Note: The Author Visits was given an e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Review by Kristin Lundgren on behalf of The Author Visits
Shaylee Greene has just celebrated her seventeenth birthday, loves dance and wants to study both dance and writing at a college in her hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa with her best friend. Her life is great, plagued only by recurring nightmares. Suddenly her parents tell her she is being sent off to the tiny town of Aylburton, in northern Britain, near the Forest of Dean, to live with her grandmother. Her parents will follow after they've tied up things down there. She spent the first seven years there, but has no strong memories of the place, and as she is quiet, and a little shy, she has trouble making friends. Unhappy about the decision, she tries to stand firm about not going, but before she knows it she is on the plane, and going off to her grandmother's large house to stay.
Once there, she learns that what she has believed all her life was a lie, and that supernatural forces are at play all around her. Assigned a protector, and attracted to another, she reacts as any teen would do, by digging in her heels, refusing to follow orders, and demanding answers, which are slowly revealed, but always with more questions. New dangers lurk around every corner, but she has an independent streak, and won't take this arranging of her life lying down.
When I first starting reading, I was, as always when doing a review, looking for the pros and cons. I tend to be a little tough, but fair, as I know how much work goes into writing. While I found some niggling areas that I felt needed an editor's touch, by about 1/4 of the way through, they had melted away, and this magical story slipped under my skin, and I read straight through, in an almost marathon session of 4+ hours at the dining room table, getting up only to get more tea. I haven't been that immersed since my teens, 40 years ago.
In the beginning I felt it was a bit overly reliant on descriptive adjectives. It's great to set the scene, and make us feel like we are there, but when you get down to curtains and duvets, I draw the line. I don't need to know if they were lined or unlined, downy or heavy. That's where a great editor helps. But again, that faded away, and I stopped noticing it. My notes got skimpier and trickled done to none by the time I was done.
The one thing that did keep distracting me was the "five" convention - the short lists Shaylee wrote at the beginning of each chapter. Sometimes I liked them - they told me what was the focus of that chapter, other times they pulled me out of the story. I was also missing the scene breaks found in a normally formatted book - my copy had none, so I would have to reread what I had just finished when scene jumping, as I questioned myself - wasn't she just...?
Although the book was in first person, present tense, my least favorite POV, it never bothered me the way it normally did. I put this down to the author's skillful writing, fast pace, and plenty of action. The characters were well-developed, albeit a bit mysterious as things unfolded. This wasn't the typical know it all upfront story. This was Shaylee's journey, and the reader discovers things as she did, in an inquisitive undertone.
Although at times I wanted to shake her for her defiant and willful behavior, having raised two daughters I could sympathize with how scary it must have been to be pulled out of all that you know, find you are part of a destiny long in the making, and not have much say in anything that happens. As an adult, I was impatient at times, but when that occurred, I just took a second to remind myself of how a teenage girl would feel, and then went happily on my way.
I was uncertain about her constantly running away from her feelings - a change from the normal YA fare where they fall madly in love/lust on page 3. She had two gorgeous guys that she felt something for, and which was reciprocated, so why shy away from a touch? Maybe because she was inexperienced, and the feelings were powerful. The tension was palpable - electric and crackling.
This lovely, exciting page-turning story hooked me with it's strong pacing, well-drafted characters and sense of place, and I actually felt a part of the "family," something that is important to me. Strong connections to the characters, and a desire to uncover the whole story will have me continuing on in this Maor saga. I strongly recommend that you follow me.
Rating? 5 well-earned stars
The Author Visits Reviews Five by Caroline Greyling
Caroline Greyling is a mother of two, student and full time Executive in a prominent South African Telecommunications company. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two daughters and spends her time reading, writing, playing piano, doing arts and crafts and studying.
Caroline is a great fan of fiction, especially young adult and romance, and is on her way to becoming a well-known author. Five is her debut novel.