Sunday 15 March 2015

#CBR7 Book 30: "Cracked" by Eliza Crewe

Page count: 327 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer! I got this book from NetGalley in return for a fair and objective review. 

Andromeda "Meda" Melange isn't a very nice person. Frankly, she eats people, well, their souls anyway. She tries to limit herself to the souls of bad people, usually killers whose victims' ghosts have a tendency to show up and pester Meda until she does something to avenge them. Meda has always believed herself to be unique and invincible (she's faster and stronger than mere humans, and her skin has a metallic quality to it - plus there's the ability to see ghosts and eat souls), so she has a very rude awakening when she's faced with three sinister black-clad dudes, who are not only like her, they're faster and stronger and want her dead. Lucky for Meda, a handsome young man shows up to dispatch them before they succeed.

Chi is a Crusader in training, called from birth to hunt and destroy demons. Meda pretty quickly figures out that the black-suited men were full demons, while she appears to be a halfling. Pretending to be a weak and confused victim, Meda latches on to Chi as a source of useful information about her true nature, and more importantly, how she can protect herself against demons and crusaders alike. As well as hunting demons, crusaders protect especially important humans, known as Beacons, and because Chi is wonderfully naive and trusting, he assumes Meda must be a Beacon - why else would those demons have been trying to kill her? His friend Jo, who followed him to the asylum where he meets Meda, is a lot more sceptical (with good reason) and doesn't think bringing Meda with them to the crusader headquarters is a good plan. She eventually reluctantly agrees, and they decide to pass Meda off as Jo's estranged cousin, who committed the massive betrayal of turning away from the crusader mission and as such has been shunned for years. No one really remember much about her, except that she was a bad girl. Meda trying to pretend to be a sweet, innocent girl trying to be bad is hilarious.

As Meda gets to know Chi and Jo better, while refusing to admit to herself that she actually enjoys having something resembling friends for the first time ever, she also discovers just how much kept from her. She needs to learn quickly, as now that the demons know who she is, they're not going to stop until they've tracked her down. She may pretend that she doesn't care what happens to the stupidly heroic Chi, the snarky and hostile Jo or the hero-worshipping kid Uriel, but she's not going to allow them to risk their lives when her demon relatives come knocking.

Whether you like this book or not, is probably strongly dependent on how you feel about the protagonist, Miss Meda herself. If you find her annoying and insufferable, the book is not going to work for you, as she has a very strong and sarcastic narrative voice. I thought she was fun as the hell that clearly spawned her, not that it stopped me from cheering a bit when she was taken down a peg and learned that she wasn't as special a soul-eating snowflake as she believed herself to be.

The whole book read as something that could exist in the same universe as Supernatural, with the crusaders being a different kind of hunter to the Winchesters. Given hereditary powers, they are trained until their late teens, when they go through a magical ceremony and come into their full abilities. Jo's cousin Emma apparently rejected the sacred calling and crusader gift, and as such disappointed everyone around her. Usually paired on their missions to hunt demons and protect beacons, there's also a lot of orphaned crusader children, as their parents frequently bite it in their fight against evil. I love that the crusaders ride motorcycles and live in trailer parks, basically masquerading as biker gangs.

The characters are a lot of fun. Meda may eat souls, but she really isn't as evil or heart-less as she'd like to believe herself, she just has never really been allowed to socialise a lot with kids her own age. Her mother, aware of her true nature, kept her sheltered and they moved around a lot. Hearing her dead mother's voice in her head as sort of conscience, Meda really tries to stave the terrible Hunger she feels for human souls by only eating those of murderers and abusers. She can see, but not talk to ghosts. If they touch her, however, she's able to get an impression of what they experienced in life, which can help her track down those that harmed them. She's prepared to kill to protect herself, but it doesn't take her much time among the crusaders to grow fond of her new friends.

Chi is almost too heroic for his own good. Constantly sneaking out to hunt demons, even though he hasn't graduated into his full powers, he figuratively shines with goodness and noble purpose. He's be insufferable if he wasn't also a fairly clueless teenage boy, completely oblivious to his former best friend's feelings towards him. Said best friend is Jo, who's mostly spikes and snark, having been injured while in training and now faces the prospect of never becoming a full crusader because of her damaged leg. She projects constant hostility, as dislike and contempt from the teenage crusaders in training is preferable to her than pity. Much more level-headed than Chi, she's rightfully very suspicious of Meda, although it becomes clear that some of that is jealousy at another girl's closeness with the friend who she loves, but feels that she has to drive away. While Jo and Chi might have been a natural pairing and future couple before Jo's injury, now her leg makes her a liability and she needs to make him look elsewhere for a prospective partner. The third of Meda's new crusader friends is Uriel, a boy who clearly worships Chi and tries to emulate him in every way. Uri is the one who gives Meda proper insight into the current and former relationship of the other two teens she's growing close to.

I'm ashamed to say I was granted this NetGalley copy ages and ages ago, and completely forgot about it until my friend Erica recently read and loved the book. The second book in the series was published last year and the third part comes out in August, unless the internet is lying to me. This is YA paranormal fantasy with a slightly darker twist and while there might appear to be tiresome love triangle for about a chapter or so, that's really more of a bluff, which I'm very thankful for.  I liked the world building, the premise for the series and the teenage characters, so this is a series I will follow to the end. I liked the book so much I promptly bought my own copy (the author appears to self publish) and I will be getting the other two books in the series as well.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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