That's the 4 stars side of 3.5 stars. This book alternately intrigued and frustrated me.
I tend to stay away from the fantasy genre because for me, it doesn't relate to the real world. But lately, I've been surprised by stories that are fantasy set against a dystopian or real-world backdrop. This is just such a book. There's a lot of mythology to be learned here. I would even venture to say that it's enough to warrant a look into D'Aulaire's Greek Mythology just for fun.
One of the ways that fantasy makes itself relatable these days is simply to give it some scientific flavour. In this case, it's just a hint. But the correlation is there, between life and energy and sustainability. If that sounds confusing, then this might help:“There is no evil. There is no good. There is only life, and the absence of life.”
Which brings me to the exploration of motives, and that alone is wonderful in this story. While mythology is the essence of the plot, the characters are human, with human flaws. And they make bad decisions with far-reaching consequences. Ultimately, the main idea is redemption and sacrifice. There should be more stories about redemption and sacrifice, and this one gets high marks from me for that reason.
The characters - Nikki, Jack, and Cole. This is a book that will make you absolutely detest a love triangle. Nikki, our main protagonist, is both sympathetic and highly frustrating. I couldn't stop reading because I wanted so desperately for her to make good decisions. She frequently made bad ones - but always saying "I knew I should have . . . " Well then why didn't she? Once again I am reminded that teenagers, even fictional ones, tend to be emotionally immature under even the best of circumstances.
Jack was a character I loved. This was because he wasn't a perfect guy. He may have seemed that at the first - star quarterback, high school heartthrob, all around nice guy. But he had a reputation to battle, stupid decisions he'd made. He'd fallen into traps. And while he's trying to choose to do the right thing, he does get a bit off course at times. It was nice to have a flawed character be the good guy.
Cole was a great bad guy. And the reason was simply because you were never quite sure of his motives! I never knew whether to hate him or root for him. He simply is what he is without pretense. That honesty makes him sympathetic, even when deep down his motives are questionable. He was clearly, definitively, unclearly drawn. Talk about a perfect villain!
The pacing was very slow in this story. A sense of urgency is created at the outset, because we know that Nikki only has six months before the big bad thing happens. So while the author was able to create suspense (I couldn't stop reading), the whole thing was incredibly frustrating because it moved at a snail's pace! On the one hand, it worked because the characters were able to learn and grow. On the other hand, they wasted so much time, and they knew it. And at the culmination of this long, drawn out process, we are given another more urgent situation. Or the current situation gets even more urgent. Take your pick - either way, it was anti-climactic and generally irritating.
The ending was both a cliffhanger and extremely satisfying. It is a good author who can give you a sense of heartbreak and hope at the same time. Although things were unresolved (and thus opening the door for a sequel), they weren't left undone. So while I'm looking extremely forward to the next book in the series, I'm ok with leaving these characters where they currently are.
The audio version was just ok. Not bad, not great. Fortunately it was not an obstacle to the story.
All in all, it was a great plot and a book I simply could not put it down. Fans of mythology will not be disappointed. “Who loses hope first? And who never gives up? Because it’s not the supernatural abilities that set mythical characters apart. It’s the decisions the human characters make, in impossible situations, that have us still talking about them centuries later. Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”