January St. Davis, on her own since the age of sixteen and struggling to stay in college, thinks she’s scored in a major way when she lands a paid summer internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. One evening, after working an especially long shift, a chance encounter with a group of mysterious men alters the course of her life.
Rykerian Yarrister, a Guardian of Vesturon with unearthly powers and impossibly gorgeous looks, finds himself at odds over the human female he recently saved from certain death. When it seems he is on the verge of winning her over, she is ripped from his hands by a strange and powerful being, threatening to destroy her if his demands are not met.
Do Rykerian and the Guardians have the ability to meet this fierce barbarian’s ultimatums, or will January suffer a horrid demise?
Keep reading for my review!
Warning: lengthy discussion abound. Feel free to skim if necessary.
I have to admit, I was pretty excited when I saw the synopsis of Determinant. January sounded smart (16 and in college) and relatively agreeable, and Rykerian sounded exotic and relatively intense. Perfect summer read? I’m down for that.
There’s no doubt about the fact that this book has the potential to be an awesome read. By awesome, I mean the type of read that you get sucked into the moment you open up the covers (or open the email attachment, in this case). The world behind the Guardians of Vesturon is imaginative and curious, and the synopsis is interesting at first glance.
So one night, I sat down with my iPad and a cup of hot tea and began reading in anticipation of a good book for summer. A real feel-good. Nothing with too much depth.
Determinant embodied all of that for me, except rather than making me “feel good”, its story often caused me to furrow my brow and scratch my chin. While I enjoyed the basis of the plot, there were several aspects to Determinant that let down some of my expectations.
One, character development. Maybe it was because this was book 3 of the series (but could be read as a stand-alone), but I was horribly confused when Rykerian first entered the scene. It took me a while to cross out the various options (Wizard? Awesome warlord dude? Cool magic-wielding (insert preferred paranormal character here)?) before I realized that this guy was an alien. (Of some sort. Foreign creature to Earth. You get the gist.) I guess I was misled by the “paranormal romance” category, which fits, but the alien concept was a bit more sci-fi to me rather than paranormal.
My point is, Rykerian never really jumped out at me as anything but your typical cookie-cutter male protagonist (hot, strong, special powers? Yeah, we’ve been there). In the first 100 pages, I didn’t get a good sense of who he really was; all I knew was that he was unimaginably perfect-sounding. I didn’t see any blaring flaws that he had, or any weird quirks (e.g., does he wear pink flamingo boxers? Is he obsessed with eating cat food? Does he EVER have any embarrassing moments?), etc. We know he’s a good-looking stud with supernatural powers. What makes him different/compelling/interesting/loveable from everybody else? (i.e. any male protagonist from a supernatural romance.) We have the base of the perfect guy already; now we just need some embellishments that us female readers will find unique, interesting, and normal. Or flaws! Flaws are always welcome!
January was honestly an enigma as well, mainly because she wasn’t very relatable! She had an awfullife, yet she never had any suspicions about the reason behind her terrible upbringing. (Spoiler alert, her parents are total jerks and she’s really an illegitimate child.) She’s an accelerated student–not quite a genius, but enough to be two grades ahead of her age. Why didn’t her teachers or counselor raise questions about the lack of parental involvement in her life? Why, despite the Cinderella-esque lifestyle she had to undergo (rooming in the attic, anyone?), is January still “normal”? She’s relatively happy. She makes a constant effort throughout a long period of harsh treatment to love her family, which is admirable in itself, but really, what are the odds that someone would be sweet enough to do that? She has a group of friends. No evident trauma. She’s not an outcast, either. Questions like these rose in my head while I read the first couple of chapters. Maybe I needed to read more deeply into the text to truly understand the inner workings of January’s character, but to me, she was puzzling, and altogether too perfect.
Furthermore, the romance between January and Rykerian seemed a bit stilted and extremely accelerated. They meet, his hot-girl radar tingles, which is fine, but then after a series of events which ends with January fighting for her life, he becomes Prince Charming and falls in love. As in, “Oh my gosh, she’s so beautiful, and she’s dying because of something I did, and she’s so beautiful and perfect and unloved, and I think I’m falling in love. Or at least, extremely attracted to her.” (Maybe this is his flaw.)
