a wonderful tactic to draw readers in, but subtly is the key. I’m about to reveal some spoilers, but I need to in order to explain why this writer’s hints stole much of the tension from the story.

The first time Reychel is allowed to look out a window while in her master’s presence he asks her to tell him a story, as he usually does. Reychel’s story becomes a tale of her escape from slavery. The fact that Reychel was forbidden to look outside at any other time had been emphasized so much by that point that it was no surprise when Reychel’s “story” came true. I immediately assumed Reychel’s gift was prophecy related to looking at the sky. The frustrating part of the writer’s not-so subtle hints was that the characters in the book were all completely oblivious to this fact and just couldn’t figure out what Reychel’s talent was supposed to be.

 Another instance was after Reychel and her friend Ivy have a fight and Ivy runs away, Reychel sees a vision of Ivy living luxuriously and looking very fiendish. When Reychel hears that her former master has suddenly announced his marriage to a mysterious girl, again it was readily apparent to me that Ivy was that mystery woman. But the other characters were at a loss to figure out who the master was marrying and passed off Ivy running away as a non-issue even though she told them before leaving that she knew an important secret about Reychel. Of course, Ivy turns out to be the master’s fiancĂ©e and reveals the devastating secret she knew, ruining Reychel’s plans.

I encountered the same problem when Reychel and her friends come up with a plan to rescue prisoner’s from her former master. Over and over again the characters reiterated how simple the plan was, how easy it would be, how it couldn’t possibly fail. It was so overemphasized that I, as a reader, knew the plan was doomed-which it was. One small, barely noticeable hint does so much more than blatant, repetitious hints will ever do.

The one aspect of the book that kept me from really connecting with the story or the characters was its lack of emotion. The first several chapters make a point of mentioning Grey, another slave, that Reychel has feelings for. But when she escapes she doesn’t have a single thought about this boy. No request to rescue him as well, no longing to see him again. She doesn’t even remember he exists until she ends up back in the palace trying to rescue the prisoners. And while Reychel is away from the palace, she meets another young man, Mark, that she makes some friendly comments about, but shows no internal devotion to. Yet when Ivy accuses Reychel of stealing Mark’s attention, everyone acts as if it is obvious that Reychel is in love with Mark. Throughout the book there were scenes where the characters spoke of something being very passionate, but preceding that there was very little internal emotion. This gave the book a rather bland tone at times.

Anathema was an interesting book. It had a very good idea at its base that I simply felt was not utilized to its full potential. I was intrigued at times, but I did not have the overpowering urge to keep reading. I didn’t connect with the characters enough to worry about their future, though that may have been partly due to the fact that the hints told me what was coming up and left little suspense. I enjoy a good love triangle, and though this book hinted that this would play a bigger part in the second book, I have a hard time seeing it suck people in since Reychel forgot the existence of one of the boys for almost the entire book. Overall, I wanted more from this book. I don't think I will read the other books in the series. 

Would I recommend this book? It wasn’t a bad book-the basic story line was interesting-but it wasn’t a great book. I would only recommend it as a casual read.

Who would I recommend this book to? If you’re looking for a light fantasy, you may enjoy it. If you’re a detail oriented reader like I am, you may want to pass.

Anathema is the first book in the Cloud Prophet Trilogy, and it is available for FREE on iBookstoreSmashwords, and Amazon.