Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tea Time: Echoes of Balance

Guess who finally has time to read again? *this girl*

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

Echoes of Balance, Cally Ryanne

For Chloe Moraine, fighting wild bears– and the occasional vampire– is a better pastime than the tediousness of keeping the universe in balance. But balancing is the family business. It comes with being one of the last in the ancient line of Naimei.

So when the impending return of the Original Demons threatens global harmony, Chloe is obligated to help. Even when that means the dull-as-dirt task of following a human girl who “might be involved, maybe,” instead of the thrilling hunt she craves.

With their powerful magic and ancient Ways, Chloe’s family is unconcerned, certain they’ll quickly fix the imbalance while she’s preoccupied with human high school. But when the Ways start to fail, the threat becomes more serious, and the only person that seems to know anything is a debonair vampire with an offer to help.

If Chloe chooses to trust him, and the darker side of the supernatural he represents, she’ll betray her family and risk losing them, and herself, in the process. But if he’s right, he may just be their only chance to stop the return of the Originals and save the world.

Maybe high school won’t be so boring after all. (source:goodreads)

Cover-First look? It's pretty. Kind of pale, though; as in there really isn't one place that my eye is drawn to. Nothing really pops. There's the whole girl-in-fancy-dress motif going on, but unlike a lot of books out there it actually fits in with the events of the novel, so there's a plus. And she's holding a knife. And, above all, it's not a bad-looking cover. I still feel like there's no focal point to draw me in, though; if it were sitting on a shelf I'd probably look right over it.

Despite that, I'm giving it the following rating because, hey, it is an overall pretty cover.


Narrative-Here's where things get  a little dicey. If I hadn't already committed myself to reading the entire book, I'd have stopped after the first two pages. Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't stop, but Ryanne's style threw me off a little bit. The first scene came off as trying to be a bit too poetic and descriptive, and it's a style that I didn't see too much throughout the rest of the book. My issue was the number of -ly adverbs used in tandem with each other, but I do admit to being biased because I have a love/hate relationship with adverbs. Fortunately, this trend was only seen within those first few pages, and the writing became a bit more natural to read.

I was so extremely (extremely, extremely) happy (ecstatic and over the moon) to see that this was written in third-POV. The world of YA-fiction has been riddled with first-person; it's not a bad thing, as many of them are written well, but it's a huge breath of fresh air to read a book written in the third person. Brownies for this gal, everyone, okay? Brownies. Because not only was it written in third-person, it was written well. Somebody once told me that the marks of this POV being well-done is that-while reading it-the reader barely even notices that there's no "I" pronoun in the actual narrative. And this book did that; I was thoroughly sucked into the writing during some points of it. So there, one of my favorite parts of the entire novel.

Ultimately, the pros outweighed the cons, but only slightly. I might be feeling a bit too generous here, but hey:


Plot-As I begin to write this section of the review, I admit that I'm at a loss of words because I'm not too sure on where, exactly, to start. Just to help me organize my thoughts, here's a list of what I think worked and what didn't:

What Worked:
-The whole world being "balanced" between good and evil, and the concept of the Naimei being there to make sure everything stays balanced.
-"The Originals," i.e. Pan and Damonos. Demons are just awesome, okay? And these guys are supposed to be the worst of the worst, horrible beings, who love the "old" kind of chaos in which even normal demons have fears. That's kind of cool.
-There's two vampires hanging around the main character, and they were kind of fun to try working out.
-The concept of Chloe chasing after a girl who may or may not have psychic powers, and who may or may not be involved. I'm not going lie: I kind of loved the whole back-and-forth between wondering if there really was something weird about this girl.
-Whenever a fight scene popped up, I admit, it was kind of intense. I loved them, and I loved the different creatures I got to see Chloe fight against: vampires, demons, and then even more powerful demons. It was fantastic, and I loved that our beloved heroine was either matched in skill or else lost more of the time. It felt real, given her age and strength in comparison to the other Naimei and creatures that she's dueling against.

