Synopsis from Goodreads.
The Vara of Yima, the original Garden of Eden, sealed from the rest of the world and populated with the fittest of men and women. A secret paradise that 150 years ago became ravaged by smog that choked out the skies.
Now the Vara exists in a permanent state of darkness and its people need a champion, a chosen one to save them from the smog that threatens to fill the realm and poison its inhabitants.
That’s what they needed. They got Sammy Ellis instead. She isn’t important enough for her dad to stick around for, never mind saving a realm or junk like that. Her only responsibility was to help the chosen one open the gateway into the Vara, but not only has she entered the realm in their place, she’s also locked them out in the process.
Stuck in a twilight land of giant mushrooms, pursued by dark forces and still in her pyjamas, being unimportant back in the real world is starting to seem way more attractive.
Before I start talking about this book, I want to just mention how great it is to get a review request from someone who has actually read my blog. And not just my how I review section but actually read my reviews, know my style and my voice and still want a review.
Like a lot of people I know, self-published books are always going to bring their own stigma and clichés. I guess they’re just like other genres in that sense (OK, maybe ‘genre’ is the wrong word…). With paranormal romance the heroines going to be wimpy and suddenly discover she’s magical when she turns 16, comedy are books are only going to be funny to people who think boobs are hilarious and fantasy books are just the author’s way of showing that they can fit 6 consonants after each other in a single word.
Self-published books? Well, they’re just from desperate authors that agents have turned down over and over again, they’ll be riddled with spelling mistakes and the story itself will be so full of plot holes it’ll be like driving on pretty much any road in Manchester.
First things first, this book is not the cliché self-published book. And also, not every self-published author is a desperate author who has been turned down by agents. The writing is smooth and fluid. I don’t know whether Mr Kerry is just naturally great at writing stories that flow or he’s had some brilliant help or, I guess, a bit of both. Either way, this book read exactly like the books I read published by the hot shot authors.
I ummed and aahhed for a while to work that above paragraph without coming off as a patronising tit, thing is, there’s no way of writing that a book is well-written without sounding like a patronising tit. But I don’t mind admitting that when I agreed to read this book I was a bit nervous. I was expecting the wrong ‘there/their/they’re’ to be used (something I do in my writing), inconsistencies in characters (yep, I do that too), overly long (Um…) and sentences that just stop for no apparent reason (something I never do).
But, as I said, I was nervous and because I was nervous I was hyper aware of everything. Let me tell you, dear reader, about fifteen pages in I forgot I was supposed to be looking out for spelling and grammatical mistakes. I forgot I was even reading a self-published book!
OK, let’s get to the nitty gritty shall we?
This story itself was OK. And I don’t mean “OK” in the way that some people mean it when they just want to fob someone off and not give a proper opinion. There were things I loved about it and things I wished had been a bit different.
It was a really interesting story and completely different to anything that I’ve read before. I’m not the biggest fantasy girl in the world but I like to be step out of my comfort zone every now and again and this book definitely made me do that.
Mr Kerry came up with a fantastic set of characters, especially Sammy, the heroine. She was a bit of a geek but not one of those geeks that will make you roll your eyes. It was wonderful to see Kerry’s world from her eyes because she acted like I imagine I would act if I was ever transported to a different world. You know, lots of bemused looks and “what the hell is happening right now?”. I always get very suspicious when heroines/heroes just deal with it when the find themselves in a completely new realm because… well, I don’t think I could be your friend if you were able to act as if NOTHING had happened in that scenario.
But yes, Sammy was great. Just personal preference, but I would have liked to see her character be developed a bit more before she went on her adventure. This is just because there were some issues regarding Sammy’s home life that I would like to have explored a bit more to flesh out her personality a little bit more. And I loved that she was from Sheffield.. maybe that’s why I liked Sammy so much, because she’s a Northern bird… like moi. And we’re awesome.
Sticking with characters for a bit, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about, and I’m trying to be careful about spoilers here, some of the relationships between the characters. I’m often quite vocal about this kind of thing when it crops up in books and it’s probably just me but I found myself narrowing my eyes when these characters were interacting together. But, that being said, thankfully it didn’t seem to become a major issue so it wasn’t too bad.
Like I said and have always said, fantasy isn’t my poison. I get confused easily and my head gets muddled. The story and the ideas behind this book were great and well thought out. However, the pacing was a little inconsistent. One minute there wasn’t much going on, lots of dialogue and descriptions, and the story would slow waaaay down and just as I was feeling a bit sleepy with it…. bam everything in the world happened and I had to quickly shove on my thinking cap to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I feel it would’ve been a bit more coherent if the action/dialogue was dispersed a bit more fairly… it could’ve spiced up the slow bits and watered down the ‘raaaaar’ bits.
However, even though I had my issues with the story, the world and the setting Mr Kerry created were absolutely fantastic. I never doubted the world that he built, which has to be a good thing. I think in fantasy stories, the world/setting is pretty much a character in itself and, the more I think about it, it was my favourite character in this book. The setting was so vibrant and extremely memorable and, honestly, I have no complaints.
Considering how reluctant I am about reading self-published books, I’m pleasantly surprised this book. I’m probably not the best person to review this book seeing as my knowledge and expertise on fantasy is next to nothing but I did enjoy it and it was a nice change from the stuff that I normally read.
So, if you’re looking for a well-written fantasy with a great setting, you should read this one.
And speaking of reading this one…
The first twelve chapters are available on John’s website here.
In full disclosure, John did send me a copy of his book but this didn’t affect my review in the slightest.