Tuesday, 13 March 2018

#CBR10 Book 19: "Air Awakens" by Elise Kova

Page count: 342 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Vhalla Yarl is a librarian apprentice living in the huge central library in the capital of the Solaris empire. The empire has been at war for ages, trying to conquer the lands in the north and through this conquest uniting the whole continent under one power. One evening, there's a state of emergency declared, one of the princes has been injured, and all the librarians are needed to help research a possible cure. Remembering how the younger, charming prince, known colloquially as "The Heartbreak Prince", once saved her when she was falling off a shelf in the library, Vhalla works tirelessly through the night to find as many texts as possible, taking copious notes.

Shortly after, she finds herself abducted and taken to the Tower of Sorcerers. It seems Vhalla has latent magical powers, and they showed themselves in the notes she wrote about possible cures. The injured prince in question also wasn't the younger one, but the older, aloof Crown Prince, himself gifted with magical powers. Like most common folk, Vhalla has grown up on stories of how terrifying the sorcerers of the land are, and rejects any possibility that she might herself have magic. She insists on returning to her position in the library, but keeps seeing strange things, and starts a correspondence with someone leaving sarcastic notes in the books she reads in secret while stacking the shelves. Soon, she's researching magic and sorcery and learning that her prejudices were probably wrong. Unsurprisingly, her mystery mentor turns out to be the Crown Prince himself, who has rather unorthodox views on how to get Vhalla's power to manifest once and for all.

Even after the rather startling event that triggers her powers fully (or possibly because of it), Vhalla is still reluctant to commit to becoming a sorcerer. There is a ceremony where she could eradicate her magic instead, and she wants a month to decide which choice to make. Everything suggests that Vhalla may be a Windwalker, however, the first such to manifest in over a hundred and fifty years. The sorcerers in the Tower and Crown Prince Aldrik would really prefer it if she chose magic, rather than stay an anonymous librarian.

So while I had at least one Elise Kova book on my TBR-shelf (thanks again, random e-book sale where a book that someone recommended cost $2.99 or less), I had never actually read anything by her when this book was selected as the February 2018 pick for Vaginal Fantasy. It seemed like a quick read, the book was on sale on Kindle, so I got it and glommed it. Librarian heroine, elemental magic and a dark broody sorcerer prince who's most likely going to end up being the love interest? I can work with that.

This is the first book in a series of five, and while some people have rated each book in the series highly, glancing through the reviews, the latter books in the series may or may not go a bit off the rails and some people seem to have rage-quit the series later on. While I didn't love this book, I also didn't hate it, and there was a lot of interesting potential here, but there may be a bit too much set-up for the books to come.

The names of the characters might have been created in a "YA fantasy name generator". There's a lot of strange ones here. Because apparently you can't write YA without it, there are hints of a love triangle, of course, and I rolled my eyes both at the presence of it, and the third part - one of Vhalla's childhood friends at the library, who obviously has loved her for ever, but doesn't really start mentioning it until the Crown Prince starts showing his interest in Vhalla, and is extremely "nice guy" and rather emotionally manipulative about the whole situation - no, thank you. That we then sort of get a second love triangle of sorts, because of course Vhalla's other childhood friend at the library has always fancied whats-his-douche, but hasn't wanted to say anything because she was happy to sacrifice herself and pine in silence if Vhalla liked him back - yeah, too much drama drama for me. That whole thing did not read well.

Then the story takes an incredibly sharp turn into something a lot more serious and gory in the last third, and there's such a rapid tonal shift that I initially thought my book was missing a chapter or two. As this series is apparently pitched as Avatar: the Last Airbender (which I've never watched, but I know deals with elemental powers meets Throne of Glass, I guess the last third is where the author felt the need to get it to the latter influence in a hurry - heroine with unusual powers forced to use them in aid of the crown.

The world building in the book is promising and I liked most of the characters enough that I'll most likely check out at least the next book in the series, mainly to see if the central romance goes anywhere interesting and Vhalla's powers develop in a cool way.

Judging a book by its cover: See, while I like the anime style cover, this drawing also gives me a headache. When I look at it more closely, it's obvious that the girl is wearing a shirt with long, trumpety sleeves, and it's not that her elbow has somehow dislocated and her arm is hanging limp and twisted down the side of her body. Also, she's wearing some kind of hood or cloak that's whirling in the wind. See, our protagonist has wind powers, and the way the wind is blowing her hair and shirt is clearly meant to be represented on the cover - but I think it's done n a very messy way, and I'm not sure what direction the wind is supposed to be coming from, as her hair is blowing one way and her clothes appear to be swirling in different directions. It's not great. I'm also pretty sure Vhalla is supposed to have darker hair than this girl has.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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