What Didn't Work:
-I don't understand why Chloe had to spend almost the entire book playing high-schooler instead of actually . . . doing things, I guess? Part of this stems from the horribly stereotypical and cliched aspect of high school that was actually portrayed, joined by the shallow and superficial characters. Stereotypical nerd even got beat up by stereotypical jock who was stereotypically angry about losing at a game of dodgeball. Said jock even stereotypically asks: "How are athletics supposed to be my thing if I'm seen losing to a scrawny little nerd like you?" Italics were not my own emphasis. Then there was this whole, "new girl just has to beat out the mean and nasty cheerleader for Spring Fling Queen because nobody else in the senior class of high school is qualified enough" thing going on. I don't understand why teenagers had to be reverted back to being so shallow. Then again, to give the author the benefit of the doubt, I was never one of the girls who were obsessed over school dances. We hardly even had school dances. So maybe in some weird corner of the world teenagers actually act like this. It was just a really big turn-off for me, especially when I was weighing the whole, "Fate of the World" thing in my head while the main character was trying to figure out how to not look pretty in front of the popular kids.
-There was a character who just conveniently popped up and then disappeared without any actual purpose. In fact, there were a lot of convenient happenings, overall, that made a lot of the book feel like it was just kind of pushed together and the pieces don't fit quite right, without a proper lead-in or anything to connect the bones. It was jerky. That one character who popped up and disappeared again? Didn't even offer up any new information; I got really excited because I thought I was finally going to learn something, and all he said was that Chloe looked a lot like her brother and that nothing was out of the ordinary in the realm of supernaturals. Which we already knew. I kept holding out hope that this guy was going to pop up again in the book, and he didn't. Then one of Chloe's cousins randomly showed up at a convenient time to help her save a vampire and then he left again-conveniently before she had a chance to ask him why he'd shown up in the first place. Then another of Chloe's relations (really trying not to spoil anything, here) shows up, and again it's just good timing; I didn't think that "just checking on her" was a good enough reason for him to pop up out of nowhere. I guess that's what a lot of the book felt like: convenience, without much back-story or reasoning behind why some of the things happened.
-The lack-of-information game. There were numerous instances where I thought: "Finally, I'm going to get some answers," and it never panned out. This happens a lot in fiction, but the difference is that, after awhile, you've got to give the reader something. It never really happened. There was never an, "AH-HA!" moment that really got me invested, just more: "I have only what information you have." Whenever there was a moment where I could pinpoint somebody had information, that coyly went with the: "I'm not telling you anything," kind of game, despite the fact that they all should be sharing at least something with each other. Not because they're suddenly best-buds, but because they all have an interest in making sure that the world doesn't just dissolve into chaos.

Overall: I guess what these two lists helped me realize that I love the concept, but I'm not too big a fan over the execution. I felt like there was still work to be done, like the manuscript wasn't exactly as polished and ready-for-print as it could have been? And, again, I'm being extremely generous; the only reason the plot gets three stars, here, is because you can't make half of a star in uni-code and I'm rounding up. 


Characters-Ya'll have already read my beef with the high-schoolers. They made up about a third-ish of the entire cast, and they were all . . . very shallow. Very easy to read. Ultimately: very one-dimensional, like a cardboard cutout. Unfortunately, even the main high-schooler, Aurelie, came off as the same way. She's the girl Chloe's paying attention to, who mayor may not be a psychic, but I felt like she, too, didn't have much in the way of character depth.

The more supernatural characters were a bit more interesting. Chloe, for one, wasn't too bad. I'm not sure what to make of her stammering, though; after awhile I started to notice a lot of pauses in her speech and a lot of "uh" and "um" moments that made me feel not quite as confidant in her abilities as I wanted to.

The other Naimei: Alex, Rus, and Mikhail. Well . . . there was overall a very clear spectrum of: one of them is extremely critical of Chloe's choice of lifestyle, the other is much more laid-back and at least tries to be understanding, and the third is somewhere in the middle. Alex and Rus I expected to see more of, but they kind of just tapered off and became those guys who were there if needed, but evidently weren't?

Supernaturals: two vampires-Sam and Josef-and a demon, Ducante. Josef and Ducante at least have interesting personalities, and I'm having trouble realizing where their loyalties lie. Especially with the ending. Like holy sh*t (apologies for the crude language, but seriously). I think I would actually put these three at the top of my list of favorite characters, since they actually seemed like the three who have the most interaction with not only Chloe, but the plot as a whole.

Overall: I guess I'd say that there was definitely room for more characterization. Just like with the plot, there was room for more.


Before I give my final score, give me a chance to explain myself, and explain why I'm still so unsure of this book. I said it up with the plot: the concept is good. It's interesting and it's somewhat new, and I love the aspect of the girl who's kind of a failure to her family just because she does things her own way. She's essentially the underdog, right? And the ending: my god. Like, I ultimately think it ended too early, but that's what always happens when a book ends in  a massive cliffhanger. The individual plot points? They were good. What threw me off was that I didn't really think there was much holding them together behind explanations and character revelations that came up short.

I wanted to like this book, and I still do. And I know that when the sequel comes out, I'm going to buy it and most likely read it. I just hope it's put together just a bit more neatly.

Final Answer: 3.5 / 5 


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