Friday, October 26, 2012

(Indy Review) The Chosen by Denise Grover Swank

Chosen (The Chosen #1)
Denise Grover Swank

Overall **** Plot *** Interactions **** Characters **** World **** Originality *** Grammar **** Style ****

What is it with prophecies and fantasy? It seems to me they either be irrelevant or complete story killers. If they are true, they represent a complete lack of control on the part of the hero. Predestination wins over free choice. If they aren't then why do we care? I don't know, but when they're handled well, they really can add to the story. Case in point, Denise Swank uses the prophecy in her story to good effect.

(Mild spoiler alert)

“Chosen” is a contemporary fantasy with a prophecy about the rise to power of two individuals. One of whom will defeat the other—and go on to rule the world one would suppose. It's unusual to combine prophecies with contemporary settings and it put me off when I first learned about it. After all, it's set in this world and we are not currently awash in accurate, or at least understandable prophecies. But, I kept on and felt well rewarded that I did.

“Chosen” is a story which explores questions about loyalty and love in a world where the protagonists are stuck between groups of bad guys. It starts out with a woman, Emma, and her mystically gifted son on the run from unknown assailants whose motives are completely unknown, but whose methods are brutal. She meets a man, Will, who seemingly jumps into her life to save her.

Happily, she is no feinting, helpless princess and he is no Prince Charming. We soon find out that he is a ruthless, seemingly amoral, bounty hunter hired to find her and deliver her to a mysterious group of powerful and wealthy men. From then on the story is about what happens to them.

The reader doesn't find out about the prophecy until the second third of the story and it completely changed the tone from dangerous chase to full-blown contemporary fantasy. I think it would have been less jarring to know where it was going before I read it—which is why I put it here.

The characters are not complex, but they are passionate, feel real, and I found myself caring about them. The story is not complex, but it is entertaining and gripping in places. The writing is well done and for the most part transparent. It does not hinder the story or pull you out of it, which meets my idea of good writing. The story is the first in a series and comes to barely enough of a conclusion so I didn't feel cheated.

Of course, it's hard to feel cheated when I got the book for free, but for me, a free book that waists my time is an expensive book. This one was a bargain. It's a good solid four out of five stars overall.

Of course, now I'm going to buy the second one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Indy Review: A Death Displaced by Andrew Butcher

A Death Displaced
Andrew Butcher

Overall ** Plot ** Interactions **1/2 Characters *** World **** Originality **** Grammar *** Style ****

Nick Crystan is a man without much of a purpose in life. He spends his time trying to find enlightenment in various ways and ekes by with part time work in a new-age shop on Lansin Island. “A Death Displaced” begins with Nick having a startling and realistic vision of a woman falling to her death. A few days later when Nick recognizes the early parts of his vision are actually occurring, he acts fast to save the life of the woman, Juliet.

Although Juliet doesn't stick around to thank Nick, this experience seems to indicate that maybe life has a purpose for Nick after all. He begins having prophetic visions that he struggles to understand.

Juliet finds her life changed as well. Since the accident, she feels oddly disconnected from the world and is told by a seer that she should have died that day and now her spirit resided in the spirit realm while her body is still alive. Because of this, she can now see the spirits of the departed. She has a visit from Nick's mother, who seemingly abandoned her family when Nick was young. Samantha Crystan asks Juliet to find her son Nick and tell him to go to Grendel Manor.

Juliet does as she is asked and she and Nick are thrown together to try and solve the mystery of Samantha Crystan's disappearance.

For the most part, despite several errors that should have been picked up in the proofreading, the prose in “A Death Displaced” is good and after the first few chapters the characters are engaging and three dimensional. The mystery surrounding Samantha's disappearance lead Juliet and Nick to discover some interesting history of the island and introduces some intriguing characters. Nick and Juliet have an instant attraction to each other that has a promise of romance and a nice hook to provide urgency to the plot.

“A Death Displaced” is Andrew Butcher's first novel and suffers from some structural issues that I am increasingly discovering are fairly typical of self-published books. As I mentioned above, the characters and story are engaging, but the pacing could use some tweaking and tightening.

In the first couple of chapters, Nick was such a wet rag of a person, that I wondered if I really cared what happened to him, but as the story unfolds, we discover more of his past and his general attitude towards life gets explained.

Mr. Butcher make some odd choices in the plot. For me, the climax of the book arrived too soon and without sufficient tension to really be satisfying. After the climax, Juliet and Nick find themselves at odds and the story follows them as they try to figure out what happened and how to move on. Then, instead of coming to a more satisfying conclusion, the story line switches to a new character who, until now, has played a bit part in the story and has little reader sympathy.

In general, it left me wondering why I had read the last 20% of the book.

It's obvious that “A Death Displaced” was intended as an introduction to future books in the series and if you read it with that in mind, you might not find the structure as off putting as I did. As I stated earlier, the writing itself is strong, the setting is interesting and the premise is intriguing. It shows that Mr. Butcher has the potential to create some excellent works in the future. Having invested the time to read the first book, I will be likely to pick up the second if the reviews look good.