As usual, as I review a book I just finished, I do my research on the fly. As I pulled up info on the author of World of Shell and Bone the first thing that confuses this blonde Irish girl is the name of the author. Under Goodreads it’s Adriana Ryan but on the cover it’s S.K. Falls. So, I went to S.K. Falls site (http://www.skfalls.com/posts/world-of-shell-and-bone-book-tour/) and she has it “tagged” as Adriana Ryan but the author is S.K. Falls.
*sigh* S.K. Falls is the author – so says my little pink-clad Kindle.
But – before I crack open the book and give away my personal thoughts on the story – I just want to touch base on the book’s cover. It’s pretty. It’s eye catching. Shit, it’s down right awesome! I’m a sucker for an enticing book cover. However, as I gaze at the beautiful girl covering her nakedness, all sexy and mermaid-like with green fields and russet trees in the background…I have to say that it really doesn’t match the story. But, it did it’s job and caught my eye. Way to go Ms. Falls/Ryan.
I learned this was an indie/self-published dystopian novel just before I purchased it the other day. And I was intrigued seeing as how I’m also about to venture into that world. I’ve not read too many indie pub books and there’s a reason for that. Most suck. However, I applaud the effort and bravery of indie publishing but most indie authors are not getting proper editing, thus, their grand ideas that could have been grander…suck. (Just spend a few bucks and hire a qualified editor to get that baby shipshape, okay?)
In Goodreads I gave World of Shell and Bone 4 stars. Ms. Falls earned it. The storyline and plot and arc were mesmerizing, original. Much of the prose was beautiful. For example the lead character, Vika, has a fleeting vision of her missing little sister, and compares her to the stories of people star gazing in order to see meteors (there are no stars in her city due to the pollution*): “If I stand motionless, I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She is like a broken meteor, blazing from one corner of the room to another, her long hair trailing after her. She is the afterimage of my childhood.” Wonderful visual, right?
Well, the first, umm, 50% of the book kept me hooked. Vika’s transformation from “coward” to gutsy gal is seamless. She’s really not the mindless robot her dystopian government or fascist mother molded her to be. Shale (the “Husband”) is a unique character. Sensitive, dutiful and passionate.
Now, the story hits a bumpy road when they are about to move forward with the Asylum rescue. The writing seems to get bogged down, as if the author’s fingers had been injected with Novocain. The sentences get shorter, seemingly careless. The visceral emotion is missing. And some minor grammatical issues stood out (i.e. quotation marks missing at the beginning of paragraphs in continuous streams of dialogue and some issues with show vs. tell).
Now, on the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It’s important I stress this as I’m about to tear a few things apart. And I’m not trying to be mean, because it’s clear Ms. Falls is highly talented and I’m expecting her future work to be much more improved.
Deep breath, here it goes:
First, I had a problem with the present tense usage. Most first person POV is written in past tense. It’s easier on readers and, honestly, easier on the writer. Now, that’s just my personal opinion, and the present tense usage did not detract from the overall story.
But the items that did detract from the story were the glossed over sex scene, the lack of emotion during critical scenes and the timeframe/timeline issues.
You all know I’m wild about wild sex scenes and I’m nutty about gentle (read PG rated) sex/love scenes. There’s no hard and fast rule that every romance (I’m calling Shell and Bone romance but it’s probably closer to fantasy) has to have smut and steam. And I’m okay with that. But the build up between Vika and Shale was so sweet that when they came to do the deed and three lackluster sentences later Vika proclaims they were “utterly sated” I whipped my head around and squealed say waaa? at my dog.
The emotions fell flat toward the last half of the story. All that beautiful prose early in the book was missing during a lot of scenes that should have been filled with angst. No emotion/visceral during the rape scene, no emotion/visceral response during the beating (I didn’t even know she got beat up until another character said something). She’d never seen stars before and ends up in a desert with clear skies…how come we never get her impression when she looks at the night sky?* We, the reader, lose a little bit of love for Vika when we can’t “feel” what she’s going through.
I also had a hard time with the timeline. I thought she was in the middle of menstruating when she and Shale made love for real. And the next thing I knew she was having morning sickness and was 4 weeks pregnant. And then she was at the camp and she was 6 weeks pregnant. I don’t know, but the events didn’t match up with the passage of time.
I’m done beating Ms. Falls with my wet noodle.
In closing, all I can say is that I’m super proud of S.K. Falls for being a gutsy girl and self-publishing this entertaining novel and (hopefully) she has widened the bumpy indie-pub road for the rest of us inspiring indie authors.
Go forth, Ms. Falls/Ryan, and claim your success.