“It’s not possessions that make a place feel like anything, I suppose. It’s the people.”
I won The Beast of Callaire, a self-published paranormal YA novel, over at Bookish’s Indie Spotlight giveaway. Though the cover is fairly alarming (I don’t really like photographs of people on my covers, it gives me no confidence in the quality of the book whatsoever), the excerpt published on the blog read really well, so I was fairly excited to win the book.
It didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Partly because I’m not quite clear on exactly what happened in this book: Kelsey throws around words like Dei, Crea, Pure, Legendary and, worst of all, Majick (anyone who spells magic with a “k” unironically needs to be cudgelled with the Concise OED until they decide to change it) without really explaining what they all mean, and the pacing of the book is such that magical battles achieve the same kind of narrative importance as friendly chats (which is to say, none). But the book seems to boil down to a paranormal romance between Fray, who’s probably normal, and Yasmin, who turns into a Manticore and tries to kill people once a month.
(Huh. The metaphor is even more obvious when you put it like that.)
Actually, the turning-into-a-monster thing has some legs, and it would be a great place to explore questions of agency and choice, but Kelsey doesn’t go down this route or, indeed, any other. Everything feels terribly emotionless, or, worse, cliched (not “cliche” as Kelsey puts it): Yasmin’s angst at killing manifests itself only as a Twilight-style barrier to her budding relationship with Fray, and her supposedly dangerous anger repeatedly disappears in the blink of an eyelid. Worse, the book ends on a cliffhanger, so that none of the narrative threads are really tied up properly. This is not just annoying; it’s deceitful. The Beast of Callaire is marketed as an entire novel, not an entry in a serial. It doesn’t read like an entire novel, however. It’s effectively incomplete.
Also – this is probably a small thing, but it really annoyed me – Kelsey insists on using the word “predications” for “predictions”, apparently unaware that they are not the same thing.
Having said all of this, I did find it rather restful to read. As a story that is no more than story, a fantasy for no reason beyond fantasy, it felt nicely indulgent to binge on it. Though it’s not good, nor is it offensive; and at 180 pages it’s an appealingly short break from the Deep and Meaningful.