Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Halflings by Heather Burch

I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you Zondervan!

Halflings is one of those books that I became aware of around X-mas time. The synopsis piqued my interest but at the same time I was aware that there was every possibility that this story would lay outside of my enjoyment zone. However, I’m one of those try-anything-once gals and when I spotted the book on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

I’ve seen a few reviews of the book cropping up on blogs I follow over the past week or so – some good, some bad – but as of yet I have not read any of them. I wanted to go into this book with an open mind, and that is exactly what I did.

Title: Halflings
Series: Halflings #1
Author: Heather Burch
Publisher: Zondervan Publishing
Target Audience: YA
Pages: 288
Chapters: 25
PoV: (mostly) 3rd person
Tense: (mostly) past tense

Story: After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with. 

A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in a scientist’s dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: Before I start, please note that I read an ARC of this book and some of the issues may have been resolved prior to the book going to print.

Now, I usually address the author’s style in a separate part of the review, but as I have so much to say about the style in Halflings, I’m going to address it in my main review instead.

First things first, this book has a serious case of purple prose-ism. This is not necessarily a bad thing most of the time. I can appreciate the lengths that authors go to in order to come up with some of these metaphors and similes. Sometimes it’s even nice to delve into a flowery style. And then there are times when the flowery goes a bit too far and it becomes sickly sweet rather than just sweet.

Here’s an example:

“Stands of hair pressed against her head where her [motorbike] helmet held them in place, trapped like butterflies under glass.”

Personally, when I have helmet hair, it’s an absolute mess of sticky sweaty strands. Granted, my helmet hair usually comes from a horse riding helmet and the way I ride makes you work up a sweat that you wouldn’t necessarily get from riding a motorbike. That said, whenever I go out on the motorbike, my hair is a far cry from such imagery when I free it from the confines of the helmet.

Here’s another example:

“Two high cheek-bones rested above a mouth that looked capable of pleasing any girl’s lips, but also able to draw into a tight line of defence when necessary.”

I get what the author’s trying to do with that imagery, but it just really doesn’t work for me. A tight line of defence? With his lips?

One last example:

“Krissy rolled her contact lenses.”

I’m sorry, what now? When I read that I actually had to blink and read it again. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Is it just me or does that sentence sound really wrong? I get an image of Krissy rolling her contact lenses but not her eyes. Believe you me, that image is scary.

Moving on, much of the story is written in the first person but occasionally it slips into the first person. Usually this is associated with sliding into the current PoV character’s thoughts (this is almost exclusively Nikki, Mace or Raven) but occasionally it didn’t work properly. These are mostly towards the start of the story and unfortunately I don’t have any written down to quote.

The story is narrated in the past tense, but occasionally the PoV character will intervene with something in the present tense. This doesn’t always work, though. There was one particular sentence that came before I had my notebook with me (so probably in the first chapter) where Nikki starts her thought in the past tense but completes it in the present tense. This didn’t work for me.

There were also sentences like this one: “She nodded, and the tips of her hair danced over his skin. She’s making it momentarily difficult to concentrate.” which seem to be caught between the last two points. Is the second part of the sentence supposed to be general 3rd person commentary on events, or Mace’s 1st person thoughts? I’m tempted to say the former because if it had been Mace’s thoughts I don’t think he’d have used the adverb ‘momentarily’. Whatever the case, though, things like this jarred me from my reading zone.

Finally, in the very last chapter (no spoilers, promise) there’s one bit that must have just been overlooked during the editing process but it made me laugh aloud so I thought I’d share it. Nikki is looking out at her family home and she describes it as being “off in the distance on a faraway hill”. She decides she wants to visit her house but doesn’t have a car so she’ll walk there, and this is what follows: “it wasn’t far, maybe four streets away.”  For me, four streets away is not a “faraway” hill. This could be because where I grew up a “faraway hill” could be as much as two d├ępartements away or in another country (Switzerland or Italy).

I’ve spent quite a bit of time pointing out these issues with the narrative, but I want to reassure everyone that though these problems are there, they are few and far between and only crop up occasionally.

