Souls Discovered by Miranda Brock
Genre: Young Adult fantasy
Description from Goodreads: Spin away with young Autumn as she finds a seemingly innocuous gold necklace on her family’s farm and inadvertently uncovers her destiny as “The Keeper.” Autumn’s discovery of the necklace activates “The Window” and alerts both good and evil forces to her whereabouts. Autumn is pulled from everything she knows, and is tossed into a life of unknowns. Enigmatic enemies called Dehmons hunt her at every turn, and if captured the very world she lives in will fall into destruction. With the help of seven Searchers Autumn must learn to use the power she has been given before it is too late. Will she choose to follow the dangerous destiny thrust upon her? Will she be able to withstand the temptation of a relationship that could jeapordize everything? Most importantly, will Autumn be able to find the strength within herself to fight the dead-eyed evil Dehmon souls?
Book Review: This is a novel (one of many, unfortunately) where I felt the description sounded more generic than the novel. It sounds very full of “fights and danger,” but in reality, most of the book was spent at their safe home base, sorting out their powers and relationships rather than on the run, dealing with Dehmons. It is more character oriented than most, but I wouldn’t call it character driven because the characters varied widely, sometimes being little more than stereotyped caricatures and sometimes being actual human beings that made you care (and even cry at one point). So here’s a closer look at the Narration, Content, Characters, Artwork, Worldbuilding, and my Overall Response.
Narration: 3 out of 5. This was one of the weakest parts of the story. There was description without any real evocation of mood or any distinct coloring of setting. Woods felt like woods, farm like farm, city like city, without all the natural variations that makes each place different. Smell and touch wasn’t used a lot, nor taste. It was mostly sight only, and even then, we didn’t get a lot of details. For example, we’re told that Ronan’s room was messy, but besides an unmade bed, we aren’t told how. Are there tissues on the bedside table? Paper wads under the desk? Laundry on the floor? We just aren’t told. But I did appreciate the generalized information about wounds, to where blood and gore wasn’t highlighted, which I felt was YA appropriate.
Another thing that bugged me about the narration was the lack of physical descriptions. Besides the first onslaught of details, where we get the descriptions, heights, and builds of all seven Searchers at once, we are rarely reminded of what the people look like (to where I forgot that Tsukasa had spiked hair). We get some more narrative details about Autumn, Jason, and Ronan as they are the main characters and the focus of the love triangle, but other than that, it’s a one-shot deal.
And the narration is Omniscient, but there is no distinct narrator, so it can come across as vaguely head-hopping, as we go from Autumn’s feelings to Jason’s point-of-view in the same section, one paragraph leading to another. Personally, it’s my least favorite narrative form, as you lose all the intense flavor of first person or third person close without gaining a narrator with his special viewpoint and insight into the story. And I can only think of one line in the story where we gained from the narrative viewpoint, being told that they’d never see a certain place again. Having a more distinct idea of who’s telling this story and why would improve the experience, I think (that, or dispensing with the narrator entirely and becoming one with the characters to where we see and feel everything they do).
Content: 4 out of 5. Some readers might feel that the pacing of the novel is slow and short on adventure, as the ratio of fights and danger to being at home, safe, training (or recovering) is probably somewhere around 1:4, but I liked how Autumn and the Searchers were given time to interact, to get to know each other, and to become a (somewhat) cohesive group. There was no language and only moderate violence and sexual content, which fits the YA fantasy genre, but it did seem a bit too “happy and clean YA” in feel. Despite one of the Searchers coming from a gang background and all of them being from broken homes or where they lost their family, they were a happy bunch, eager to share and love and live, and it felt like they should’ve been dealing with a lot more, emotionally. After all, they face evil forces on a regular basis and are the ones who are going to save the world. That ought to come with some interrelational baggage, I’d think.
Characters: 3 out of 5. This is probably what frustrated me the most about the book. The characters felt very inconsistent. When the Searchers were first presented, one after the other, they felt very stereotyped. The Russian was a big chap, the Japanese fellow the smallest, but every one of them looked like a model according to the narration. They were all good with weapons (which was probably a requirement of the job) but they were also very adept at putting the past behind them and moving on. None of them seemed to have any emotional scars and some of their personalities seemed so similar that I had trouble telling them apart (like Finley, Miller, and Gabriel: aside from accents and a few identity elements, they seemed to have the same general voice).
And while some of them, like Jason and Autumn, Tsukasa and Petr eventually gained a distinct identity, it felt like it slipped at times, going back into a stereotype. At one point, Jason (who has been the leader and a loner up to this point) just loses his resolve and starts showing his feelings for Autumn, and I felt like this was very inconsistent with who he’d been up to that point. He wasn’t close to anyone, so why would he go against the orders of the Oracle (as they understood them) and give in to his attraction? I felt like he’d fight it, bury it, ignore it, and struggle with it a lot longer than he did. Likewise, some of his fights with Autumn came across equally petty and out of character. If he was the leader and had had to grow up early, like he supposedly had, then it seemed like he’d be better at getting past disagreements (maybe hiding them and letting them simmer, but he certainly didn’t seem like the “blow up and get angry” type).
Artwork: Subjective. I saw the cover after reading the book, so the characters didn’t match the images in my head, but I thought it was a good cover, evoking the concept and feel of the book, but it might imply a more action/adventure story than is actually inside.
Worldbuilding: 3 out of 5. For the most part, their world is ours, but the unique aspects came across as underdeveloped. The Dehmons and their masters, the Oracle, how the Searchers are chosen and by whom–why it seems they always fight in North America–all these things were never explained. The villains seem to be power hungry but two dimensional, only wanting to run the world and enjoy evil because they’re addicted it and its who they are, but perhaps they’ll gain more unique, human ambitions in a later book.
One thing that was explained, however, was that Autumn would lose her power if she lost her virginity, and that bothered me. The guys seemed to have no such restriction, but Autumn was chosen for her purity of soul and body, and if she lost either, she’d no longer be the Keeper. The whole setup implied that virginity is extremely important and that intimacy, marriage, and family sullies a woman, and it made me wonder if this was just a lie passed down from earlier oracles, or how such a generally patriarchial concept worked its way into an order that is run by women, where they are the leaders and source of power? In any case, it frustrated me greatly because it seemed like just the sort of message you wouldn’t want in a young adult novel. Encouraging one to take intimacy seriously and not be casual about such things, absolutely, but imply that it demeans a woman? No way.
Overall Response: 13 out of 20, or an average of 3.25 overall. The novel certainly was interesting, and it made me want to read to the end and find out more about these characters and who Autumn would choose (but then, a good dash of romance gets me through many books), but I felt like it tread down paths that other novels had already taken. So if you’re just looking for a slower paced YA fantasy with romance, I’d recommend it, but if you want something more unique and original, or something with more action and adventure, you should probably look elsewhere.
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I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Photo used by permission from the author