Friday, December 28, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Healer by J.L. Bowen

Healer
J.L. Bowen

Page Count: 289
Release Date: 13 April 2012
Publisher: Featherweight Press
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Innovative Online Book Tours, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!)

Thirteen-year-old Armond Costa heals in three days, no matter what abuse his uncle and aunt inflict upon him. On his fourteenth birthday, he sprouts wings and discovers his aunt and uncle had lied to him. He's the lost Golden Demon's Healer. His father, King of the Golden Demons, insists he return with him and save his people from being persecuted by their mortal enemies, the Dark Demons. Now, Armond must choose between the Ellis brothers and seventeen-year-old Rusty Owens—the only family he's ever known—or condemn the Golden Demons to extinction.

Review


The eternal battle between Golden and Dark Demons comes to life beautifully in Bowen's paranormal young adult release. Armond's life has only ever involved pain—excruciating physical pain from his aunt and uncle, the two people who should have loved him most after the death of his parents, both of whom he has never known. He's secluded from the real world because he's different (or so his aunt and uncle say): no matter what kind of harm is inflicted upon him, he always, always heals. But it doesn't mean he doesn't feel pain. Broken bones and sawed-off limbs renew, but he still feels the pain... all of it.

When he turns fourteen, however, he learns just why he's been doomed to such a hideous life; it's because his "family" is hiding something from him. He is discovered by a mysterious, frightening clan, who announce Armond's true identity as the Healer of the Golden Demons (the good guys!) and introduce him to the world of Havenwood, where danger permeates the skies in constant threat of the Dark Demons' evil ways. 

This coming-of-age story is the perfect blend of danger (real blood, guts, and death, here... love it!), family values, and adventure. It's not clean and idealized; it's raw, horrific, and brutal, but that's what makes it so enjoyable. Armond must come to terms with his destiny—even if he can't tell truth from lies because he's constantly being betrayed—as well as his identity, and the whole journey is a glittering, satisfying experience.

The concept of healing, as well as the war between good and evil, is fascinating as well. The world Bowen creates is rich, vibrant, and highly unpredictable, and it's the kind of magical realm I would love to live in.

There are some parts that seem unrealistic to me, including the paranormal elements' exposure to the "real world". The way the public reacts to Armond's healing powers seems a bit stilted. Another thing that's a bit off-key is that once Armond enters Havenwood to stay with the Golden Demons, our world, or "reality," just seems to disappear. He doesn't go back, and he doesn't directly mention it either, which makes me think that Bowen should have tied up those loose ends somehow.

Some of Armond's interactions with new faces are a bit awkward too, but J.L. Bowen's writing style is mostly smooth and easy to follow. I didn't have to trudge through it at all—the story just moved along by itself! There's a bit of a contradiction to the book, though. Armond is fourteen in the progression of the novel, and he's often immature and inexperienced, which makes me want to recommend this one to younger readers (aged 11-14), but there is also some sexual, violent, language, and drug content that is obviously targeted for older readers (13-17). I'm torn between which age group I'd recommend it more to. Younger readers may be disturbed, while older readers may be irritated by the often childish voice. I honestly think it could satisfy both age groups, but you've been warned.

In terms of conventions, there are quite a few grammar and spelling mistakes, even though I had a finished copy... but I won't complain too much about that. With a little cleaning up and clearing up, I think we have a real winner with Healer.

Love

I had prayed that ... he'd been loved.

Pros


Flows smoothly // Absorbing, readable style // Breathtaking magical world created // Suspenseful // Easy to sympathize with characters // Good cast of characters // Perfectly gruesome // Story moves quickly // Fitting for young adult audience

Cons


Some awkward character encounters // Doesn't seem too realistic in contemporary setting // Should be targeted for younger readers because it often reads childishly; however, wouldn't be completely appropriate for them because of content // Frequent typos

Verdict


Lush and fast-paced, Healer follows the perilous fight between good and evil. This is not your mother's chaste children's novel; this is a suspenseful, shocking, and violent read that has deeper sentiments about love and identity as well. While younger readers may find Healer disturbing and older readers, a bit juvenile, it contains highly developed paranormal elements and true-to-life characters that will strike a chord with any age group. Very S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders meets Francine Pascal's Fearless meets Warner Brothers's Charmed.

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