Friday, March 22, 2013

REVIEW: Balthazar Starblitz by A.J. Llewellyn

Balthazar Starblitz Balthazar Starblitz by A.J. Llewellyn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book wasn't steampunk. It was magical relaism. The plot didn’t answer everything, but I was okay with it.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the book. It also helped the book had a few things I did like, e.g. a likable protagonist, a yaoi-ish bent, and a satisfactory HEA.

Issues that were not an issue for me

+the steampunk
The main setting of the book revolved around a train, which supposedly made the book steampunk. Hell to the N-O. Fortunately, I’m not a steampunk fan, i.e. someone would be pissed about the misleading label, so I didn’t care.

+ the magical realism
I love paranormal books, but not magical realism. The book basically shoved its protagonist into a magical world, and always at the back of my mind was that the magical world might not be real. The protagonist might be hallucinating, whether it's due to drugs or a nervous breakdown, and I'm too dense to realize it.

Fortunately, the magical realism wasn't as ambiguous and confusing as I dreaded. There was a scene towards the end, admittedly later than I'd like, that said to me "Yes, the magical world is real. The protagonist is not going cray-cray."

+the mystery
As I read the story, questions piled at the center of mind. None of them were answered till towards the ending, once again later than I'd like. When I finished the book, some of the questions I have remained.

However, I was not bothered by it because the questions I really wanted answers for were answered. (They were about the romance.) The remaining question had to do with the world building, and I was okay with how it was left as a mystery. Usually, I hate it because I like my stories to be nicely wrapped up but I was okay with it in this case.

Things I Like

+ the protagonist
At first, I had some sympathy for the protagonist because Flip was unemployed for a long while, didn't have any luck with opportunities, and was forced to depend on his overworked sister. However, my sympathy for the protagonist abruptly ceased when I read how late he was running for his job interview at the train station. Dude finally got one after a drought, didn't know where exactly the place was, and didn't think to show up hours earlier to find the place and avoid the morning rush hour. It wasn't as if he was lazy and didn't research on what the job would entail or try to google its location — he did. I was just astounded at how a smart and sensible person could commit a great blunder of incompetence. Astounded and greatly annoyed.

It took me a couple pages before my aggravation settled and I was back on the path to liking the protagonist. Barring that awful incidence, Flip was competent protagonist. I liked how he quickly adjusted to his new surreal reality and kept a level head. There were moments of anxiety but he didn't let them shock him into inaction. Best of all, he researched to understand what was happening to him.

For example, he was quick to realize he just had a time traveling episode, and after every episode he would research the people he encountered and try to make sense of it and to understand what he was being asked (by the universe, I guess) to fix.

Another thing I liked about Flip was his kind and humble demeanor. I loved that the thing that made him a strong, wilful person was his kindness, that his kindness was a strength, not a weakness.

+ the romance
The romance had a yaoish-bent. It had a werewolf and a soulmate trope, but they were not connected in the formulaic sense that all shapeshifters have soulmates and bam there's your romance. The werewolf and the soulmate occurred as distinct entities, and I found it slightly refreshing.

Unfortunately, the romance centered around the soulmate trope to its detriment because it fell into the insta-love trap. I get that the book was going for “You are the one I am meant to be with” but I would have preferred if the two guys started off as friends and went from there. What compensated the shallow romance for me was the smut.

The plot was minimal on the smut, and though I would like a little more, I was satisfied and titillated by the existing amount. There was no doubt the couple had chemistry, insta-love or not. The eponymous love interest was a total lovable hunk; I didn't even mind that his character development consisted nothing more than a tortuous soul trope.

+ the ending
The ending was a sweet HEA. I was satisfied to the point that I was not put off by how Flip was once again unemployed. Flip got Balthazar in return, and I was high on “with Tru Wuv, the future is always bright.”

In Conclusion

I rate Balthazar Starblitz 3-stars for I liked it. I recommend it if you’re looking for something different but still want something familiar, that is have your cake and be able to eat it too.

Goodreads | Amazon

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