Join Alex as he struggles to find his destiny, understand love, solve the mysterious murders within his small home town, and speak for victims who can no longer speak for themselves...
Pages: -- (Not 100% sure; the program I use to read eBooks isn't accurate. Amazon lists it with roughly 160.)
Publisher: Books of the Dead Press
Book Links: Goodreads
* I was gifted this book, by the author, in exchange for an honest review.
A Life of Death splits me down the middle. It's a supernatural, coming-of-age story that, at times, can portray potent and palpable scenes and emotions. It's dark and intriguing, with a setup that doesn't fail to grab your interest. But the novel also feels unsure of itself. There are periods of focused supernatural drama that capture the reader, and then there are long stretches of infuriating fluff.
Characters also suffer. Some are hooking windows into lives most can't even imagine, while others, even when prevalent, beg you to question their inclusion.
Some of this could be chalked up to the fact that A Life of Death began as short, individual episodes, and a little disjoint could be the unfortunate consequence of their coalescence. Fortunately, the novel is, overall, smooth. It's not a difficult read, even though at times it can be underwhelming.
Synopsis (This time round, I'll be using the blurb that comes with my edition of the book.)
Murder. Abuse. And Retribution. Ghosts are speaking to Alex, but can he bring them justice?
Alex Drummond is a troubled high school senior with a checkered past, a broken home, and a surprising ability. When he touches items murder victims held in their final moments, Alex relives the events in gruesome detail, seeing what they saw, thinking their thoughts, and even feeling what they felt. But who will believe a troubled teen, especially when the murders are so close to home and might reveal skeletons hidden for hundreds of years?
Join Alex as he struggles to find his destiny, understand love, solve the mysterious murders within his small home town, and speak for victims who can no longer speak for themselves.
Plot - 3/5 Stars
A Life of Death builds from a solid premise, and for the most part, it's a riveting and haunting journey through an abused teenager's life as he tries to manage the natural and the supernatural. The novel has a strong moral core, focusing on virtue and righteousness when light has practically been swallowed by dark. It also blends some exciting genres, with murder-mystery and the supernatural being the most predominant.
But the book also stops short of igniting its full potential. While the plot holds the reader's attention and can often strike right to your heart, it can also be too static. For the first 3/4 of the plot, frustration can seep in due to the repetitive nature of scenes and chapters.
Things escalate dramatically as we reach the end, and while rife with frightening and fantastic conclusions, I can't help but feel the closing scenes are a little anticlimactic.
Pace - 3/5 Stars
A Life of Death has a steady, but slow, flow. There are some impressive action sequences, but they don't all hit the mark, and some are unnecessary. The family drama proves to be the best in terms of driving the reader forward, which unfortunately weakens other developments and relationships. There's a dip around the halfway point where the novel's repetition is most prominent, but thanks to the relatively short length, it isn't long until things pick up again.
Characters - 3/5 Stars
Our protagonist Alex is a great character. His tumultuous family dynamics steal the show and offer a heartbreaking look into the lives of a household ruled by a physically abusive drunk. The intensity only increases when Alex's ability to relive dead people's last moments by touching something they died with reveals some shocking secrets. It makes an unsteady situation all the more unpredictable, and the thrills and terror are phenomenal.
But this plot's success comes at a cost. Every other line of story feels halfhearted in comparison, including Alex's relationships with people outside his family. Paige, for example, is Alex's love interest. A love interest we don't know is a love interest until they're an item and professing to have wanted a relationship for the longest time. The chemistry between the two is nonexistent, and eventually Paige just ends up as the wall Alex bounces his revelations off of.
Writing - 3.5/5 Stars
Praise has to be given to the way the author elicits uncomfortable emotions and works them into positive lessons in morality. Scenes can sometimes be a little blurry from fluff, but important events are clear. Sentences run smoothly and chapters run together without any problems.
My only real negative comes in the form of dialogue. There are a lot of monologues that can sometimes delve too deep into cheesy territory and unsettle the point being made. Conversations are awkward at times, especially, such as with Alex and Paige, when a camaraderie that isn't well established is present.
Overall - 3/5 Stars
A Life of Death does justice to a sound premise, but it doesn't quite reach its potential. It does offer some enticing possibilities, and there is a second book, so chances are I'll be picking that up at one point.
For those of you that love dark, supernatural stories with a heavy focus on troubled family life dotted with mystery and murder, A Life of Death is definitely up your alley.
Next Instalment: The Golden Bulls
Don't forget, you can subscribe by email near the bottom of the blog (on desktop version) and have new posts delivered straight to you!