Source: Author for honest review
Publication Date: August 2012 (Amazon Link)
Short Synopsis (Goodreads): “The stars have aligned to make my life grim and loathsome,” fourteen year old Leila Edgewick stands on the brink of disaster; balancing the fate of Bainland and her father’s legacy against a vague, ill-fated prophecy. A meaningless number, a luckless red moon, and worst of all– a star that falls south– send Leila on a quest she does not expect to survive.Simultaneously, an unknown boy wakes up in the sunken hull of a decrepit cargo ship. Captured and mind-locked, the boy– dubbed “Sam” by the ship’s crew– must escape the infamous Bonesplitter and the dark schemes of one Captain Erastacus Oren.
All the while, Leila journeys out of Bainland. Crossing the wall for the first time in her life, she finds a world where magic meets machine. Aeroskiffs, daguerreotypes, and automatons merge with the ‘earthdolven’ magic of the South, leaving her to question, “What is sorcery and what is science?”
When Leila and Sam's paths cross, fate ties them together, sending them deep into the Ramble in search of the Wasteland Witches. Plagued by Sam's erratic memory and Leila's dubious rational, they must outwit the Southland drudge hunters, and take on the dangers of the Ramble: sandwolves, bloodswamps, and the Kartivause – terrifying night creatures from the Shadowland.
Their friendship develops quickly, but as Leila’s quest unravels, Sam’s past is pieced together– and when Sam’s identity is finally revealed, Leila must face up to a bloody family history that could rip their friendship apart...
My Review: I was approached by Ms. Ink to do a review for her recently published book and was immediately captured by the synopsis. It sounded like just my type of adventure book and I was eager to try it. (side note: don't you just love this cover! The first one I was not a fan of, but regardless liked the synopsis as stated before, but this cover I think grabs the idea of the book and portrays it beautifully!)
In terms of strengths, in descending order, I would go: world building, characters, plot.
To expound: Ms. Ink deftly introduced us to a whole new world without having to do too much explaining. It wasn't anything overly complex (those can sometimes get tiresome to keep straight) but it was just different enough that I had the fantasy vibe that I so love when I read it. There were different words for things that we have in every day life (woolies, which I assumed were sheep, and popina for kitchen) that were surprisingly frequent throughout the book and could even be made into a dictionary, but here again was the strength, a dictionary wasn't needed! Being able to balance that was very well done and I enjoyed the world that was created.
The characters in this book were quite likable. Leila was brave and quite often reckless. She had her redeeming qualities and was an easy enough protagonist to follow, though sometimes she acted her age of just 14 years. Sam was an easier person to like and the narration jumps between their two points of view. This was deftly done as well and only once or twice did it take me a moment to realize who it was that was thinking something (the changes aren't necessarily by chapter or divided by icons, but happen all throughout the story). There is a bit of a romance brewing, but it felt forced sometimes, and other times there was the tension that makes me go squee inside, but it kind of got skimmed over, so not as much fulfillment there as I would have liked.
There were other characters throughout that, even though they were only present for a short time, made an impression. Some had too short of a time, however, and I wish more could have been done with them.
For plot, I was really grabbed at the beginning of the story and quickly read through almost the entire first half in a matter of days. The pacing was well done, new characters were introduced, and atmosphere was present, which was much appreciated. However, and this is why my review is for a 3 star rating, the end just wasn't as strong as the beginning lead me to expect. Things became a little too easy to guess what would happen and fell a little too easily into place. Even if there were other books after this one, and the ending, though it concludes, leaves that opening, I wanted more from this first book. It didn't fall flat, per se, but the ending didn't live up to its potential. Good, but not great.
Overall, I would recommend this book. I was very impressed with the skill of Ms. Ink's writing and enjoyed the time I spent with her characters. As she continues to refine her craft she is one to watch!