Thursday, 25 September 2014

Book Review: Heart of Dread: Frozen

Heart of Dread: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruize, Michael Johnston

So my first official book review is here and I have mixed feelings. I loved the sound of this book, but disliked the way it was written... and yet still found myself softening up to it. I reckon it might be the shaky start to a great series.

Release Date: 2nd October

Recommend: If you don’t mind info dumping and love action, fantasy, dystopian fiction and anything in between.

Verdict: 3/5 stars

Nat is a young blackjack dealer working for New Vegas, but she’s also marked: a monster inside her head and magical gifts which she can’t control. The world has frozen over, the waters poisoned, and the marked are killed on sight. Even though Nat can hide her mark, she can’t stay in New Vegas – the voice won’t let her. She hires a cocky and young Wes and his crew of mercenaries to help her reach the warm paradise of Blue, a place that is only rumoured exist.

It’s actually more complicated than that little summary, with maps inside crystals, zombies, dystopian style government, magical creatures, military, pirates - you name it, this book has it whether it fits or is shoved in like a square in a triangle hole.

The Vegas theme felt so fresh and unique for a fantasy novel. It’s what drew me to the book. Another strength is that it’s action packed and full of twists... But there’s not much mystery or curious circumstances to make you want answers. Instead of learning the missing piece of the story, you're introduced to a whole new jigsaw that’s been completed behind your back. It’s still a good reveal, but it’s not particularly clever and doesn’t have that same gasp factor.

I actually had numerous quibbles that made me think maybe this novel was a redraft away from being epic...

Nat isn’t an interesting protagonist - I can’t pin a single personality trait to her - but Nat and Wes work well. Wes is witty and brave, and gladly takes half the narrative. Their relationship starts out a tad superficial, but they’re undeniably attracted to each other and connect to form something deeper. I can ignore Nat’s blandness when the second lead is strong, but I think it’s a bit of a shame. 

That's the problem with this book: some of it is bad but there's a lot to make up for it.

As with a lot of fantasy, the world is complicated. Early chapters are mostly history lesson, and whilst there are a few bits of action to start with, they happen a bit quick – too sudden for the characters show much emotion towards. I had to reread one section just to make sure it actually happened.

The info dumping doesn’t really let up either. Discoveries are made, and these require the history lectures to return. There’s too much detail in the overall world, and not enough time put into developing side characters, spicing up the narrative, or actually developing these concepts. I’m hoping that later books in the series won’t struggle with this as much, because there is a lot of potential.

The actual writing is a bit bland and heavy on the ‘tell’ side of showing and telling. This goes for the plot and character development. One example is, ‘Typical soldiers, they were brash, potty-mouthed, and hot-headed’. This isn’t exactly hard to show... and isn’t shown throughout the novel. It’s just told to us at the start and doesn’t even seem to concur. It feels a bit lazy.

But the book is action packed. While I found some of the action a bit superficial, there’s rarely a dull moment. But I’m going to talk about concepts again, because that’s mostly what this book was...

Some of the concepts were great, but for some reason the authors chose to include naff ones too. The authors must have had so many ideas they panicked and decided to used them all. If only the relevant concepts were used, and developed in more detail, this book could easily be 4 stars.

Not 5 though. I’ll reserve that for books that make me want to slow down while I’m reading and preserve the moment, books that I have to cover up sections when I know something epic is about to happen and I don’t want to ruin it. This book had none of those moments, but I have faith that the next in the series will.

*This was written as an honest review in exchange for a free copy through NetGalley. If you're a blogger too, check them out!