I am trying to up my game, read more books, and be really active reviewing this coming year as I have a backlog of novels to read. I also am desperately in need of some awesome books - they are hard to find, and I am determined to discover the gold among the rest.
Because of this, I will be reuploading some of my Goodreads reviews here (with GIFs!) for your pleasure until I am caught up to date.
First book on the menu is REUTs novel, The Rose Master by Valentina Cano.
*SPOILER ALERT - NO DAA*
(Click picture to go through to it's Youtube link!)
Valentina Cano is a student of classical music, and poetry - these influences are evident in her gothic novel, The Rose Master which I believe to be her first non-poetry prose publication.
I love retellings of fairy tales, and I did notice this being one of Beauty and the Beast very early on (despite some other reviews saying they couldn’t see it); it might just be a habit of mine, though, to associate anything with an unwilling girl, a beautiful castle, and a reclusive, handsome lord to it.
But Cano develops a strong surreal feel for this novel that is beautifully haunting, and helps sell the slow-burning plot (it is also quite reminisent of Howl’s Moving Castle, in one sense - novel, not movie). This is helped with her poetic background singing through her words with stunning metaphors embellishing the story; in saying that, there were times her odd choice of phrasing did pull me from the story, just because of their quirkiness.
(Must say, with the live action around the corner, I hope there are more Beauty and the Beast retellings - kind of a soft spot for me!)
Moving on, the main love interest Autumn and protagonist Anna are fairly cute. Others have commented saying Lord (Autumn) Grey was a bit of jerk, and I can see how this could come across. There were moments when snappy, sarcastic dialogue was - for me - ruined by the dialogue tag, that turned this frustrated, defensive man, into an easily wounded, whiny boy.
But I have admit....
I found the romance did come a little from coincidences, which lets be honest, does play a large part in love - it'd be oblivious to think two eccentric, pretty, people, with opposite powers, locked in a castle with only each other's company, wouldn't develop a bond. And with the news there will be a sequel to this novel, I hope this is only an introduction to a more in-depth look at their characters and relationship next time around.
Plot wise, I think my main issue came from exposition.
In the beginning, I couldn't decide if it was realistic, or just lazy.
If you find a girl who could solve your problems, of course you'd spill everything in hopes she'd help - but it didn't exactly emulate this reasoning when I read it, rather more like:
"for the next chapter of this story, this is all the ground knowledge you will need to know”.
Sure. I will take this bombardment of information. Alrighty.
But exposition is tricky, and I know I’m struggling with it with my own story. So Cano is far from alone with this issue. It is something we all need to work on - because it does kill.
And of course, then there is Lili.
I thought it was good character development having Lili in Grey's life, but I found the twist at the end destroyed part of the depth to him. It was a bit like 'of course, this Lili will ruin Grey's life for what he did to her', but by making her the greater villain, you also - in a way - forgave, and belittled, Grey's behaviour. And yes, he admits his faults, but it just wasn't enough for me.
I guess I'm trying to say, I didn't want him to have it so easy.
I think it would have been stronger, in my opinion, to have Lili actually commit suicide because of the betrayal; she was honestly in love with Autumn, and for him to use her to further his career, was too much to bare. And what's more - he then murdered her beloved father!
It would have driven her crazy, thus her taking her own life. And this in turn, would have messed Grey up for real. He wouldn't just be taking the battering of the Wraith because he couldn't get rid of it, but because, deep down, he honestly thought he deserved it. He’s no longer just a ‘victim’, but a person who believes they’re guilty of murder, serving their time. And of course Anna will come saying ‘it’s too much; you’ve suffered enough!” Or something. And thus, with her to protect, he will finally step up and demonstrate his power.
And naturally, the person behind it would be ‘The Master’ - Lili’s father who - twist - survived! And hell, what if the Wraith was actually Lili (kudos of her father’s magic)?
Of course, having the Master behind it all would have been the slightly more obvious choice than Lili (who was still fairly obvious), but I found the reasoning would have been stronger.
I don’t know, I am just musing, and for all I know, this could be the plot for the second book! haha Though I think I remember Lili surviving all this in the end?
Despite saying all that, I did enjoy this book, and there was a pull for me to finish it quickly which was good. And Cano did abide well to the rules of her Gothic genre with good elements of sin and repressed sexuality.
Therefore I'm awarding it 3.5/5 just because while it holds potential, it just didn't hit the mark.
In saying all that, I will be keeping an eye for the second.
Hopefully this series will just keep outdoing itself :)