June 28, 2014

Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner: "Perfection" (ARC Review)

Title:  Perfection [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Mad World (3rd of 6 books)
Authors: Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner [Mad World site | Erin on Goodreads | Troy's site | Troy on Goodreads]
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2014
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Quirky, refreshing look at magic, woven with a peculiar mythology. Interesting, not stereotypical characters. Surprises and mysteries.
Cons: Some occurrences are a bit too convenient. Astrid and Max's voices sound a bit similar or too mature sometimes. Some characters get less screentime than the others. A lot happens and you feel compelled to read on without giving everything the chance to sink in.
Will appeal to: Those who liked Wakefield and Tunnelville but craved for more action...and more (awesome) magic.

Blurb: Following months of living on the streets of Boston, the Wakefield escapees have found a temporary shelter to recoup in after barely escaping from Arlington Station with their lives. As the troubled teens grow closer and rely on each other for survival, they know the inexhaustible Dr. Lycen is on the hunt. When he shows up on their doorstep, some of them flee to Perfection, a turn of the century living museum that holds more than its fair share of secrets. Those who travel to Perfection find a new home that promises safety and stability. But is a dangerous adversary pulling the strings behind the scenes? (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the authors in exchange for an honest review. And...*drum roll*...this is actually my very first ARC! (Huge thanks to Erin and Troy for trusting me with it!). But I'm confident you'll be able to realise that my review wasn't biased...since it's next to impossible to fake enthusiasm when one writes the kind of reviews that yours truly writes :). Here goes...
You probably know by now that I don't read many popular series, but from what other reviewers say, even the best of them often tend to lose momentum as the story progresses. Well, that's not the case here. The Mad World series has reached its third installment, and I've been pleasantly surprised to see it grow and get richer and more layered with each book. Also, I was able to spot a subtle difference in each one of them. While Book 1 was more "contemporary meets paranormal" (which is the main theme of this series, since it focus on a bunch of kids who don't all have special abilities), Book 2 - though mainly dealing with survival in a hostile environment - had a wider urban fantasy angle, and now Book 3 provides a stronger magical feel, besides being more on the rural fantasy side. Now, since Mad World is, in the words of its authors, a "double trilogy", this means that we're only halfway through the story - and still the vein is well far from running dry
As usual, we mainly get a double POV from friends Astrid and Max, though the book has a prologue and epilogue by Dr. Lycen (the teens' nemesis) and is interspersed with chapters where Karen (Astrid's aunt) tells her own side of the story. As the book begins, six of the original Wakefield escapees are living in a temporary shelter that is literally across the street from where they lived before - so I wonder why it takes Dr. Lycen so much to find them (especially since they make a living with their magic tricks in the metro...). But he ultimately does, of course...though a character from Book 2 makes an unexpected comeback and manages to take them to Perfection, a protected village somewhere near Boston where a bunch of magicians live. Max's old dream has come true at this point: since one of them has made a last-minute decision to follow a different path, only five of the kids actually reach Perfection. But is the turn of the century living museum as safe as it seems?
A lot happens in these 300-something pages. We are introduced to many new faces, and even meet some old ones. Most of the Wakefield escapees get unexpected character development, especially when it comes to their powers. There's so much cool magic in this book...animated origamis, a quilt that can trap memories, a painting that can advise you of your impending death (I'm not going to spoil this one...it sounds creepy, but it's also highly original and fascinating), a place that's not really there (and now we get an explanation for the moving tower in Book 2), and much more. Also, we get a closer look at the different kinds of magic, and learn more about Mentalists and Elementals - not to mention the reasons behind the Hickory Group, an ancient, shady organization bent on containing magic and not letting it be exposed. Of course, magic has its dark side as well, and we get plenty of it. But in the midst of all this, the authors don't lose sight of the human interactions, especially when it comes to Astrid and Max's friendship and her budding romance with fellow escapee Lawrence. Mind you, the latter is a slow-burning fuse, so don't expect any instalove syndrome to rear its ugly head ;D. [...]

Talking about slow-burning fuses, this series definitely was one for me. I liked it from Book 1, especially because of its freshness, but I've seen it picking pace and depth since then, and finally some of the things that originally confused me are coming together - I can indeed see now that all has been carefully planned from the start, intricacies included. It takes a little patience, but this story ultimately repays.
As for the chapters in Karen's POV, Astrid's aunt and the detective she hired in order to find her niece are investigating Wakefield, and they're slowly realising that something fishy lies behind the fa├žade of Astrid's old facility. Dr. Lycen, while obviously involved with the Hickory Group, may be up to something else...
I didn't include a warning for this book because it's essentially a clean one...but there's mention of a rape (though not esplicitly addressed as one) and consequent pregnancy, and a couple of characters have sex, though offscreen. Which is only to be expected, since we're talking about two teens in a steady relationship...
I had some small issues with this installment (see Cons), but all in all, nothing major. Also, I never saw the ending coming. In Erin's words, "The first three books (we hope) will feel like a trilogy in terms of tone and overall story arc, but with an unresolved ending. With book four, we'll shift to a slightly darker and more mature tone and stay with that for the rest of the series. And like the first three books, the last three books have a coherent story arc in which so-called villains become allies and former friends become antagonists". I can't wait to see where she and Troy are going from here.
You might be afraid to commit to a six-books series. But I promise you, this one is unlike anything you've read before. Also, we're talking about ebooks here - not expensive, especially when in preorder :). Speaking of which - since Perfection won't be available anywhere else till July 11 - you can PREORDER IT HERE (you'll have to scroll down the page a little).

For my review of "Wakefield" (first installment in the series) click here.
For my review of "Tunnelville" (second installment in the series) click here.
For my interview with Erin and Troy click here.
For more Supernatural/Paranormal books click here.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Roberta! Awesome review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. A double trilogy?! Wow, that actually doesn't sound daunting to me because I like to spend time with my characters. Not sure when or if I'll get to this one, but you've got me intrigued!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point...spending time with characters is one of the bonuses of committing to a series. Not to mention, you get huger character development. Most people seem scared (or bored) at the thought of beginning a trilogy lately, so I'm glad you're not one of them!

      Delete

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