Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: The Shadow Rises by K.S. Marsden

I refuse to lie in my reviews, because if everyone just keeps giving great reviews all the time, no author will ever be able to learn and improve. So therefore, I’m going to be brutally honest.

This time around, I read and reviewed The Shadow Rises, by K.S. Marsden.

Witches are real, and to be blunt, they’re all black-hearted, and evil. These are not wiccans, bored housewives and teens that wore too much black, playing with candles and poems; witches are a different breed that use magic with devastating effect.
Charged with stopping the witches, taking whatever measures necessary, there are witch-hunters, all reporting to the Malleus Maleficarum Council (MMC). For hundreds of years witches have been persecuted and when the powerful Shadow Witch rises again, they have their opportunity for revenge.
The best the MMC has to offer, the talented seventh-generation witch-hunting Hunter Astley has his own part to play. In his own way. 

I struggled with this book. It was hard for me to connect with it, partially because of the spelling and grammatical mistakes, and partially because of a language and cultural barrier. The author is from the UK, writes in UK slang, and for the American reader, it’s hard to follow. Don’t get me wrong, there are portions of the story (much later in the book) that are written brilliantly, and the last half of the book was easier to read than the first half. There are just so many phrases, terms, and spelling variations that an American reader would be unfamiliar with, not to mention that it isn’t even clearly explained in the surrounding text. Also, there was one point where the characters in the story were a bit insulting to Americans, which is a major turnoff to an American reader. This is why I say there is a language and cultural barrier that made this read very difficult. As for the spelling and grammar mistakes, this is where a professional editor becomes a necessity. Even if you don’t have the budget for a professional editor, there are people who will read and edit your work at a much lower rate. If I have to reread a sentence more than once to decipher the meaning, and have to reword it in my own mind to make sense of it, it needs another pass through by an editor.

That aside, the story itself was a good tale. If one can overlook the writing style and barriers, the story had some really great things to offer. As I mentioned, the second half was much easier to read, and I feel that’s because the action finally picked up. There was finally character development, the story was moving along at a comfortable pace, we started seeing the relationships between the characters falling into place-it was all around a totally different book from the first half. The ending was a bit of a twist, and I won’t give it away here, but it was almost as if the author gave clues throughout the story, and in the end, the reader is left thinking, “Oh! I should have known, that makes sense now!” That’s a great feeling for a reader-to realize that the answer was in front of you the whole time, but the author deceived you through the journey so it was a surprise.

I liked the way the author made the witches out to be a totally different race from humanity, and making the firm distinction between these witches and Wiccans. This makes the reader view the witches not as teenagers playing dress-up, not as real people worshipping nature, and not as your neighbor that is secretly in the broom closet, but a vile, evil species. The only thing they share with humans is the humanoid form. It was a great way to allow the reader to hate the witches alongside the witch hunters.

While there were some rather strong negatives in this book, I’m glad I continued to read it instead of giving up. As the story unfolded, there were many more strong points about this book than one could detect from the first half. Because of it having such a split number of positives and negatives, I would have to rate this at a 3/5 stars, or 6/10 stars.  Had the author developed the characters further, used a competent editor, and used a few less uncommon slang and UK terms, I would have been able to score this much higher.  Still, it wasn’t a terrible read, and the story was worth the time.

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