Saturday, November 24, 2012

REVIEW: 40 Souls to Keep by Libby Drew

40 Souls to Keep 40 Souls to Keep by Libby Drew
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review & Spoilers

The mm-romance was well written, but the characters were plain, the plot had holes, and the ending was scant.

The Characters

+ Jase, the nomad protector

While much of the story was told in Lucas’s PoV, most of the character development occurred with Jase. However, it raised more questions than answers about him. I liked Jase’s mysterious persona in the beginning but by the middle of the book it irritated me. I did like his decisive use of mind-controlling ability, but he could have been more effective with it. For one thing, he would have captured the bad guys way faster if he was more clever with it.

+ Lucas, the social worker

I liked Lucas the best but his characterization was shallow. I can count with my hands facts about Lucas and still have a couple fingers left over. I liked Lucas’ relatively fast acceptance of Jase and his paranormal explanations, but I wished Lucas kept some hidden suspicion. Jase’s goal of protecting Macy may have coincided with Lucas’ goal but they both could have different ways to protect a person. For all Lucas knew, Jase could have locked both him and Macy in a cage until the danger passed.

Both Lucas and Jase were a one-note character: the protector. The paranormal part of Jase was only the big thing that distinguished him from Lucas. They never impressed me as palpable individuals as they should have.

+ Macy, the orphan girl

I didn’t like Macy. She was a paradox. One moment she’s sucking her thumb and acting like a typical scared kid, the next she show incredible empathy and gives sage advice like an experienced therapist or a caring grandmother. She’s supposed to be this innocent angel, but the girl slightly creeped me out like something out of those possession horror movies.

The Plot

+ the plot holes

How come Jase never made an attempt to discover and reclaim his identity? How come Jase believed Philip so easily? When Philip said there were others like Jase and that some of them were evil, alarms should have rang in both Jase and Lucas when Jase told him. How come Lucas never brought up these issues to Jase? I would have thought as a social worker Lucas would have a good danger radar and a keen sense of the truth or something similar because of what his job entails.

+ the pacing

The first two chapters took place in the past and were about Jase’s origin as some amnesiac with a “Jesus complex” (Lucas’s word). These chapters were a thinly veiled prologue. Afterward, the story picked up in the present beginning with Lucas’s PoV. In spite of these things, I liked the beginning. It was dark and kind of noir-like, and I didn’t have to wait long for the action scenes.

However, by the middle of the book, the pacing became an irritating paradox. The mystery development was not moving fast enough; by fast, I mean handing out slivers of the answer pie intermittently. The romance development was moving too fast; there wasn’t a proper build up to the emotional connection. I wouldn’t say the romance was insta-love but it did border the trope.

+ the romance

The romance was flat like a tabletop, devoid of chemistry. The story convinced me that the guys made great friends, but as lovers? Not really. When they first kissed, I was indifferent instead of joyful and titillated.

+ the ending

The plot did pick up in pace and substance for the last quarter of the book, but it wasn’t enough to save the story for me. The revelation of the villain disappointed me. For a long while, the villain’s identity eluded me. But then the clues given toward the end made it possible for me to figure out the villain’s identity a couple scenes before Lucas and Jase did. It annoyed me that the couple didn’t deduce the villain’s identity sooner than I did, and that when the villain revealed their motive, it emphasized the plot holes.

For that matter, it was annoying that the couple didn’t think to carry protection, e.g. gun or taser, while they were on the hunt for the bad guys. Jase’s mind-controlling ability, while powerful, doesn’t work if he’s silenced or knocked out or shot to death; the couple should have prepared for the contingencies, but they didn’t to the detriment of my belief in them as smart characters.

The epilogue was a shade of awful. Once Jase recovered his memory, he went back home and saw that his old boyfriend, after some dutiful mourning, got a new boyfriend during his disappearance and was unnaturally quick to accept the change. It was a very anti-climatic reunion, lacking the catharsis that I wanted. Jase’s recovery of his life was as not rewarding as his Jesus-like mission to save all 40 souls built it up to be. It was as if there was really no difference if Jase remained amnesiac.

It was a ridiculous HEA.

+ the loose ends

Many questions were never answered; the book is a standalone but I can see now, after finishing the book, that the book never intended to tie all the loose ends and give a satisfactory ending. We never know why there are amnesics with frightful paranormal abilities, half of them with a Jesus-complex and half with an Anti-Christ one, running around. Or why none appear to do anything to reclaim their identity and life, but instead are bent on pursuing their magical quest, or why they believed so readily the ex-amnesics who conveniently appeared out of nowhere to act momentarily as mentor.

What very little answers were given reeked of shallow world building, and I was greatly disappointed.

In Conclusion

I rate 40 Souls to Keep 2-stars for it was okay because I didn’t actively hate it. The great writing kept my attention, but it wasn’t enough to make me like the story.

Amazon GoodReads

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