YA Fantasy Book Review: Horrid

L.C. Ireland’s YA Fantasy novel Horrid is the first in the Seven Sisters of Silverleaf series. It features the story of the middle sister, Delta, as she desperately tries to break the curse on her family without losing her soul.

The book opens with a bit of exposition. Delta Silverleaf details the disappearance of her brother, Elias, just as a war springs up between their country, Sydna, and the neighboring country of Horr. She also discusses the Horrid Witch, a magical practitioner who sold her soul for access to the dark arts and curses the Silverleaf family over “something” Elias stole from her. We watch her eldest two sisters disappear and by Chapter 2, it’s clear Delta is next.

Which drives her to seek the witch out and bargain her soul away. The witch demands she go to an allied noble house with a magical dagger to slay someone there, without specifying who. When Delta demands to know, she’s told “the dagger knows its target.” There are some interesting descriptive cinematics here, when the witch swallows Delta’s soul and acquires her youth and the beautiful color of her eyes.

The synopsis on this one really hooked me, and part of me wishes that the final product was as good as the premise promised. It’s such a short read I can’t get too much deeper into the plot without spoilers, but like many of the reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads, I found myself wanting more depth and setting and insight into both world and characters, and this particular book is wanting in those departments. Which is a shame, because what’s there is really interesting and more original than I expected.

The protagonist is a bit surface level. Despite being in first person, we don’t get as much of her character as I would’ve liked. About half the book is spent in flashback setting up the circumstances of the witch’s assasination attempt, and there is an interesting romantic subplot hinted at, but we barely get to spend much time on each section of the book before we’re off to the races again. The weight of Delta’s choice is repeatedly emphasized, but just as the tension really builds in the middle of the book, Ireland baits and switches and the tone shifts.

Her writing style is clean and crisp, perfect for a young adult or middle grade novel. I didn’t find any typos and the novel is beautifully formatted. Clearly there was a great deal of world building done, but not as much as I would like made it onto the page. I did find myself pulled along toward the end, and I can’t quite find many pacing problems apart from the massive flashback toward the middle. I think my big criticism is that we spent so much time with these other characters, it never really felt like Delta’s story. After about halfway through the camera zooms out and other characters gain prominence, and I felt like a lot of the pressure and urgency from the beginning becomes far less impactful.

3.5/5, it’s serviceable and has a lot of potential, I’d likely read another book written by the author. I just wish the premise had filled its potential in the way it clearly could’ve.