"We will be demons at dawn."
Book Links: Goodreads
* I was gifted this book, by the author, in exchange for an honest review.
** The Oracle will be released on the 1st of January, 2017 after further editing. The version I read is an early one, so be warned that some aspects I comment on might be revised in the final novel.
I loved The Lost Soul, this entry's predecessor. It's an easy-going fantasy with rebellions and tyranny, all set in Enchena, a mystical kingdom dominated by magic and mystery. The Oracle is much the same. It embodies the themes of morality and oppression, tracing the journey of young adults forced to grow up fast in a tumultuous and fantastical environment. It all looks good.
But it's the same. The Oracle's story is drastically similar to The Lost Soul, and barring a few things, could be read entirely on its own. What I mean is it feels more like a beginning than a finale, which it essentially is as it rounds off the series' story (with a definitive end that leaves room for more entries if the author wishes so).
Arcs within the novel also feels rushed and clipped, with narratives started only to vanish and pop up in a form that we don't actually see the progression to.
I guess, overall, The Oracle polarises me with its beautiful world and potential clashing with a repetitive plot and jumbled journey.
After a brief respite, the Gardyn rebels have returned to fight the tyranny of King Hrafn and Prince David.
Samantha, Jillis and Tobias will have to find their place in the new vision of Enchena; but first, they have to risk everything to make it real.
New allies will rise, as the past plays a huge part in the future; and an Oracle must be brought, to guide them all.
Plot - 2.5/5 Stars
Okay, let's balance this show with a little positive, shall we? Reading over that intro has my guilt flaring at the negative. The Oracle is a simple, solid fantasy. The story hangs on the side of magic, and while it's not until 3/4 of the way through that we see some physical representation of that magic, Ms Marsden has a beautiful world that has a wealth of mythology to play with (adding excitement to the fact that more plots are open to be told).
There are also some phenomenal politics that breed paranoia, giving the war and struggle within the pages a severally unpredictable quality.
We begin in much the same vein as The Lost Soul, with a seemingly normal girl pulled into the world of Enchena with a part to play and a destiny to fulfil. This happens quickly, ensuring the reader is swept up in stellar supernatural events. But from there things slow down rather rapidly. The plot meanders its way to an epic finale, preferring half-built contemplation and extensive exposition. On the plus side it means you're all up-to-date on what's happening; on the other side you can't help but be a little disappointed that with a war going on you see very little actual war.
There are a couple of surprises, though, and they lead to a push in the plot as the end draws near. The end is thankfully action-packed, but also abrupt. It's something I felt a lot during this novel's run: A rushed, clipped feeling, like parts of the story that better flesh progressions have been taken out.
Pace - 3/5 Stars
While, overall, smooth and consistent, The Oracle starts fast only to lose its momentum. There aren't enough action scenes to break up the exposition, leaving things heavy with explanations and foreshadowing that only end in a little satisfaction.
Once past the stop and starts, however, the pace does pick up to execute a satisfying end.
Characters - 2.5/5 Stars
The characters are also an uneven bunch. We follow two main viewpoints: Jemma, a new addition, and Samantha, protagonist from The Lost Soul. Both have flighty personalities that enhance the sensation that parts of the novel are missing. Their motivations and attitudes change from scene to scene without any outside force. Out of the two, Samantha gains the most traction during the story's run and does earn some of her likeability back.
Relationships, from the platonic to the romantic, also face trouble. Not enough time is dedicated to their blossoming, so when things appear radically different, it's because there are too many events happening away from the reader's line of sight.
All is not on the downside, though. Siabhon, the monster with a heart, while underutilised, is hilarious. His Gollum-like dialogue and one-liners are breaths of fresh air amongst the doom and gloom.
Writing - 3.5/5 Stars
The book's currently unreleased, so I forgive any spelling or grammatical errors because Ms Marsden is adept at tidying them up. The Oracle's visuals are crystal clear and stunning, enhanced by the author's gorgeous style of writing. Dialogue can be a bit stiff and heavy, but it's predominantly smooth and informative.
The structure could use a better balance between adrenaline and information, but I've been told that's already in the works.
Overall - 2.5/5 Stars
I enjoyed The Oracle, but it isn't fully for me. Its predecessor, The Lost Soul, is a far superior experience. But I do advise you to take my review with a pinch of salt. A lot of my misgivings could potentially vanish in the finished novel.
Those of you who have a penchant for the young adult and fantasy genres would be remiss if you passed this series over. I have a special place in my heart for the first instalment, but despite my guilt-ridden negativity, this entry offers a fun, fast foray through a potentially epic world.
Previous Instalment: The Lost Soul
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