Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Mark Unwilling (The Reckoning #1) by Candace Wondrak

Lexa’s family had every privilege - of course they did, they paid for it with Lexa’s soul.

She always knew that some day her demonic master would come to collect - but who knew that would be the least of her concerns with cultists, vampires and, most of all, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding free

The demonic mark on her body may make her invincible but with the apocalypse rising even she may not survive this

A lot happens in a very brief space of time in this book. It doesn’t exactly make it hard to follow per se, I mean I could tell exactly what was going on but it felt rushed without a lot of layers.

We open the book introduced to our protagonist, Lexa is a woman whose soul has been sold to some mysterious demon by her parents when she was still in the womb. While this has the nice benefit of being unkillable and presumably other side effects to being soulless, it also means she lives with the knowledge her parents sold her soul. This comes with like, ALL the parental issues and understandably - I mean we have parents who are not necessarily bad and are quite caring and a very privileged upbringing but that undertone of them having sold her soul colours their entire relationship. But we don’t really have time to explore it and instead we just end up with a bad mother character and a loving father character who gets written out before his position on the pedestal can be made more complicated or nuanced

And because the four horsemen of the apocalypse land so quickly after the book starts we never really get a chance to see Lexa’s relationship with them - or even what being marked actually means. This happens for a few other baseline things we start the book with - like her friend David, a 300 year old warlock. This means… I’m not even sure. He has magic and he’s old so he has knowledge which makes him quite useful to Lexa but I would have liked seeing more time of them together, more time to show the relationship and why this relationship is actually there. Or even what a warlock actually is.

And this could work is, during the plot, we actually worked with these relationships, but we hit the ground running and we don’t really stop. But not only do we not really stop, but the action is kind of disjointed. We have a cop who is also Marked but apparently to a Greek god - and everyone just kind of runs with this without explanation. Ok, how do they fit in this cosmology? What does this mean?

And then there’s a pack of vampires who are involved for… reasons? I mean they may know about the potentially upcoming apocalypse but we’re not sure why or how and they can’t actually explain themselves but they spend so much time being menacing and misunderstood. And there’s the blood moon so badness is happening with them so, again, we never really develop any relationships or world building or what they mean because we have ACTION. And maybe could explore that but we also have a member of the party who can see the future and there’s a cult involved and she needs rescuing and why why why why why is this all here? Slow down, slow down, I can’t even remember any of these character’s names an-


What why why why why?! Why do we have spider demon side quests? Is this the apocalypse? The horsemen? Something else? Greek gods, are you involved? And now we’ve got these two extra vampires running around and I don’t know who they are or how many survivors there are and there’s a cute little girl whose all aaaaaahhh and is Lexa in a love triangle with the head vampire (who is, I kid you not, called Cloud because why not?) and her demonic master…?!

Oh and her demonic master. It says everything about how utterly crammed this book is that he shows up, drops his twist - but not what his motives are, why he wants her or what his connection to the apocalypse actually is (and for some reason neither Lexa nor anyone else even tries to question this) and he just kind of joins the whacky gang running through the apocalypse for… reasons?

The thing is, none of this is bad. The concept of the book is really excellent and I think there’s a lot of complexity which can be explored in terms of who and what Lexa is. I really like the complexity of the vampires, who they are, the different diets, the implications and the bad press in the face of David’s suspicions, the loyalty and sense of family they have. And there’s clearly a lot more to the demonic master than we have been revealed and we’re going to get a lot of twists and complex motives coming from this, inevitably

And while there are a lot of fight scenes, they’re also very well written. The book is confusing but it isn’t boring and the fight scenes are nicely paced with a lot of well described action and experience and it does create a whole frenetic feel to the book which probably would reflect the dawning of the apocalypse. These are good things. We have some minimal diversity with some bit part vampires being POC (and possibly one a lesbian by one potential throwaway comment?) and the adorable moppet they end up dragging around with them being Latina, but it’s not really noteworthy in any particular way

This book has a lot going for it. It’s foundation is incredible. The writing is excellent. I’m intrigued. I would read the whole series. The whole series, however, does not need squeezing into this one book. No, it does not, save some for the sequels.