Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Echoes Of Balance review!
Remember the book I posted a few days ago? I finished it, and now here's a review!
Echoes of Balance, by Cally Ryanne
To begin, I’ll be honest and say I don’t read YA paranormal that often. I am a M/M erotica author, after all. I’m familiar with the heavy hitters, of course, and I dip into the genre on occasion, but typically I don’t find myself too interested in YA that has paranormal romance elements and I would not call myself well read in the genre by any stretch of the imagination. However, I was intrigued by the chance to read the first book released by a new publisher.
I was also pleasantly surprised. Echoes of Balance is an enjoyable book and one with a lot of strengths, including wonderful worldbuilding, generally strong characterization, and a plot that has just enough mounting tension to keep you sucked in. I’ll try to avoid spoilers in this review.
Let’s start with the book description. Echoes of Balance focuses on Chloe, one of the Naimei. The Namei are a paranormal race dedicated to preserving balance, and do this by using the Ways, a set of instruments that point to where trouble may be looming. Chloe isn’t too interested in the ways, having been interested in hunting vampires for most of her life, but when she injures herself and realizes that vampires are more than just mindless bloodsuckers, she refocuses and gets pulled into preventing the resurrection of two very powerful demons. To do that, she has to keep track of Aurelia, a girl in high school who somehow is pivotal to the demon’s resurrection.
Clearly there is a lot going on in the book, but the author, Cally Ryanne, does a good job keeping track of all the threads and tying up the important things by the end. The tension mounts as the book goes on, from Chloe meeting Josef and Sam, two vampires who she suspects more and more have something to do with the demon summoning, to Aurelia who displays strange powers, and even to Ducante, a demon who runs a bar and clearly knows more than he is letting on. It’s not quite a page-turner, but the mounting mystery kept me reading. There are also a lot of hints scattered throughout the book about Chloe and her family that suggest the series will only get more complex and interesting as it goes on.
The only weakness in the plot was the strange prologue. It hammers you over the head with mysteriousness and characters you know nothing about, so it falls rather flat. But it’s only a few pages, and then the story picks up quite quickly after that.
I’ll focus on the world-building for a bit. It’s hard to do paranormal justice these days, but the Naimei, the race that our MC Chloe belongs to, are a very neat paranormal species. I loved the idea of the Vanishing—that the Naimei, rather than die of old age, simply vanish with no explanation when their time comes. It was a wonderful bit of mystery and made the Naimei feel as alive and unique as any other paranormal creature. And this world has quite the menagerie—shifters, vampires, psychics, witches, and of course, demons. (I feel I should mention—no worries for those who are sick of vampires. The vampires here are fairly traditional, with enhanced strength and speed, a weakness for blood, and not much else. No sparkling, otherworldly beauty, or any other such things). It was also a boon to the story that the paranormal elements were absolutely integral to the plot. This was no YA high school romp with vampires thrown in for flavor, it was a supernatural adventure that happens to dip into high school. It reminded me a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its tone.
That said, the high school elements did fall a bit flat for me. Their were a lot of fairly cliché elements to them, including the bullies who are bullies for no reason, the fact that everyone in school decides Chloe is the coolest thing ever and should be Spring Fling Queen despite only attending the school for a week, and of course the whole idea of Spring Fling in the first place. Those high school elements made me feel like I was watching an episode of Saved by the Bell. Luckily, though, this is only a minor complaint since the high school elements, as I mentioned before, are not a huge part of the action. They also do get resolved with minimal teen angst and drama, which is appreciated.
Turning to characterization, I really liked the MC. Chloe is not a shrinking violet nor is she overly snarky like some other YA heroines, and not only knows how to use her powers but appreciates what they can do for her. For the protagonist of a YA book, Chloe is very mature in a lot of important ways, and her self-discovery takes the route of her finding a new way to focus her powers (from hunting vampires to fulfilling her family’s goals) and learning more about the paranormal world around her. She does have a few flaws, like not being as open with her family as she should, but all in all she was a strong character that I respected.
The supporting cast is good too. Chloe’s family were well fleshed out and defined, and the two love interests/vampires, Josef and Sam, were well characterized. I will admit to a preference of Sam over Josef, as I’m sick of the “overbearing jerk” love interest that pops up a lot in YA and Josef fit that to a T. Sam, the youthful vampire, had a kind of puppy-ish charm that I appreciated. The only real weakness in the cast was Aurelia, the high school girl that Chloe had to keep track of. She was interesting and we see a lot of good commentary into teen life through her character, but for a character who may end up being very important to future books, she could have used a bit more screen time.
I figure I should add that while I mention love interests, the romance was not a huge part of the book. Most of it was the ever-rising mystery and tension, which to me was a plus.
And as a final plus, the book was well written. Even for an ARC, I didn’t see much in the way of errors. The author tends toward a “telling” approach to some scenes in the interest of either time or reducing word count that I thought could have benefited from being shown, especially scenes with Aurelia where we might have gotten to see more of her home life or personality. This is a minor quibble, though, as clearly the way it was done did a lot for maintaining tension and keeping the pace quick.
To wrap, while not stunningly perfect, Echoes of Balance is a fun, enjoyable supernatural romp with strong characters and a well developed world that I’d be glad to see more of. I’d definitely recommend this for fans of YA or YA paranormal stories, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and anyone else who enjoys a fast paced fantasy.