Marked | Soul Guardians #1 | ISBN 9781458164896 | Kim Richardson, 2011 | 1 out of 5 Points
DNF at 40%
Sixteen-year-old Kara Nightingale is unpopular, awkward and positively ordinary—that is until one day she is struck by a bus and dies…Within moments her life changes from ordinary to extraordinary as she wakes up in a mysterious world with a new career—as a rookie for the Guardian Angel Legion. Kara is pulled into the supernatural where monkeys drive the elevators, oracles scurry above giant crystal balls and where demons feed on the souls of mortals.
When an Elemental child is kidnapped, Kara is sent on a danger-filled quest and plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything she could ever imagine.
Okay, so this book is basically a prime example what happens when somebody who would never be accepted by an agent decides to self-publish well before their writing is good enough for that.
Believe me, I’m all for indie publishing, because it opens up so many new niches, so many new forms of representation, so many new ways for books to be written and marketed and read; but the one thing that traditional publishing was always good for was to keep people out of the game until they had learned the craft well enough. Kim Richardson, the author of “Marked”, does not seem to know what makes a story actually interesting. There is some potential in this book, but this potential is basically larval, and Richardson should have written a whole lot more and should have learned a whole lot more about writing before she started publishing.
The reason why I say there is potential in this book is that it isn’t completely boring, like some other self-published books I’ve recently read. There is a seed of conflict in it, the world-building shows that the author has imagination, the characters have some traits that might be interesting in a better crafted book. I didn’t put this book down because I was bored, and that’s already something.
There are plenty of other reasons why I finally decided to stop reading this book after 40% though. Since this is Urban Fantasy, I’ll start with the world building, the heart and soul of every fantasy novel.
WELCOME TO ‘HORIZON’, BECAUSE ‘HEAVEN’ IS NOT QUIRKY ENOUGH
First and foremost: Nothing in this world makes any goddamn sense. While I read the book I had the feeling that it was supposed to be magical and weird and cool, in a way, but to be honest, it’s just… stupid, mostly. It’s a strange mashup of useless details and logical inconsistencies and quirky weirdness, which, as everybody ought to know, is the worst kind of weirdness unless you are a really, really good writer, which Richardson just isn’t. Weirdness for weirdness’ sake, like in this book, never really works. It’s never funny, it’s never cute, it’s never fascinating, and it does not improve world building at all.
Some examples: Whenever Kara enters Horizon, she finds herself in an elevator with a different kind of ape or monkey, which, of course, are capable of speech. Every time this happens, there is some wannabe-funny scene between her and the pretty hostile monkeys, which gets incredibly annoying after the third time this happens. I don’t know if the monkeys are some kind of Chekhov’s gun, if they’re going to be important later in the book, since I only got to 40%, but I highly doubt it. As far as I figure, they’re just there to break up the action with a bit of comedy, which, again, is something for which you need a lot more skill than Richardson to pull off. There is nothing worse than a supposedly funny scene that just absolutely falls flat because the author doesn’t know how to write comedy (which is one of the hardest things to write, granted, but that doesn’t excuse anything here).
Other examples include the ‘oracles’ whose inclusion makes sense since the Guardian Angels need to know about things in the future, but for some reason they are all tiny men who balance on crystal balls? Why? And what is up with the ‘cherubs’ who are tiny blond children cruising around in golf cars? (‘Shouldn’t they have wings like cupids’ asks Kara at one point, and David (her trainer and crush) answers ‘you shouldn’t believe everything you read’, but why are they children then in the first place??? The whole cupid thing is the only reason why we even imagine cherubs as children.)
A story like this needs solid world building, and in my humble opinion, loose parts that serve no other purpose but to be quirky or weird or funny are the greatest enemy of a well-built world. It distracts the reader for a second, but it doesn’t really add anything. It does not make the world better rounded. It does not explain anything, it does not convey anything, it’s just… It’s useless, and it should have been either stomped out or built on in a proper story editing session.
