All of us as reviewers try to read a wide range of authors and genres. But something else we are trying to bring more attention to are local authors. With three reviewers and one part-time, we effectively cover three different cities.
I met Nicol a few years ago at …Fan Expo I want to say (I vendor/go to a lot of conventions – I’m a freelance artist – so they all kind of blend together after a while), and wanting to support local authors I picked up their book. I saw Nicol again the following year at Niagara Falls and they were onto their second book.
For one reason or another I put off the book a little bit, then the whole bullshit of being evicted – spending 4 months homeless with everything in storage, then moving, opening my own store, and then 2020 (which needs no explanation). So I never really got the chance to start the book. With quarantine and running low on borrowed books, it was time to peruse my book shelves again. That’s when I remembered the book and my promise to read it. So, why not!
Right off the bat, the story is interesting! It’s like a modern day gladiator.
Our main character, Benji “K9” Keanin, is a professional fighter. Like in ancient Rome, they fight for the entertainment of others, but the main difference is they TRY not to kill one another. But that’s not to say accidents don’t happen …not everyone gets along.
The story starts with fighters getting horribly attacked and put out of commission. In the middle of a battle Benji wakes up in the lair of who she works out to be the one hurting the other fighters. But, it’s much deeper than that. “Crow” as he wants to be called, may be behind the attacks, but he is being controlled by a bigger force, a force torturing him to keep him in line. How deep does this go? Are other fighters involved?
It reads like a teen novel, which in this day and age isn’t a bad thing. Half the time YA novels are better than standard fiction.
And for the part we all know is coming, where I write about the problems I do have with the book. No book is ever perfect. There aren’t glaring “problems”, more, issues, that I have with Nicol’s book. But I think most of my issues would be ironed out with time and experience. Nicol seems to rush through the story, and while it makes for a quick read, I found it hard to really get lost in the writing because there are no descriptions. They include very basic descriptions of places and what-not so I have a hard time sliding into the scene because I have no gauge of environment, distance, atmosphere, anything like that. There was one scene in particular that I felt some more description would have really amped up how we feel for Benji. As an example because for some reason this scene sticks out in my head: she was in an old abandoned building and the stairs gave out from under her. She hopped up, dusted off, and continued on her way. There is a throw-away line later on about falling two stories. I’m sorry what? Taking the time to include the creaky boards over head swinging on rusted nails, the dust cloud falling that distance would have kicked up, Benji gasping as she landed hard and knocked the wind out of herself – setting the scene for us. Fighters are more advanced than most humans, so injuries don’t last long, but gravity still stuns.
I have a few nit-picks (which, if you’ve read my other reviews, you know I always have) like word choice and pacing, but that’s all they are, nit-picks. I think the more time Nicol has to grow and develop this world, the better it will be. And I am not saying it’s bad now, there is just room to grow.
It is written in first person, which is both the easiest way to write, and the hardest. You don’t have to follow too many writing rules because speech overrules well …rules, but it’s also hard to explain everything outside of their head without sounding like you’re dictating. You have to find a balance between your character interacting with that environment, and explaining it enough that the reader knows what’s happening.
Like I said, this is NOT a bad book, at all. It’s just some personal preferences as a reader/writer myself, and some stuff that will probably come with time.
It is a quick easy read, Benji keeps the story moving in her rush to save the other fighters, while also trying to protect Crow. With the YA themes, this might not be a read for everyone, but people wanting to give a new author a chance and find a quick fun read, this is that book.
If you don’t do the convention circuit (which doesn’t exist this year ANYWAY) you can check out Nicol’s stuff at http://www.facebook.com/ThatsAndydy