Here be Dragons

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Paranormal Thriller Review: Soul Meaning (Seventeen) by A.D. Starrling

Synopsis:

Lucas Soul…an immortal like no other. He’s been hunted and despised for centuries just because he is a ‘half-breed’ – born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, apparently a major boo-boo among both immortal factions. He’s been shunned and forgotten – mostly. His seventeen shots at death have been serving him well enough to keep him alive and kicking unitl modern times. Now the years of relative peace and quiet are coming to an end.

All of a sudden Lucas finds herself mercilessly chased by the Hunters – elite Crovir killers- and dies twice during one week, kind of grim record for him. Being on your last life is no fun – Lucas and his completely human partner, Reid Hasley, must find out why the Crovir decided to change their policy so abruptly and discover many other secrets while touring Europe in a truly extreme style.

My impressions:

It was one of those stories you can enjoy while being in an appropriate set of mind. It reminded me of Indiana Jones movies – full of action, with a dash of info about this or that, a whiff of romance and a lot of running, shooting, killing and escaping while the characters were trying to save the world and their hides. Don’t take them too seriously and you’ll be fine – entertained, amused, even distracted from the ugly reality for an hour or so. Did this book managed to work its magic? Partially.

My first general remark – the author knows a lot about different machines and she loves describing them. Cars, motorcycles, helicopters, guns, computers and such seemed to play an important role in the adventures of Lucas & co. Apart from that she knows biology, chemistry and human anatomy quite well (yes, her background shows).

My second remark: there were many historical events and figures mentioned in this one, among them Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most famous samurai of Japan and Jan Sobieski, a Polish hetman and then the king of Poland who saved Vienna from the Turks in the 17th century. Despite the fact that those tidbits were sometimes presented in the form of small infodumps I was more than ready to forgive it just because they existed. I also liked the fact that the majority the book were set in different European countries.

Of course there were things I didn’t like.

What made Indiana Jones movies so popular and watchable? After all they were pretty stupid productions which you could easily accuse of different transgressions against the laws of physics, common logic and history. However one thing made them stand out – the fact that the protagonist and also some supportive characters, e.g. Indiana’s father, were as three-dimensional and funny as it was only possible in such films. What about Lucas Soul?

I do hope deep down he is one nice guy but I think in this book he simply didn’t have time to present his colourful personality. In other words for me it was too much action too little character development. I liked Reid and Lucas’ banter, they added the much needed comic relief between all the fighting and dying that was going on but it was too little. Our poor immortal had to slash and duck and shoot and run and give chase with little or no respite from the beginning to the very end – I felt tired just reading about it. A HALO jump? No problem. Shooting grenade launchers in the middle of a university campus in broad daylight ? What fun! Jumping from burning helicopters onto skyscraper roofs? A piece of cake! Slaughtering a bunch of Hunters? Give me a minute or two and it is done…

I understand it is an action-driven novel but still I think a bit more balance in the narration would make it better. What’s more, Agatha Vellacrus and Felix Thorne, the two main baddies, were as thin as cardboard – you could count their lines using only your fingers and they existed solely to be vanquished. Ok, it is just the first installment, perhaps it will be better. To tell you the truth I prefer a weaker first part and stronger rest than the other way round – it is really painful to watch a series going downwards.

My other carpings?

Let me start with a direct quote:

“I left the car, crossed the shallow fore garden and knocked on the front door. It was opened by an elderly gentleman.‘Je peux vous aider?’ said the man in a frail voice, blinking in the porch light.”

‘Je peux vous aider?” Hmm…very informal bordering incorrect. I think in the context (an old man inquiring a complete stranger of the purpose of his visit) it was a mistake. It should be „Puis-je vous aider?” Or if you wanted to avoid a bit dated and stiff verb form (but hey, it was un vielliard speaking!) he could say: “Pourrais-je/ Est-ce que je peux vous aider ?“or simply “Que’est-ce que vous souhetez ici, Monsieur?”

It would be also nice if different characters, Lucas among them, could restrain themselves from saying or commenting something ‘drily’ or ‘wryly’ throughout the narration – if I drank a shot every time they did it I would get completely sozzled after the first half of the book.

One more thing and a serious spoiler, highlight to read or skip:

Anna Godard and Lucas Soul are each other’s love interest. They also happen to be close cousins – as close as you can get. Their mothers were sisters and their fathers were brothers. I know they are immortals and soul mates so perhaps different rules apply here but…ick.

Final verdict:

Not bad for a debut novel, a high-octane paranormal thriller to boot. The epilogue really made me curious about the whole immortal business but the lack of proper character building kind of ruined this one for me. I do hope the next installment will be slower and better. Because it can be slower and better. I think the author has a lot of potential for that. 🙂

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