I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
A powerful, hidden artefact is unearthed in modern day Iraq and, with its discovery, an ancient conflict is reignited. Seventeen-year-old Sage Woods, the daughter of an eminent archaeologist working at the British Museum recently relocated from Australia, uncovers the artefact’s disturbing secret and is placed in terrible danger. Unwittingly, she has stumbled into an invisible war between two primordial dynasties of a supernatural order – a war in which she has a fateful role to play in a race to control the power of the SEED. Embroiled in a quest that takes her from the British Museum to the Louvre to the Vatican Secret Archives, Sage realises that her blossoming romance with the mysterious, alluring St. John Rivers is inextricably tied to the artefact. Up until now, St. John has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Sage is determined to delve deeper to uncover his dark secret and his connection to the SEED. It is a decision that will have a devastating effect on humankind.
I didn’t even finish this book. I got halfway through and couldn’t continue. Why two acorns, then? Because it had So Much Potential!!
I mean, this kind of story is right up my alley: YA, romance, comedy, ancient civilizations, historical references, fun secondary characters, set in Europe! I could go on. Seriously, there is so much going for this book.
What went wrong? Let me tell you:
1) Writing. D.B. Nielsen seems like a very intelligent person. So intelligent, that at times I felt as if I was reading a textbook. This entire book felt like it came from the mind of a professor in an effort to trick young students into learning something. I learned a lot from reading what I did of this book. And some of it was fascinating. But most of it was over my head and completely irrelevant to the story. Before giving up on the book I began skipping entire paragraphs detailing Mesopotamian and Babylonian history or culture. While stuff like that is well worth learning about, this is a piece of YA fiction. That should be read for fun. I don’t want to read the YA equivalent of Sesame Street where one minute we’re laughing at Cookie Monster’s crazy antics and the next we’re being taught what a noun is by a “hip” youngster in funky clothing. If you’re trying to teach young people about something real, follow the example of Rick Riordan: Water it down and make it fun. Otherwise we, the young generation, will give up on you.
2) Flow. Chapters were too long. “That’s a complaint,” You scoff? Well, yeah, it’s a complaint. Once again, this is supposed to be a YA book. I want short chapters that keep my attention and allow me to seamlessly pick up and put down the book as necessary. I can’t spend all day reading. Heck, I can’t spend half the day reading. I need breaks in the story so I don’t get annoyed when I try to find my place again after putting it away. And there were many places where a chapter break seemed to naturally fit but wasn’t found. It created awkward flow. And it was annoying.
3)Love Interest. I get the whole angel thing: St. John is basically immortal. Understood. But Sage is seventeen. In most girl-falls-in-love-with-angel books, the angel is at least pretending to be about the same age as the girl. I find it’s a lot less creepy that way. Because since St. John is posing as a 25-year-old scholar who works with Sage’s father, continuing an above-board romantic relationship would generally be out of the question. At least until she turned eighteen. Ick. And who, upon first meeting, asks for a kiss in that weird round-about way? After talking for about five minutes? And why is Sage so ridiculous about analyzing every little detail of every little interaction? It was infuriating watching her dissect every movement, every flick of the eyes or whatever it was that St. John was doing. Little girl, I wanted to slap your little love-sick face. I sincerely hope most girls aren’t that vapid around men they have crushes on. Actually, I am certain the vast majority of girls are not that ridiculous.
4) Info dumping. I learned so much about everyone in this book. More than I would ever care to know. Every few pages there was a flashback or back-story of some sort that would delve into specific and amazing detail. I understand character building and the use of back-stories as a means of showing the reader certain things rather than just telling, I do. But these back-stories were so long. And generally irrelevant to the overall story. And not only did Nielsen show us why a character acted the way they did, he would also go into extreme detail and tell us. Pick one or the other. If you do both it gets real boring real quick. And quite irritating. I began skipping all the back-stories before I gave up on the book.
5) Sage. Where to begin on the protagonist. It’s not like Sage was unlikable. No, she was book-smart and funny sometimes, and cute and mostly relate-able. I just didn’t like what she did all that much. Sometimes she would act like a pouty child then, with all her inner dialogue and self-exploration, would bemoan the fact that she sounded like a pouty child. But she wouldn’t do anything about it. She would keep acting pouty and petulant and immature until I was convinced that she was actually pouty and petulant and immature. I can’t think of one instance where she exhibited an ounce of maturity. And St. John seemed a little more like a father figure to Sage. He told her what to do and appointed himself her protector. While being creepily obsessive about her. And Sage just went along with it. In fact, Sage was creepily obsessive about St. John as well. Ick.
6) Pacing. I already mentioned the chapter breaks, or lack thereof, but general pacing was an issue as well. Sometimes we’d spend a few long chapters only covering a few hours in a day and other times we’d race along a few weeks in the span of a page or two. Not that’s unusual in a novel, but the way it was done didn’t sit well with me. There was so much detail in this book (a little too much detail, as explained above) that Nielsen often would walk us through every minute of every day. And then suddenly it was next week. There didn’t seem to be any real reason for the jump in the timeline except to show the passing of time, which, as far as I could tell, had no bearing on the actual story. It was abrupt. Awkward.
I so wish I had loved this book. It’s got all the elements of a great story. There were just major style issues going on here that I couldn’t cope with. If I could give you any advice, D.B. Nielsen, it would be to find yourself a very good editor to sift through your professor-speak and lift your YA tale out of the sand. Your book could be half as long and would be better for it. Or you could always make Sage a few years older to appeal to a more mature audience, which would automatically solve some of my aforementioned qualms with your book.
Sexual Content: Moderate (for the first half that I read, anyway. I felt like it would probably heat up later)