Wednesday, May 30, 2018

In the Dawning by Simone Snaith

This book is short - very short, 121 pages. And this is a problem.

It’s a problem because this is either a stand alone book or the first book in a series. I’m on record insisting it’s a bad idea for any book to start its series with a short story or novella - your first book has to introduce all the hooks to draw us in. It has to show your writing, introduce and establish the main character(s), introduce and explore some of the world and preferably include a plot to interest and fascinate in its own right as well so the book doesn’t feel like a prologue. I don’t think you can do that in a novella. And as for a stand alone - I think it’s a rare novella that can pack all this development in on its own without a backing series.

And this book, I think, sadly doesn’t challenge my belief here. We have Genevieve - an interesting protagonist. She has an obvious supernatural background beyond her adoptive parents (and, honestly, in any urban fantasy, an adopted child is ALWAYS going to be a secret princess/demon/fairy/werewolf queen) but the hints are delivered with neither subtlety or exploration because we don’t have the space for that: we just have some moderately transparent references to being afraid of iron. We also have an excellent depiction of Genevieve’s depression - and the way it drags at her, the way depression haunts her, the way it casts a pall over so much of her life. It’s really well depicted - but it’s hard to truly appreciate it without it expanding over the rest of the story so much - because there’s so little space. Genevieve has the foundation for being a great character - and her art and vision as it creeps on and shows her more and more was similarly very well done - but lacked wider context given the rest of the plot.

She has what looks like some good and diverse friends - Claudia is latina and even in the relatively brief time she has to be developed her relationship with Genevieve is strong. Another friend introduced is Persian (the writer also shows a level of awareness of things like cultural appropriation but again not the room to explore). There was also a latino policeman, Elliot, who she falls in with who is supportive and helpful in the face of supernatural happening: but even here we have a level of rushing that makes their relationship feel forced and even a little creepy. Like, Genevieve seems to have a lot of casual off duty moments with this guy which would work better if there was some foundation there

But all of these characters are good and I’d ride happily with them through even an abbreviated plot and hurried relationships - but here’s the main snag. The plot isn’t really there… We have two supernatural guys (one of whom I’m mentally tagging as designated love interest) trying to stop a big bad supernatural threat that is consuming the realm and Geneveieve is our special chosen one who will stop it. Fine

What do we know of the other realm? It’s damp and shady. That’s about it.

What do we know of the fae? They like damp and shady places

What do we know of this guardian, Dara? Not so much. I mean, I know the mythology but not much from the book.

What do we know of Genevieve’s supernatural abilities, heritage or… anything?

The actual supernatural elements of this book are just kind of absent? Genevieve has some mystical accidents involving plants - but the actual nature of the conflict or any real aspects of it are never discussed, explored or even hinted at. And then the book ends.

The book introduces Genevieve but not a lot else - and that’s frustrating because there’s a whole lot here that could be excellent - her character, her friends and the small amount of the actual plot and world building we saw. But we didn’t see enough - and the book ended just when I thought it was beginning to start. I don’t have enough supernatural hooks to invest me in the series. I have the story of Genevieve, artists who sees things and has a plant thing: and she’s not a boring character. But she isn’t enough: this story isn’t enough: either to start a series or for the book to stand on its own.