One of the things I wanted to do on here was talk about the books I've read. I don't mean grade them as most bloggers do, but discuss them. Of course, for other sites, like Amazon and goodreads, a star rating is required. But here, I have no use for stars. I'm not a professional reviewer. I don't do this for money. I don't even do it for free copies. One of my rules is that I review only those books that capture my imagination enough to buy.
The format will take this form: Overview; What didn't work for me; What worked for me; Conclusion.
To start with, I wanted to look at a vampire novel titled Hidden, which is the first installment in the Marchwood Vampire Series.
Author: Shalini Boland
Sixteen year old Maddy Greene and her younger brother, Ben, are alone in the world and not loving it; the foster parents are not thrilled with rebellious Maddy. When a mysterious solicitor offers them an inheritance that includes millions of (choose your nation's money) and a period property called Marchwood House, the two orphans think their troubles are over. New problems arise when they discover the vampires hidden in the cellar of their new home.
What didn't work for me:
I liked Maddy in the firs three quarters of the novel, not so much in the last quarter where she seems too dependent on Alexandre. This has to do with the romance element. I understand that she is young (and really, this helped me see her as realistically young), but part of the allure of the character is that she is so independent. That she fell so readily for Alexandre went against that, I think. And there came this point where Maddy seemed more worried about Alexandre than about Ben.
There is an enormous amount of repetition in the text. I think if we were to remove those, the novel could easily have been fifty pages lighter. One example of this is Maddy and the narrator continuously mentioning how hot Alexandre the vampire is. Thanks. I got it the first time you mentioned it.
Ben seems more like an accessory towards the end, not really contributing to the story. This is a shame because Ben is a likable character.
For most of the novel, there is a separation of point of views; one chapter, one point of view. Towards the end, the novel mixes the POV of Maddy and Alexandre within chapters so that in a few places it was chaotic. The chapter where Alexandre goes out at night to look for the threat is an example of this.
What worked for me:
Vampires. They were creepy. Very creepy. Even the ones who are friendly, like Alexandre still had this quality that spooks you. Giving them the texture of stone and some of their other qualities made this a very original take on the worn-out mythological beasts.
The pace. My god, this author had the balls to give me a slow story. I haven't read one of those in genre in forever. It was delicious to see that we took the time to appreciate the main characters in their own world before mashing them together in romance. I cannot praise this enough. Part of being an author is taking chances with some element of fiction that goes against what others have done. The author here wants to sit you down and tell you a story. There is romance. We'll get to the good stuff later, but let's build up to it, yes? And she does.
The resolution. It was a somber ending full of possibilities. I won't give it away, except to say that it wasn't what I expected. This gives the novel a true ending where other novels in a series will build up to a sequel or end with a cliffhanger (myself included in this guilty bunch).
The romance. This isn't a romance. That "a dark romance" tag is misleading, but in a good way. I only had to put up with gush for about fifty pages out of four hundred. I'm a guy. Deal with it.
The characters. Maddy is independent and pretty cool. Ben is a great addition to Maddy's life. Alexandre is
not your typical ladies' man; he actually came across as refreshingly human. And this is what drew me to them, the humanity that each showed. They weren't trying to prove anything. They were being themselves.
Themes. There is this wonderful theme of being trapped that resonates throughout the novel. Maddy and Ben are trapped by their circumstances even after they acquire a considerable amount of wealth. Alexandre too is trapped by the social rules of his age and by his vampirism. It seems that just when you think these characters will be set free, there is some element of their new circumstances that traps them. Only when they are together do they truly feel at ease and without constraint. Also, the dynamic between the characters, their interactions, were realistic enough.This was all well done. Without this element, I don't think I would have thought as highly as I did about the novel.
European! I'm American so reading the British dialogue and references to accents was a real treat for me. The European flavor of the language added a dimension to the reading experience that helped tremendously. I also gained a greater appreciation for some of the customs of that island those Brits call home.
I went into it thinking it was going to read Twilight again. This is NOT Twilight. This is by far more interesting than Twilight. But I do think that the tiny romance element may keep away those who loved the large romance element in Twilight.
Maybe the author could have spent a little more time developing that secondary plot with the solicitor, but the humongous secondary plot with the lost city and those ancient vampires is sufficient to drive the rest of the series.
Try it. You may be surprised.