YES, EVEN FANTASY NEEDS TO MAKE SOME GODDAMN SENSE, BELIEVE IT OR NOT
But while those details were annoying, they did not actually fuck the story up – and its whole premise – beyond repair. Another world-building detail did though. It’s rare that you stumble upon a story that just rips you out of your already shaky suspension of disbelief and basically shoves your face into its dirty toilet bowl of absolute impossibility (and I’m not being especially crude here, a dirty toilet bowl prominently features in Kara’s first mission).
Would you like to know what detail I’m talking about? Well, remember that we’re talking about a book about Guardian Angels, about the souls of dead people who come back to Earth to help living people (or save their souls, more on that later), about people who sometimes have to battle demons with swords (more on that later as well), who need absolute access to their charges’ private spaces and who might engage in extremely risky, extremely unusual behavior.
In the world of ‘Marked’, these Guardian Angels are corporeal while they are on Earth. They have physical bodies. EVERYBODY can see them.
To be honest, at the point where that came out I stopped reading the first time. This is just so goddamn stupid. These ‘angels’ literally have to find ways to get into people’s houses, they literally fight with swords on the open street, they literally have to behave like normal humans while they are doing stuff that normal humans would never do (like, idk, jumping into fountains and NOT COMING UP AGAIN).
THIS IS SO FUCKING STUPID I COULD FUCKING YELL.
Okay, okay, I’m calm again. Puh. Goddamn, what a stupid concept. If Richardson’s ‘normal world’ is supposed to be our own world (and I have not seen any sign that it wouldn’t be), then this is just an unacceptable logical oversight. How can I enjoy a book when my brain keeps telling me ‘This could never happen even in this fantasy universe’? I cannot, that is how. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.
THESE GUARDIAN ANGELS ARE LITERALLY NOT WORTH THEIR SALT
Another thing that absolutely drove me crazy while reading this book were the inconsistencies. We get so many varieties of those too: Logical inconsistencies, plot inconsistencies, world-building inconsistencies, etc. pp. A thing might be said at one point, but next time the topic comes up, it’s going to be completely different.
This already starts at the beginning of Kara’s work as a Guardian Angel: First of all, I could not figure out if they were supposed to save their charge’s soul or their life. Apparently they’re supposed to save their life if at all possible, but if not, at least save the soul from demons. Okay, so far so good. But to be honest, Guardian Angels seem to be abysmally bad at their job. I mean, why in the world, when you are in a flat with a woman who will die by falling onto the knives in an open dishwasher, would you leave the dishwasher open??? Just close that bad boy. Or take the goddam knives out. They’re not supposed to be in a dishwasher anyway. That scene just seriously felt like David wanted that lady to die – of course, we as readers know that the author is the one who wanted her to die, but… don’t make your characters morons just to further the plot???
But I guess Guardian Angels as a species are just absolute morons. So the author has definitely seen “Supernatural” (I don’t blame her for that, it’s a good show and everybody has to get inspiration from somewhere), and knows that ‘salt keeps demons away’ is a common theme in demon-fighting stories. Now, Horizon, the world of the Guardian Angels, has a shit ton of salt. Kara walks past several huge mountains of that stuff. They put it in the pools which they use as portals between Horizon and Earth, to keep the demons out of Horizon.
As we later find out, if you throw salt on a demon, it actually kills them (or at least makes them unable to act, it’s not said quite clearly). So basically, if salt + demon = harmless demon, that would mean Guardian Angel + salt = ultimate demon fighters, right?
Because you know what these absolute morons use to fight demons, instead of the salt pistols they should absolutely be using?
Yes, you heard that right. These people, who are VISIBLE on Earth, run around with fucking SWORDS that hardly seem to do any harm to the (invisible) demons they’re fighting, instead of just throwing some goddamn sodium chloride at them and calling it a day. The evil demons eating and destroying souls could basically be completely eradicated if the Guardian Angels were clever enough to use a road salter.
And that’s the point where I stopped reading. It’s also the point where I’ll end this review, even though I didn’t even manage to talk about the absolute stupid conflicts in the story, the horrible training montage (I hate training montages so much), the hopelessly bad pacing, the cliché character backstories, the unrealistic reactions Kara has to things, and so on. It’s just too much. This book is just too bad. And it’s sad because it’s not boring bad. Like I said earlier, there is a hint of potential in this thing. It’s just that this book should never, never have been published.
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