Another thing that didn’t quite work for me was events surrounding the dog. I don’t want to delve into them because that would be going full speed into spoiler territory, but I was impacted by what happened because the dog had not received enough attention prior to this.

Before I get to the good stuff, I have one last negative comment and that is that in the first half of the book I didn’t have a good grasp on how much time was passing between events. There was one point where Nikki’s parents say they’re going away to a convention, and I hadn’t realised the day had even changed when they ring up to find out if she’s ok home alone. Again, this is a minor thing but it meant that I had to keep reassessing what I knew of the story thus far.

Now, onto the good stuff!

The mythology behind this story completely drew me in. Obviously, with it being angels, there’s a huge link with Christianity and sometimes the messages got a little heavy for me as a non-Christian reader, but for the most part I really enjoyed this take on angelic offspring. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far and I expect we’ll find out a lot more in the sequels. I’m especially interested in why the male halflings in the book are blonde-haired and blue-eyed but the females we met were all brunettes with ‘gold- coloured’ eyes. Why this particular difference? I don’t know but I’d sure like to find out!

It’s interesting to note that Nikki is a brunette with amber eyes, which makes me wonder… but then there are other secrets behind her identity which have to be revealed. I’m not entirely sure just what she is yet. There’s certainly something about her, but just what is a tantalising secret that I hope will be addressed more in the next book.

This particular book is mostly devoted to setting up the relationships between the characters. When it opens, the reader is plunged straight into the action with a hellhound chase. There are various other action scenes throughout the story but the majority of time is spent on building Nikki’s relationship with Mace and Raven. This means that things can be on the slow side in places but I was never bored.

We have the typical YA love triangle here with the good guy and the bad boy. In this particular case, right now I prefer Raven because he has more depth to him than Mace. Mace is a bit too good… a bit too much the safe option. Raven is more balanced and he has both good and bad sides (well, his “bad” is mostly just shallow, but that’s not the point). I particularly enjoyed Raven’s interactions with Nikki in the second half of the book. There’s a whole play on Nikki being both a redeemer and the means of the boys’ destruction, which adds a very different side to the YA love triangle. Usually the two boys pull away from the girl because they feel they’d be bad for her, but in this case they have to resist her because she could potentially lead to their downfall. I’m not sure how this will be got around in future books (though I have a fair idea) but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

The story, though rounded, is essentially a very long prologue to the second book. I hope that there will be more life-or-death situations in that one and that some plot points will start to be resolved. The intrigue raised in this book is certainly just that, intriguing, but it’s not a book that could hold its own as a standalone. This is not necessarily a bad thing as Kelley Armstrong’s YA books are much the same and they’re some of my favourite YA paranormals.

With all that said, I will definitely be reading the sequel to find out what will happen next.

Style: See first half of thoughts and impressions.

Final verdict: I don’t do half stars, but if I did, I’d give this one three and a half. It’s good and I have no doubts that it will appeal to the YA market but it did have a few problems as well. I’m feeling nice today so I’m going to round up. 4 stars

Extra notes: I didn’t notice any bad language but, admittedly, I wasn’t really keeping an eye out for it. No sex.

Added extra: there is a prequel short story available as an ebook from Amazon. This is supposedly a free ebook but I would have to pay 4 dollars of tax on it, which makes it a bit too expensive for a short story. Good for American readers, though!


  1. Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for posting a review for Halflings!

    I wanted to invite you to The Halflings Network: a place where fans can talk about the book, chat with author Heather Burch, enter giveaways, and get updates on the next book in the series. We also have a free illustrated eBook prequel that I think you'd really enjoy. Feel free to check it out at Halflings.ning.com.

    Thanks again for your great review, we really appreciate it!


  2. You know, I tried to read this book and could not finish it. I'm glad that you enjoyed it more than I did. I just couldn't stomach the writing, the characters, or the dialogue. The Christian messages annoyed me too (I'm a non-Christian reader as well). This book just did not appeal to me. As I said, I'm glad you liked it better than I did.


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