Monday, May 9, 2016

strictly literary: amber smoke by kristin cast

in amber smoke by kristin cast we are introduced to alek, the son of the furies and savior of the underworld and eva, a descendant of the first oracle and the only mortal strong enough to help alek save the underworld and the mortal world. sounds pretty simple right?

if only the novel hadn't taken so much time to get the lead characters in the same space. the first half of the novel is setting up the big moment where alek and eva meet. because even though she is a descendant of the first oracle he has to breathe new life into her in order for her to unlock her powers. so we are treated to a lot of exposition in the underworld realm and then a lot of exposition introducing us to eva and how she's a different kind of girl. except she's also kind of ordinary and seems to have terrible taste in men and friends.

her friend bridget--who nearly date rapes alek on first meeting him--is all over the place. she seems like an airhead party girl, but she also seems to genuinely love her friend. and once the action kicks in she is integral to keeping eva and alek safe. she accepts the things alek tells her more readily than eva does, even though eva actually experiences the underworld more directly.

added to the whole underworld falling apart and demons escaping and threatening the existence of everyone, there's a murder case that figures directly into this. eva and alek are unwittingly at the center of it, even though they have nothing to do with the original murder. this introduces a whole host of police characters, some of whom have interesting pasts that are only hinted at.

and this is where i think the novel fails, there is too much exposition on things that don't actually matter and not enough plot, but there is also not enough character development. the whole concept is interesting, but the fact that we don't really know the characters except as shallow tropes by the book's end is a problem. the author world builds the underworld beautifully, but then alek has to spend the book zapping back and forth between the underworld and the mortal realm and it feels silly. meanwhile it's not clear what the murder investigation plot is meant to accomplish, other than setting up one of the detectives as a more important character in the next book. shouldn't there be some pay off in this one? the book kind of cheesily ends with an ominous "the end...for now" and i just had to shake my head at that.

the follow up to amber smoke, scarlet rain is set to publish this month. amber smoke ends on such a cliffhanger it's hard to say that i don't want to read the sequel. because in spite of its problems it was a fun, quick read. but more than anything i think that they probably should have been combined into one book. i really think that not every book idea needs to be a series. sometimes ideas work better as a standalone, and i don't know that there is enough story here to justify a trilogy of books. i see this kind of serializing happen a lot with new adult novels, and i think it's kind of an unfortunate trait of the genre.

**thanks to netgalley/diversion books i received a copy of the novel in exchange for my honest review. 

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