Sunday, January 3, 2021

Identity Revealed - J.M. Butler

This entry within the vast landscape of fantasy offerings has left me in a bit of a quandary. To read or not to read book two. 

Let’s start with why I was attracted to this book. It wasn’t the ebook cover. However, I do like the paperback cover.  Still, the cover art did give me insight into what kind of story I would be reading. There’s a pretty, adult woman, dressed in adventurous looking clothes. She’s holding a glowing orb, and dragons are frolicking in the background. So...fantasy. I like fantasy.

What really drew me to the look inside feature was the fact that there were only thirty-five ratings. Remember, I said I would try to ferret out a good read from those titles buried within the impenetrable jungle of Amazon listings. 

Once inside, I found the first line engaging. “Laughter sounded in the distance, breaking the quiet summer afternoon.” Now granted, if I’d been writing this line, I would have added ‘of the’ before the word summer, and thus breaking the quiet, rather than the summer afternoon.  

Still, I understood what the writer meant when she began writing the scene, and the sentence made me curious about what caused the laughter. So I read on.

As you know, I’m not particularly eager to write spoilers, so let’s start with a small section from the marketing blurb. “Cursed and isolated, young princess Amelia lives with one goal: to rescue her people from an invading army. Her family is captured, the royal court slaughtered, and her people imprisoned, but she’s trained night and day to defeat the army’s shapeshifting warlord, Naatos. There’s only one problem: if she ever kills someone, she will die.”

Well, that’s intriguing. She’ll die if she kills? And yet, she has to defeat a shapeshifting warlord. What kind of skills do you need to accomplish this? So I read on.

I finished the book. Did I like it? Hmmm? I finished it.  

Among other things I dislike, and will always make me uncomfortable, are plots that attempt to manipulate me into thinking that killing is acceptable as long as it furthers the goal. In this case, world domination for the good of the minions they plan to conquer. I also find unpronounceable names tend to stop me and drop me out of the story. This book is full of them.

There were also some interesting references to sex, though there were no sexual acts in this book, like the word ‘feshatoon.’ Which was cringe-worthy for me. So, if you're expecting descriptive episodes of 'feshatooning,' you'll need to look elsewhere. 

Character development was spotty. Still, when the author got it right, it really worked. In particular, WroOth is charming, funny, and loyal. Then there is AaQar, who is circumspect and reasonable as he deals with his deeply tortured soul. And Naatos is simply unredeemable. 

The unfortunate part is that the main protagonist is a relatively bland, vanilla character. 

In conclusion, while there were issues, which other reviewers have pointed out. . . I finished the book! And in my opinion, this book should have been marketed as a young adult fantasy romance. It is not high fantasy by any stretch of the imagination. It might have received more attention if it had been listed as YA.

I think this author has real talent and should get better as she continues to write. Her prose is exuberant, like a child skipping when they could walk. Her enthusiasm is as evident as if a smile had been inscribed onto the page.

So, in answer to my conundrum? Should I read the second book? Yes, I will read the second book. In fact, I’ve already started it, and I’m glad I did. 

Pre-posting update—I couldn’t finish the series. Naatoss, the main love interest, could easily be compared to Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre films. 

I’m sorry, at least for me, even in a hate to love plot line, the love interest cannot be irredeemable. Even though there is a secondary love interest in the character, Shon, Amelia still begins to have feelings for Naatos, even when he's covered in blood following a session of slaughtering. 

Shelley Lee Riley, author of: The debut YA fantasy novel Into Madness, Book One of the Born From Stone Saga. The memoir, Casual Lies - A Triple Crown Adventure

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