Published by: self-published
ISBN 13: 9780995722903
Published: May 2017
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Read for the SPFBO, this is one of the books that I chose to further consider out of my initial 30, trying to whittle them all down to a single title to put forward to the other judges – and it’s also one that I picked for the cover contest.
We meet two brothers – Daniel and Jonathan, who are out to better themselves. Daniel is trying to become a Censor – a job of great respect – while Jonathan is struggling somewhat. It’s always interesting to see what laws a man may break if it’s to protect people he loves – pretty much what Les Misérables is based on, after all. Then we have my favourite – a capable woman, Miranda, who is talented and determined to make a difference – in her case, be the first female student and knock aside the patriarchal society that contains them. She’s ruthless and driven, and currently it feels like the perfect time for her story.
When a Censor has been murdered it’s up to Daniel to prove himself. This is the running theme throughout the book, as each character is trapped in their own self-made jail of demands and goals, and we see them struggle, succeed and/or fall to meet them. This novel is certainly character-driven, which is my favourite. The plot is mostly centred around what has upset or provoked our characters next.
Overall, where this excels is in its magic system, which is unique and comes down to each individual as to how they utilise it. The pacing is also excellent, as is the mood and the way it all builds up around itself.
What I would have liked to see are characters with a little more sense – it’s tough, being a writer. You want to give your characters troubles, and they can’t solve them too easily because otherwise you have no plot, but then making them make a few too many silly decisions makes it a bit of a slog to read at times, and makes you doubt that the characters ‘exist’ and you can’t really follow or believe in people who don’t act in a way you can understand.
I say that I like character-driven novels, but not when it comes to the plot being just a little too loose, and not entirely wrapped up neatly – it almost seems like a few elements were forgotten by the end. While I did used to argue that it’s just how life is sometimes (it’s not like everything we see in the world is resolved), in this case, it just made it a little pointless to have it in the novel to begin with.
This is a strong contender and I recommend this book – it doesn’t feel entirely as edited as The Way Into Chaos, but I certainly liked the characters in this one far more.