The first book in a planned trilogy by indie author Shalini Boland, I won this title in a recent giveaway. As I know how hard it can be for indie authors to get their work out there and recognised, I decided to put all my other reading to one side and concentrate on this one. I would like to point out that all opinions are my own and I have not glossed this review for the sake of the author.
Presentation: E-book. I read mine on Adobe Digital. It had 336 pages broken down into 30 chapters or roughly the same length.
Story: In 1881, Alexandre Chevalier and his family leave Paris for Cappadocia. There, they are to attempt to excavate a recently discovered underground chamber – if it leads to the fabled underground city, it could potentially be the archaeological find of the century. The locals fear the find, though, and tell of the city being a place of death. The Chevaliers dismiss the local fears as every archaeological dig is surrounded by local mistrust and fear of the past, so they and the Swintons – British friends who have joined them on this dig – pay no heed to these tall tales.
In the present day, Madison Greene is a bit of a rebel, always fighting against a system that so far has done very little to help her in any way. Her mother is dead, her father an absentee parent, and she’s stuck in foster care with a drunk with a temper looking after her; at least she and her brother, Ben, are together, though. Then, on her 16th birthday, Maddy is approached by a strange man who claims that she is the heir to the Marchwood estate and the huge fortune that that entails. As per the stipulations in the will, Maddy and Ben make Marchwood their primary residence. Ben settles into life and school in the area while Maddy explores the house and grounds. In the basement she discovers a bricked up room and her curiosity gets the better of her. What could be in that room? Maddy intends to find out.
Thoughts and impressions: The story starts out alternating between Alexandre’s story in 1881 and Maddy’s story in the present day until the two inevitably meet some way into the story. Although this worked well and I much preferred this to any other potential setup, I often found myself far more fascinated by one of the storylines than the other (it alternated between the two), so I’d skip chapters in the other PoV and then go back later. This and the ending were stronger than the initial convergence when Maddy and Alexandre meet.
Maddy accepts Alexandre far too fast in a bipolar like manner of switching to wanting to kill him to wanting to protect him at all costs with no real period of indecision in-between. The plot got placed on a short hiatus to allow the two characters to become lovey-dovey as well. Proclamations of love came a bit too fast for my taste but I suppose that they do at that age. It also verged on Twilight-esque mentions of Alexandre’s physical beauty – repetitions that I’m really not a fan of. Teens may eat that up, but I prefer not to be reminded of just how physically attractive a character is – I feel like I’m being conditioned to find the character attractive; told the character is beautiful rather than shown. Once the plot started again, though, I enjoyed the conclusion to this first book - the last few chapters, when the antagonist had put in an appearance, were my favourite.
I found Alexandre easier to connect with than Maddy. Maddy just kept making what I consider to be stupid decisions (the party, dropping out of school at barely 16 with no real education, etc.) and isn’t much of a role model for girls – but at least she’s a character with real flaws. Her clothes were frequently described in detail: this is something that a lot of authors tend to do, I’m not sure why. This is another case of a situation where I, as the reader, have been made aware of Maddy’s personality and the styles she prefers and can use my imagination from there on for the most part with only certain necessary exceptions where the clothes she’s wearing are very important. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Alexandre’s adjustment to modern society – his love of certain things, hatred of others – it was all handled very well and gave an amusing side to that stage in the story.
Some notes on the French:
Alexandre is obviously a French character and the author did a fantastic job of bringing this across in his speech patterns and she occasionally used French in the story, which worked in the story’s favour.
One of the French characters, very minor role, is called Zizzy. I’m not sure whether this is a period name but every time I read it all I could think of was ‘zizi’ (they’d be pronounced almost exactly the same way) – the French equivalent of ‘willy’. Might be my warped mind there!
At one point, Alexandre says “je vous mendie” – I beg of you. Mendier is when someone is begging in the streets. The verb here should be ‘supplier’ and you need an ‘en’ with it, I won’t pretend to know why (though I should know) but both my brother and myself would use the 'en'. “Je vous en supplie.”
Style: An enjoyable style suitable for YA. There are some instances of clunkiness in the beginning, especially with dialogue, but this soon improves as the author gets into the flow of the story. There are a few things that escaped the editing process but that is to be expected.
Final verdict: I enjoyed this one. It had an interesting take on vampires. I felt that this first book was slow in places but a necessary stepping stone to the second book, which I’m hoping will contain a more present antagonist and more of a threat. I suspect that this one will appeal to fans of Twilight. 4 stars.
Extra notes: Language didn’t stick out to me. No sex. Appropriate for teen readers.