Tuesday, May 26, 2015

REVIEW: AN UNEXPECTED BONDING

INTRODUCTION
Vampires, werewolves, secret societies, classic boy meets girl romances, and some supernatural action sequences are the very foundation of what has come to be known as the Paranormal Romance genre. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and the fact that there are so many authors who have tried to cash in on the success of a certain saga does not help with gaining it any credibility for those that might still be on the fence about the genre. In a lot of ways, An Unexpected Bonding makes a conscious effort to try and take the popularized formula and mix it up in an interesting blend of different familiar things. 

HOW I CAME UPON IT
After publishing my own book, I wanted to become engaged in the indie author community. Lilly is one of the first members of said community that I met and engaged with. She's a lovely person with a deep passion for writing fiction and I found myself connecting with her really well when we discussed each other's books. We're both first time authors and both understood that our books aren't quite perfect so we were genuinely looking for honest feedback from one another. I completed my first "review swap" with her which is a little nerve-wracking since things get awkward really fast if one participant doesn't like the work of the other. Fortunately for us, we liked each other's work and were both receptive to some constructive criticism so that our next time out is better.

HOW I RATED IT

4/5 I certainly got more enjoyment out of this story that I have from other paranormal romances. There were a lot of things that the author tried to do which I found to be refreshingly daring and I hope that is the start of a long-lived trend in the genre. That said, it was not smooth sailing all the way through for me as I found myself enjoying some of the execution a bit less than the concepts. 


CHARACTERS

Introduced at the very start of the book are the faerie, which come off in a very similar way to the fantastical creatures of childhood fairy tales. These immortal beings do not live in the physical realm in the same way that other creatures do, but they do like to meddle with its affairs. Though this is often done with the best of intentions, it often results in the mortal realm being far worse off than it was before. This layer adds quite a bit to the context of the action and opens the door for new twists to enter into the mix. One such twist is that all of the Vampire characters seem to come straight from the Ancient Egyptian pantheon of famed gods including, but not limited to Ra, Isis, and Osiris. The wolves come from mythological origins as well and both species are the result of faerie meddling. All these mystical elements set the stage for a far more interesting brand of monster than I would normally associate with this genre and create some welcome intrigue within the story space. 

While there is definitely a central love story between two characters, there are a TON of other individuals who all get their time to shine whether they are introduced in the beginning or make appearances later on. The cast for this story is enormous and each person is characterized so well that they do feel distinct from one another in a really wonderful way. There are also a lot of different relationships that are cultivated between the vast assortments of characters as the adventure progresses. The fact that the perspective changes frequently helps readers keep up with all these characters and never did I find myself confused as to who is who. There are even certain sequences told and then retold from these different vantage points so as to provide added insight into the book’s bigger moments. This all adds up to something that feels refreshingly unique and is by and large why I enjoyed the story as much as I did.



WORLD/SETTING

The story takes place in a cozy southern setting, more specifically on a ranch. While I'm generally not a Western kind of person, I did find that I enjoyed the easy going vibe that this type of location gave off. There's a certain splendor to the setting that compliments the story's tone quite nicely. There's not a whole lot more that can really be said about this since there are only really two other major locations in the book: one a more sinister homestead that is a place of dread for a number of the cast members, and a vibrant rodeo which serves as the location for the story's final climax. This is one of those stories where the characters ARE the world. That's not to say the scenery is poorly described, or that the staging is bad, because it's not. I simply found myself far more invested in the story of the characters and the world around them felt more like a well-done backdrop.

PLOT/TONE
To be clear, this is not the Paranormal Romance for people who generally dislike Paranormal Romances. It is also not a narrative for readers who need constant action. This is story that is told at the pace that it wants to be told at which winds up being something of a trot. If that sounds like a negative, it may be for you depending on personal taste, but this steadier pace also allows readers to really soak in what each and every character has to offer. If you are the type that likes prolonged, easy going stories, then this is definitely something that appeals to those interests.

This is also not a story for the faint of heart when it comes to lovemaking in literature. There is steamy romance aplenty here that starts pretty early on and can be found throughout. The author has a rich vocabulary and uses sumptuous adjectives that make even the non-sexual moments feel lusty and idealized. It’s not necessarily a grounded representation of love or making love, but when there are vampires and wolves running around, that probably is not a very valid complaint. 

There were certainly some key areas where this work did not really come together for me. The dialogue is strangely inconsistent and often feels a bit janky since it sometimes sounds like a strange blend of old English, Victorian English, and modern day slang which works 100% of the time for the Vampire characters, but is less plausible for others. There are also moments of unnecessary explanation or repetition of previously explained ideas which pulled me out of the moment, but I should point out that I read through this pretty quickly so if you like to read at a more fragmented pace, then this might actually be helpful to you.

CONCLUSION
The main audience for this piece is going to be those that are already fans about this type of story, but it might also be able to pull in those that maybe didn’t care for Twilight, but haven’t written the genre off as whole just yet (I tend to fall within this camp). While I had a lot of problems with the more technical aspects of the piece, I found myself pleased with the direction that the author pushes this genre in. The added layers of complexity not only put forth that extra something for people already on board with this type of novel, but also challenge the very notion of what goes into the Paranormal Romance formula. There is a concerted effort to break from genre convention without alienating current fans and I think An Unexpected Bonding successfully manages to do just that. This is also a rather lengthy adventure and it there are two follow up books planned for it so if you're the type that likes to dive into long books/series then this will definitely satisfy your need for a longer tale. If you’re looking for the next big thing in Paranormal Romance or you feel the genre is a little stale and are waiting for something that will shake it up, then I highly recommend that you give this one a look. 

Available in eBook and Paperback editions on Amazon

2 comments:

  1. I got so much from your review Derek, even the 'negative' was positive to me. Thank you for such a full and well constructed review.

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    1. Hey, thanks for your comment. It was definitely a creative and enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing the next two hit the market!

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