Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast #YoungDelight

Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast #YoungDelightAmber Smoke by Kristin Cast

Series: #1 The Escaped
Genres: YA Urban Fantasy
Published by Diversion Books on June 9, 2015
Pages: 254
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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I was curious about this one for many reasons- Greek mythology element, new to me author, and general feeling of curiosity after reading the blurb.  I’m always game to satisfy curiosity so into it I plunged.  I had a few shaky moments, but for the most part, I’ll give it a cautious thumbs up for a beginning story in a series and see where it goes.

The story opens on a prologue when the youngest of the three Furies has a forbidden romance down in Tartarus with disastrous unplanned results.  Tartarus is not just a place for the damned to spend their eternal suffering, but it is a prison and when it is weakened, the prisoners start to slip free and head to earth to run amok.

So, this begins the need for a hero.  Two heroes.  One is the warrior son of the Furies and result of the forbidden love affair, Alek, but the other is the descendant of the Oracle of Delphi.  Alek must find the Oracle on earth and they must work together to repair Tartarus by restoring its escapees.  Unfortunately, Alek’s Oracle partner isn’t aware of who and what she is and he has no idea where to find her only that the Fates and Pythia have shared that she must be found right at the point of her human death and restored with the Furie’s magic to become the Oracle.  Alek is weakened whenever he enters the earth realm and he is confused by the modern Earth customs, but he has to race against time to save his partner at the point of death and get her up to speed.

Eva is the average girl and studious college student.  She lives at home with her mom.  Her mom is cool about things and makes great effort for Eva to feel like an adult so she is comfortable living at home.  They are alone since Eva’s dad left, but they are doing all right.  Well, alright save her mom’s creepy boyfriend, Billy.  He makes her nervous for some reason.

Eva’s vivacious best friend, Bridget, is determined to get her best friend to live a little and not be so serious all the time.  A party.  A guy.  Things go wrong- so very wrong.  And Eva’s world has changed irrevocably.

Meanwhile, Detective James Graham and his partner at the police department are working on a gruesome homicide that has all the markings of a killer who will not stop with one.  His investigation leads him to another disappearance and the suspicious behavior of Eva, Bridget, and Alek.

This book is one of those that makes it hard for me to rate it.  This one felt very much like quick introduction instead a fully fleshed out story installment.  Sometimes when I’m reading books in a series, my ultimate opinion about the first book will depend on what comes after it.  This is one of those instances.  There were some aspects that had appeal, but there was also a whole lot of stuff that was either not working for me or potentially not going to work.  It’s not a story written with depth or complexity- it skims the surface of its potential.  And it is shaping up to be one that might be trying to do too much, but then again, it might turn out to be brilliant.

Pacing of the story was fine though it does hop about between scenes so keeps the reader on her toes.

The worldbuilding needed teasing out though the overall direction of the series had strong appeal for me.  There was enough of a story and plot for me to mildly enjoy, but not enough to really grab me.  And on top of that, there were some elements that still leave me confused.  The whole premise about Tartarus being cursed and the solution for it doesn’t make sense to me.  And how Eva as the Oracle can help is still a mystery and unexplained.

The characters are given moderate development.  I felt a lack in them, but there was enough to have some feel for them as they moved through the story.  I do hope that the author takes the time to fill things in as the story goes.

Eva was average girl who goes through a whole lot of changes rapidly.  I liked that the author wrote her with that cautious nature and didn’t have her buying everything too quickly.  More authentic.  It will be interesting to see her come into her own.

James, the detective was the most appealing character and his plot line the most interesting to me and he’s still very much an enigma.

Although, Alek’s cheesy dialogue and Dudley Do-right persona were a little cute.  I have a suspicion that he’ll grow edgier as he experiences the work they have to do containing the escaped demon threats.  He’s untried and inexperienced, but willing.

That leads to the genre blend of the plot.  I love mystery and suspense so I enjoyed that this element was added to the story, but at the same time, I was distracted by how rough the blend of the paranormal mythology elements were with the contemporary suspense ones.  Maybe by the next book this will be smoothed out better.  In this one, it was somewhat jarring and distracting.

The only solid relationship development at this point is the girls’ friendship.  Bridget is a hoot.  That girl doesn’t let much disturb her high on life and she’s good to getting Eva to lighten up while Eva helps Bridget stay grounded.  Bridget is daring and handles the need for quick, decisive action and thinking on the move well.

