Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Auctor Trilogy

When seventeen-year-old Addie Auctor’s mother is murdered by her father, she must confront many secrets that her family has hidden from her. The worst of these secrets is that Addie’s father, Donovan Hawthorne, is still hunting Addie because of an ancient blood feud between her mother’s family, the Auctors, and her father’s family, the House of Hawthorne. In order to be protected from the House of Hawthorne, Addie and her brother, Augustus, are sent to Initiation at an exclusive University, the Wicked Cabal.

Initiation is nothing like Addie expects. She is immediately separated from Augustus and thrown in with four complete strangers – Fallon, Maddox, Liam, and Tempe. Addie must try to forge friendships with her fellow Initiates while they solve clues, battle mystical creatures, and explore increasingly dangerous places. 

I was provided with a free copy of this book for review by the author. This has in no way impacted on my review.

I had mixed feelings on this book. One one hand, it was a solid story from an obviously very talented and imaginative author, however the writing style had several quirks that I really didn't get on with. I found The Auctor Trilogy to be a frustrating read. It simultaneously gives you too much information and not enough. The first five or so chapters are endless streams of people talking at Addie, giving her either half-answers and or no answers. There are a lot of unnecessary characters introduced in far too much unnecessary detail, who then disappear from the story, never to be seen again. In the prologue alone, I could tell you every character's (and there are eight of them) full name, hair and eye colour and taste in fashion, but I couldn't tell you what they were talking about, alluding to or referencing.

The writing was good, but I feel like the story would have benefitted from a tighter edit to remove some repetition and unnecessary scenes (pages are spent on getting Addie and her brother the jumpsuits they need to get to the Wicked Cabal school, introducing two new characters in the scene, only for the jumpsuits - and the characters - to disappear in the next chapter) or instances where the dialogue seemed a little too on the nose. There are entire pages devoted to an exchange between Addie and Augustus where she bemoans how plain she is (a pet peeve of mine in YA!) while he assures her how gorgeous she is, how all the guys in her old school wanted to hit on her but were too scared and how all the guys in her new school will be lining up to ask her out (mere days after their mother's murder no less). Eye colours are described as emerald green and sapphire blue in the same sentence. Subtle it ain't. At one point, a helicopter shows up bearing the words "Nefarious Societas Clandestinus" on the side.

Addie was a tricky character to read. Early on, she was little more than an observer in her own story, with flashes of reaction ringing false because they seem so out of character. The first person pov felt a little disingenuous, more focused on conveying information than letting the reader know how Addie felt. We watch her see things and think supplementary information, but I didn't get a true sense of her emotions. Characters can't just state that they're upset or angry, the reader needs to see it. There was a little early on about Addie's brother drugging her with some sort of herb to keep her calm, but that just made for a protagonist with little emotional reaction, and when you see no emotion from a main character, it's hard to feel a connection to them.

Once Addie is seperated from her family and starts to stand on her own two feet, the book definitely comes into its own. I definitely got more of a sense of Addie as a character and the story really kicked into gear when she made the decision to embrace her magic and her training to get revenge on the man who'd killed her mother. It was great to see her grow and get a sense of who she really was when she wasn't surrounded by people who wrapped her in cotton wool and refused to tell her anything more than their names. Her friendship with Tempe was lovely and so well written. Bar the earlier chat between Addie and Augustus going on about how all the girls in school were mean to her because she was so beautiful without even realising it, it was nice to read a sweet, supportive friendship between two female characters without jealousy, back-biting or bitching.

The journey that Addie and her new friends have to make to reach the school (which I must admit, from the blurb, I wasn't expecting. I thought this story would be a first year at Hogwarts-type adventure), the world building and fantasy elements woven through the quest were brilliant. The surplus info was still present and correct - I didn't need to know the exact contents of Addie's magic backpack, right down to how many shirts it contains - but it was pure fantasy and I loved it! I could have done without the unnecessary love interest. I did not, for one second, buy the romance between Addie and Maddox. It doesn't help that he's relatively interchangeable with the other two guys in Addie's group, but it seems utterly insane that he's willing to abandon his family code for her after about a week. There was very little heat between them, and nothing to explain why they're attracted to each other, save for the standard bickering when they first meet. He's constantly described as having crimson lips too, which just made me picture the guy wearing lipstick.

There were a few plot holes that the story never really resolved. If Addie is so important to her family as the female heir of the Auctors, why were they so quick to excommunicate her mother if she, surely, was just as significant? And if they knew she had a daughter - which it becomes apparent that they did - why wait until her mother was killed to whisk her away to the Wicked Cabal school and presumed safety? If Addie's father wanted to kill the female descendant of the Auctor bloodline, why didn't her just kill her mother instead of knocking her up? And if Addie's father is the Hawthorne descendant, then surely Addie and her brother are too? So are they considered the descendants of the Aucor bloodline, or the Hawthorne one? Can they be both? Do they get to pick? The finer points of the story are frustratingly vague.

The Auctor Trilogy was a solid story which should make for a great trilogy, but I just didn't connect with the writing style which in turn made it very difficult for me to connect with the main character. It's a good story, and one that I think would appeal to a lot of fans of YA fantasy, but it didn't grab me the way I expecting it to.

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