Thursday, December 20, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Anathema by Megg Jensen

Anathema (Cloud Prophet Trilogy #1)
Megg Jensen

Page Count: 185
Release Date: 18 April, 2012 (newest edition)
Publisher: Dark Side Publishing (self-published)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Romancing the Book, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!)

Forget prophecy. Make your own destiny.
Sheltered from the outside world with no hope for escape, slave girl Reychel dreads her fifteenth birthday—when her master’s symbol is burned on the back of her bald scalp. Her best friend disappears the night before, leaving her to face the branding ceremony alone. She soon discovers nothing is as it seems when people desperate for freedom beg for Reychel's help.

Can Reychel learn to believe in herself in time?

Review


Megg Jensen triggers readers unto a dark, deceptive journey into the fantastical world of Keree in her exciting young adult debut, Anathema. Forbidden by her master, King Kandek, to go outdoors or even near windows without his direct supervision, slave girl Reychel starts off terribly naïve and terribly sheltered. Slave life is all she has ever known, and her impending fifteenth birthday—the day she will be branded like an animal with Kandek's emblem—will mark her serving status officially. On the morning of, however, her best friend, Ivy, suddenly disappears, which twists every ounce of confidence she had into turmoil. For the first time, Reychel is completely alone, and she must face the excruciating pain and humiliation of the branding ceremony by herself.

The day of her fifteenth brings about stranger extremities, including a shady offer to be snuck away from Kandek's authoritarian rule. Once she flees from Kandek, however, she discovers everything in her life has been a lie, and realizes freedom does not necessarily come with escape from the kingdom. In order to fulfill a prophecy—that still doesn't seem completely legitimate—and save the innocents of Keree, Reychel must come to terms with her identity and learn who to trust—but more importantly, who not to.

I really enjoyed this thrilling, eventful story about manipulation, deceit, and true friendship. Reychel's voice as a young slave girl is very strong, thanks to Jensen's fast-paced, unrestricted style. While not masterful in tone, Jensen is swift, smooth, and gets the point across, which is all I'd ever ask for to begin with. The plot moves very quickly—I finished the book before I even realized!—and the concept of the slave trade is compelling as well. I love the magical elements too—lots of powers, such as telekinesis and soothsaying, going on. 

No event is ever predictable in Anathema, except of course, the ending. I was disappointed by it because of how thrilling of a ride the rest of the book was in comparison. There's also a touch of romance in this one, but it's very plain, rather boring, and again, pretty predictable. The moment we are introduced to the hero, we know he will be the heroine's love interest, which is honestly not exciting. I think Anathema could have done fine without the so-called romance.

In terms of plot, there is continuous action and depth, but with characters, there is much lacking. There are way too many characters introduced in the progress of the book, but none of them are actually deeply probed, Reychel included. Even with her first-person narration, I feel like I still don't know her well, and felt no sympathy for her by the time I closed the book. Jensen does a fabulous job at making her characters likable or dislikable, depending on their roles, but none of them really pop up from the pages. This weak characterization distinctly affects Reychel's portrayal, which I didn't care for. The author tries very hard to depict her as noble, brave, and the "kind" heroine, but I just didn't click with her; there's something missing from her personality, which just doesn't make her seem appealing. Ditto with the supporting characters, except I didn't mind not liking them; I just would have liked to see stronger characterization from the narrator, at least.

Anathema is very chaste. The language is mild and the romance, even milder (SPOILER: absolutely no sex (booo!); the furthest the romance blooms, is one kiss). There are some violent scenes, but they certainly won't be scarring anybody anytime soon. It isn't the mild content that makes me see it this way; rather, it's the rather childish outcomes and immature characters. Like I've mentioned, the characters, including our protagonist, are underdeveloped, which makes them seem very foolish and juvenile at times. The plot does have its dangerous, deviant moments, but overall lots of scenarios or difficult to buy, with ideal results... very happy-go-lucky, which may annoy more mature readers. Considering the type of edgy young adult fiction written today, I would suggest this one for younger teenagers, maybe of ages 11-15. 

Love

"Sounds easy enough." Tania snapped her fingers. "Hard would have been fine too."

Pros


Twists and turns are shocking // Plenty of secrets // Breathtaking climax // Heart-pounding mystery and suspense // Great young adult voice // Fast-paced plot // So much going on! // Enchanting magical elements // New concept of fantastical slave trade // Lovable (or equally heinous unlovable) supporting characters

Cons


Too chaste // Unrealistic situations // Unexplored characters; too many are introduced at once, but not really probed // Reychel, protagonist, while valiant, is unlikable // Unrealistic romance aspect that should have been left out // Overall very idealized; many outcomes are just best case scenario, rather than believable // Writing style isn't anything fancy // Stiff dialogue

Verdict


Anathema launches readers into a rich, intoxicating world full of magic and beauty, but also of injustice, deception, and lies. Overall very chaste in tone, but still containing glittering dark moments, this fresh fantasy novel is achieved in plot, but needs some attention on characters and character interaction. I enjoyed Anathema a lot, and recommended it for younger teens in for an electrifying, complex read.

8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