Saturday, 10 March 2012

Crossing Over by Anna Kendall

At some point late last spring I came across this book, Crossing Over, at my local bookstore. It was one that I’d never heard of before but I purchased it all the same – if I’m honest likely on the strength of the very appealing cover. It wasn’t until later when I looked it up that I realised that this book a) isn’t rated particularly well and b) is a far cry from even having its own niche in the fantasy market. I’m not one to pick up a book based solely on glowing reviews and I’m not one to ignore a book because it only has mediocre reviews. My mind made up that I would give this book the fair chance that all books deserve, I decided to give it a go when my mum stole my Kindle from me for 10 days (thus putting all of my reading obligations on hold).

Title: Crossing Over
Series: Roger Kilbourne #1
Author: Anna Kendall
Publisher: Gollancz
Target Audience: YA
Pages: 330
Chapters: 32
PoV: 1st person
Tense: Past tense

Story: Whether it's a curse, or a blessing, or an ability, the fact remains: whenever Roger is injured or in enough pain he crosses over to the land of the dead. Once there, there are rules: only the newly dead will talk, for example, and nothing will raise the longer dead from their tranquillity. 

There are rules in the land of the living as well; rules which would have Roger hanged for witchcraft if he was ever caught. But refusing to cross over isn't an option. His uncle depends on Roger to hide under the table in their fairground act, listen to the recently bereaved asking questions of their dear departed, and then cross over to find the answers. It's a hard way of life, made all the harder as his uncle's fists usually provide the trigger for Roger to cross over. 

It's not the only way of life, though, and when Roger sees a chance to escape he fights for it - little knowing that love, loss, shocking revelations and, ultimately, war lie ahead of him. 

Just because Roger can cross over into the land of the dead doesn't mean he wants to.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: The story starts by putting its best foot forward as we observe Roger, a slave to his uncle, being forced to cross over to the land of the dead in order to scam mourners out of their money. The author’s idea of this land where the dead exist is not at all what I was expecting and so much the better for it. The way that it’s described, it’s as though the dead are all waiting for something maybe? They sit and stare at nothing; they’re, for the most part, unresponsive and only a few will rouse themselves long enough to interact with Roger. But then, though Roger describes this land as being heavily populated, I can’t imagine that there were nearly enough dead there. This led me to speculate about what could possibly have happened to all those other dead from times gone by. Whether or not the author intends to address this in future books I couldn’t say, but it certainly opens the door to vast opportunities.

After this strong opening, though, the story gets a bit weird as Roger arrives in the court of his Queendom. There were a lot of slow parts here, though I have to take into consideration that I was rarely able to read more than a chapter at a time and this may have affected how I saw the advancement of the plot.

The reader is introduced to Lady Cecilia at this point and Roger’s infatuation. The story is told in Roger’s voice and he believes himself to be in love with the pretty little flirt but it’s obvious that it’s only infatuation as there’s actually very little substantial communication between the two characters, not to mention that Cecilia always treats Roger as her inferior (which in the court he is but he can’t see that this means she could never bring herself to view him as a potential suitor). I didn’t really like his obsession with Cecilia, mostly because I didn’t buy that he could be that obsessed just due to her looks.

There is also, of course, a bigger political intrigue going on around them. This is court and what’s court without political backstabbing? In this case, the Queendom is ruled by a queen who is supposed to pass power to her daughter when the daughter turns 35. However, this time around the old queen didn’t consider her daughter fit to rule and refused to pass on the power. This didn’t stop her daughter from having herself crowned and setting up her own court within her mother’s court. She’s also determined to get her Queendom at any cost.

Roger comes into all of this in that the young queen recognises him as one able to cross to the other side and she tries to use him to gather intel there. Of course, for the most part the dead won’t talk to him so he invents a lot of this intel. This is another part of the book that I wasn’t particularly fond of. The parts in the land of the living and the passages where Roger crossed over to the land of the dead had nothing to do with each other and it left me feeling unsatisfied. I understand why it was there and done like this, I just didn’t enjoy it much.