There is foreshadowing that the main players will all end up working together and maybe developing romantic interests, but at the moment it was mostly introduction and solving the first challenge.

The story hints at attraction between Alek and Eva.  I’m glad it didn’t go there yet because this pair does not fit well together to me.  Friends and partners in saving the world?  Sure.  Romance pair?  Uh uh.  But we shall see.  There is always James.

I’ve seen this one placed in Young Adult and New Adult categories and I can see why.  The age of the characters is New Adult, but the choices, thinking, dialogue, and actions of the characters gave me the feeling of reading Young Adult (with the exception of James who actually feels like he should be in an adult book).

All in all, this was a confusing one for me.  I will be proceeding to the next book because there was enough to make me want to give this series more time to hook me in and see if it will develop more as it goes.  I think it will have appeal to YA Urban Fantasy fans who like a YA feel to the story and are looking for just a fun, quick read.

My thanks to Diversion Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #202 YA
New To Me #82 author/series
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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

Latest posts by Sophia Rose (see all)

  • I actually DNF’ed this title, Sophia. I found the main female character to be very whiny, and she really didn’t listen to those who had more experience and knowledge than her…
    It seems like some of the things that didn’t work for me continued throughout, so I’m quite happy I put it down.
    Great review!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    • I know exactly what you mean. I almost set it down a few times b/c it was an awkward read in many parts. The heroine was annoying. 😉

  • When I looked at the cover I just KNEW this was going to be a good read! But, unfortunately that isn’t always the case which means that I need to stop judging books on their covers so much! So sorry this wasn’t a good read for you and I hope your next one is better! 🙂

    • Yes, that cover is quite captivating. I wanted to like it b/c it has a neat set up, but it does have some problems that made it tough to get through.

  • Hmmm I think I’d struggle with this one. But I know what you mean about sometimes judging a first in the series differently after reading others. Been there before. Hope the next one is a bit more pulled together for ya!

    • It was a struggle, but since the book I was asked to read is the one after it, I made a big effort to get through (helped that it was novella length). I just couldn’t get an accurate pulse on this one. The next book was a little better.

  • Interesting. While I’m not sure it’s for me, it does seem to have promise and I hope the next book is better for you.

    • It was an iffy one, but I had the next one and it was somewhat better if not a slam out of the ballpark.

  • Hmm, I’m glad that the sequel was better for you. However, I’m not sure about this series now. Most of the time, if a first book is bad for me, I won’t continue. 3 stars is still good, and if I manage to rate it that or higher, I can see myself trying the next book. I want to see if the writing has improved (though her HoN series is co-written, so I can’t differentiate really) and I love Greek mythology. Great review!

    • In comparison to others out there that take on YA PNR with a Greek Mythology twist, this one is week, for sure. I have some problems with it, but there is potential so I guess I was willing to give it a cautious chance especially since I already had book two. Not one I’ll ever rave about, at least from what I’ve read so far.

      Thanks, Lekeisha!

  • James has me curious and lord knows I have read jut ok first books of series only to have the series become a favorite. I will be curious to see what book two brings.

    • James continues to impress into book two. I like how he anchors things down when the other characters and plot can try to go adrift.

      Yes, this first book was the wobbly one, but the second one settled in for a better read. I’m hoping it will get better and better with each book.

  • That’s interesting about the YA and NA categories. Sometimes it’s had to nail a book down like that.

    • What’s really interesting is when I read the second book, I had no trouble whatsoever categorizing it as NA, but this one skittered along the line.

  • I have read some of the house of night books this author has co-written with her mom I think? I enjoyed them and eventually I stopped the series as I lost interest. I can see why this ne caught your attention as the blurb does sound interesting and it sounds like it was still a decent start of the series if a bit wobbly. I noticed you had also reviewed book 2 already and from your rating it sounds like it improved there. And I get what you’re saying that sometimes how much you enjoy a book depends on the one after it and if it lives up to it’s potential and your expectations. Most of the genre blended books I read were done well, but I also see how it can be a bit jarring when it isn’t done well. Great review!

    • I hadn’t read that series, but yes, I do know that it was a mother/daughter co-write.

      The Greek mythology tie-in with a murder mystery really grabbed my attention.

      I’m glad you got my meaning about needing the rest of the series to decide me about some of the elements introduced in this one. I definitely feel things gelled better by book two and I look forward to book three.

      Thanks, Lola!