Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae Review!

★★★★ for Beyond the Red

Hello All! Today I have a review of YA author Ava Jae's debut novel, Beyond the Red. Now, I'm not qualified to critique literature on an academic level or even on a casual level, so my review is purely subjective and based upon my enjoyment of the book.

It's my hope that this review will help you decide to read or pass on this book. (Psst: read it! Go now!)

Ava Jae is very active on social media, and it was from her YouTube channel here that I learned about her book. She gives excellent advice in bite-sized pieces, so check out her channel and blog, Writeability. You'll be glad you did. 

This review is in no way a review of the author herself, but merely the book as I read it. All opinions are my own. If you don't like spoilers of any kind, you may want to refrain from reading. I did my best to not give too much away, but I make no guarantees.

Let's get reviewing! Note: I round *up* in my ratings. 

[Summary and photo from Goodreads]

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.
Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.
When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.


★: Did not like it at all ★★: Liked it a little ★★★: Liked it/would recommend

★★★★: Liked it a lot  ★★★★★: ::pterodactyl screeching I loved it so much::

 how much I enjoyed the central story/ideas
World-building: how much I liked the environment/culture etc. of the book
Writing: the enjoyability of the writing in terms of style.
Characters: how much I related to/rooted for the characters
Overall: general rating according to how much I liked the book as a whole

Premise: ★★★★

Desert world? Check. Alien queen fighting for legitimacy amidst political turmoil? Check. Phasers and fights, intrigue and romance? Check. The premise for Beyond the Red ticks many boxes on my list of likes in a book. 

Granted, I don't typically read YA (this may change), so please take my opinions with a grain of salt as I am not well-versed in popular tropes and plots found in this category. The plot moves quickly, and the book itself is an easy read. Very enjoyable way to spend a weekend. :D

World-building: ★★★★★     -4.5-

Played the game, Destiny? Imagine humans and Awoken (w/some tweaks, to be sure) living on the Mars planet in the game, and you have a small glimpse into Safara. I loved the world so much, with its red, desert sands, its double suns, and general fantastical setting. Part of me wanted to know much more about this world, like how the alien race got there, and more intricacies about the human-nomad rituals, and things like that. I hope Ava Jae stays in this world for a few more books, as there's just so much potential here.

The flora, fauna and food painted another vivid, colorful image in my mind. I was glad to see she took the time to disperse small bits of the information throughout the novel like confetti cupcake sprinkles---happy little surprises I began to anticipate while reading. 

All in all, very well done with the world-building though---creating something from nothing is no small feat.   

Writing: ★★★★

For a debut novel, BtR does many things right. I enjoyed Ava Jae's writing style as it was easy to follow without giving information dumps that I find are common in other Science Fiction reads. I liked that the novel was action-packed as it kept me wondering what will happen next. 

I also enjoyed the dual POV much more than I thought I would. Having two points of view kept the narrative interesting, for me, and it helped me to get into the heads of the characters on a deeper level than I would have reading 3rd person POV.

But, while I did like the dual POV, I felt that the "voices" of the two main characters tended to merge into one. There were several times I had to flip back to see which POV I was reading in because I couldn't tell the characters' voices apart. I felt there was no distinction between how Kora spoke/thought and how Eros spoke/thought even though they are from vastly different socio-economic stances in their world. 

This is just a tiny nit-pick of mine, but overall, Ava Jae's writing efforts shined through in this debut novel.

Characters: ★★

This was the weakest category for several reasons. As mentioned previously, the book is told in a dual POV from the main characters, Kora and Eros, with the former being the alien teen queen, and the latter being a half human, half alien teen guy (dang mudbloods). xD

The biggest concern I have about the characters is that I didn't understand their motivations. Kora (I believe) is meant to be portrayed as a kick-butt, alien queen, and while there were several scenes where she proved she's more than capable of handling herself, there were times in the book where I felt she had little agency. It was as if she was being pulled in all of these directions rather than take a stand for herself or voice her concerns with authority. But...perhaps that is the point of her struggle. To me, what Kora *should* have been (according to the descriptions in the book), and what her actual actions were did not match up.

Eros' motivations also confused me. This book is slightly romance heavy (which is fine by me), but the way it was done and the circumstances under which the romance presented itself was something that did not sit well with me. More on that below. 

I won't say anything else, because I don't want to give too much away. Perhaps if the book was longer, the characters would have had more room to grow and breathe.

That said, I did grow to love Kora and Serek (sorry, Eros) despite all of this. 

Overall: ★★★

I knocked off 2 stars because of the way the plot felt rushed during the last quarter of the book. Everything worth happening took place right at the end, and the ending itself left many questions to be answered. 

Cliffhangers and ambiguous endings don't bother me, though. I'll talk about this further down under "people who may pass on this," but it was because of the last few chapters that I felt the end was rushed/unsatisfactory. I believe this book works better as a series, but falls a little short as a standalone.

Those things aside, I did very much enjoy this book, and I would read it again. 

____________________Total: 18 stars->Average rating: ★★★★

This next sections contain minor to slightly major -SPOILERS-

Who will enjoy this book: those interested in light science fiction/fantasy novels that contain a large dose of romance (ah, the fireworks of young, angsty love!), those who enjoy action-based plots (I truly believe this makes excellent movie material), and those who'd like to see a dual POV from a male and female perspective. If you like aliens and fantasy-type far away planets, you may like this book. I think this book definitely appeals to a teen audience.

Who may want to pass:
 those who do not like insta-romances or romances that are based largely on physical attraction (hence my confusion on their "motivations"). Also, if love triangles aren't your thing, then you may want to pass. And lastly, who don't like the slave-master/servant-master dynamic, and those who don't like cliff hangers or vague endings to books may want to pass.






And my biggest gripe about the book is the *SPOILER* Deus ex machina that happened at the end. 

[From good ol' Wiki] Deus ex machina is an unexpected power/event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel. 

There was some hint that something would happen, some foreshadowing, so I saw said event coming. I just didn't like how the novel doesn't give any indication of *how* said thing worked/the logistics of it. Again, maybe it is because this was a YA novel, but I'd like at least a sentence of explanation on how [insert event] happened. 


I hope you enjoyed this lengthy review, more book reviews are coming!

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