Once Roger’s out of the court again, chasing Cecilia as she’s brought the queen’s wrath down upon her head, things pick up again for a while. I really liked the intrigue of Soulvine Moor – a place no one will speak of but the place where Roger’s mother died. I really liked the hints at who Roger is and I was fascinated by the picture painted at this point. I found myself really immersed in the book.

And then Cecilia comes back into it again and everything collapsed. I didn’t like Cecilia to start with and Roger’s unhealthy obsession with the girl and his selfishness that dictates all his actions at this point pushed me to the point where I didn’t like Roger either. I found this part to be particularly boring as all it focuses on is both characters’ bad points. I just ended up feeling really frustrated with both characters.

Thankfully, it picks up again for the final climax. I found myself completely immersed in the story at this point. I was itching to read all evening but couldn’t slink away to find a quiet spot. Eventually, I managed to finish the novel, though. I feel that it left off in just about the perfect place; it has certainly caught my attention enough for me to want to read the sequel. Especially as there won’t be any Cecilia in it!

The setting was very interesting and about the opposite of what might be expected. The world is fairly reminiscent of a mediaeval landscape but then the wild savages come with heir firesticks that they call guns – usually it’d be the more civilised society that gains the secrets of guns first but I really like what the author did here. As mentioned before, the land of the dead was also very interesting, particularly when Roger starts inadvertently affecting it. That was an original twist even if the twist itself could be seen a mile off.

However, I have to admit that I often found Roger to be a frustrating character. He had a lot of character flaws and at times these eclipsed his good points so much that I found myself wondering whether I really wanted to continue with this series after this book. The ending means that I do but it was touch and go for a while.

The whole thing with Cecilia really didn’t work for me either. The problem with this is that it’s Roger’s desire for Cecilia that pushes certain points of the narrative. It just wasn’t founded beyond Cecilia’s beauty, which meant that Roger’s obsession with the girl came across as creepy rather than romantic. I liked Maggie. She gave it to him straight and would put him in his place. I look forward to getting to know her better in the next book.

Choosing to write this book from a young male’s point of view was an interesting decision on the author’s behalf. It certainly made the book stand out from the masses of books written from a female point of view. I’m not completely sold on all Roger’s bodily reactions, though, but that said not being a male myself I don’t really know how all that works and maybe it’s justified by the rampant hormones of a 14-year-old boy!

Style: There were occasional sentences in the present tense among all those in the past tense. I suppose it could be said that it’s the future Roger intervening in the narrative to comment on events, but I would have preferred if it had been kept to the past tense.

Final verdict: This book was like a pendulum. It swung between very good parts and incredibly boring parts. There were parts that were easily 4 stars and parts that were bordering on 1 star. It’s very rare that I ever come across books that are quite so polarised. It also leaves me conflicted in just how to rate it. I’m going to go with 3 stars.

Extra notes: There is some bad language but not much. There is one sex scene but it doesn’t go into detail. There is, however, a strong sexual side to the story as Roger reacts to the nearness of women, which leads me to consider the book inappropriate for younger readers.


  1. I love the cover! The picture inside the eye is so neat but with only three stars I will wait awhile...

    1. The cover is really well done! It's gorgeous! The book wasn't one that I'll be going back to for a reread any time soon, though.

  2. I like how you bought the book without knowing anything about it! I wish I could be like that... when I buy books, I have to know at least the synopsis. But wow! I love these types of books! It sounds like it's set in the olden times, especially when witchcraft could be punishable. But ew, he's 14! I don't really like to read books with heroes and/or heroines under maybe 15 or 16 years of age. It's weird (hey, I'm 17. I'm not going to sit here and read about whiny tweenies and younger teens). I don't think I would have read this book, but thanks for the review!!!

    Alyssa Susanna


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