Because I was reading this book mainly for the romance (DON’T JUDGE), this was the part that let me down the most. I was quite averse to January as a character because I couldn’t find a part in me that pitied her. Sure, she was in a bad situation, but her weaknesses weren’t portrayed to the point where I was hurting inside as well. January’s awful childhood and dismal college life could have been poignant and compelling, but I felt like those events weren’t presented in a way that tugged at my heartstrings. Instead, I found myself raising an eyebrow and indifferently turning the page, brushing all her hardships away (I know, I sound horrible, I’m sorry). Then when the chemistry between January and Rykerian began, I was let down by how fast everything was going. I suppose you could call it a whirlwind romance, but I found it hard to believe that “love” could begin so quickly. It seems more realistic to start at an aesthetic attraction and perhaps even some pity, and as time goes on, attraction leads to infatuation and then love. Not, BAM! Love. (My own opinion; if an author can pull off the love at first sight thing, go for it.)
Moving on from that aspect, the feeling I got while I was reading this book was of a staccato beat: like I was walking on a pebbled road and tripping constantly. The sentence structure was not varied; one could even say that it was choppy. I found myself likening some of the phrases to your old-school “See Jane run. Jane is fast,” etc. In other words, the text didn’t draw me in. The plot was great, but the way the words were phrased was not appealing to my ears. More sentence structure variation would do wonders.
To sum it up, my main problems were: Mary-Sue like characters, dubious romance, and monotonous sentence structure. However, some things I liked about the story were: imaginative world, interesting plot, and an absolutely amazing main idea.
In conclusion, I’d just like to say that I still think that Determinant could have been an amazing book. Maybe I’m being overly picky, or too blunt. Of course, I realize that I am just a reader, and maybe I don’t have a lot of ground to be nitpicky. Don’t get me wrong, my intentions are not to hurt Ms. Hargrove, because I know that writing a book takes a lot of effort and determination. My criticism is purely for constructive, educational purposes from an objective reader. Despite my words, I have confidence that the Guardians of Vesturon can be made into a great series, and I hope that this review may be able to aid Ms. Hargrove in fine-tuning her future endeavors.
Thank you, Ms. Hargrove, for writing this. I hope you have much luck in the future.
Until next time,
One day, on her way home from work as a sales manager, A. M. Hargrove, realized her life was on fast forward and if she didn’t do something soon, it would quickly be too late to write that work of fiction she had been dreaming of her whole life. So, she rolled down the passenger window of her fabulous (not) company car and tossed out her leather briefcase. Luckily, the pedestrian in the direct line of fire was a dodgeball pro and had über quick reflexes enabling him to avoid getting bashed in the head. Feeling a tad guilty about the near miss, A. M. made a speedy turn down a deserted side street before tossing her crummy, outdated piece-of-you-know-what lap top out the window. She breathed a liberating sigh of relief, picked up her cell phone and hit #4 on her speed dial.
A.M.: Boss, is that you?
Boss: Why yes, A. M., who else would be answering my phone?
A.M.: Er… right. Well, I’m calling to let you know you can pick up my luxury Ford Focus at Starbucks near the interstate.
Boss: Why ever would I want to do that?
A.M.: Because I quit!
A.M. hit the end button and speed dialed her husband.
A.M.: Hi hubs, can you pick me up at Starbucks?
Hubs: Sure… Having some car trouble?
A.M.: Not at all. I don’t have a car to have trouble with because I just quit my job.
A.M.: It’s time for a new career and I am going to be a very famous novelist.
So began A. M. Hargrove’s career as a young adult paranormal romance author of self-published ebooks. Her series, The Guardians of Vesturon, centers around a family of six siblings and is a mix of humor, mystery, suspense and of course, love. Survival and Resurrection are her first and second full length novels in the series and Beginnings is the prequel novella. Her third installment, Determinant, will be released on June 30, 2012. (It didn’t happen exactly like that, but you get the idea!)
Check out an EXCERPT of this book, a GIVEAWAY, and a special INTERVIEW with the author!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of Reading Addiction Blog Tours and a copy of this book was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by Reading Addiction Blog Tours, no payment was received by me in exchange for this review. There was no obligation to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, publisher, publicist, or readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning Use of Endorcements and Testimonials in Advertising*