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.

On My Month Long Absence, Announcements, and Future Schedule

Hello friends, fans, readers, and fellow authors!

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted a review in over a month after committing to a number of them a few posts ago. I’d like to explain what happened and talk a little about what my future plans for the blog and my own work are going forward.

I’ve had a hell of a time recovering from the pneumonia I suffered back at the end of May through early June. My right lung still isn’t fully clear, it’s been extremely difficult to get back into my workout routine (more on why that’s important here), and I’ve been struggling to get back into my writing as well. But I was determined to keep up with my reading schedule, so I finished Joe Follansbee’s Restoration and geared up to start Alex Washoe’s A Land of Iron aaaaaand… my ereader bloody broke. Right before the Futurescapes conference on June 14-16th (which was wonderful by the way).

I wasn’t able to send it in for repair until the 20th, and it took the manufacturer until about a week ago to get me a new one. Given that I have over 900 books on the thing between the ones all the lovely authors who’d like their books on my blog send me and the ones I’ve purchased from bookstores other than the manufacturer’s, getting it all set up again took…time. A lot more time than I’d like to have spent.

But fear not! The new one is up and running smoother than Glass Lake in Rainier on a breezeless day, and I am committed to taking care of my backlog.

Which is where the less happy announcement comes in. I’m closing my submission queue for a few months until I can catch up on replying to all the lovely people who have been waiting. I have over 200 unopened submission emails (holy Hathor people!) and 72 people I’ve already committed to who are waiting on me to get their lovely books read and reviewed. My goal is 2-3 reviews a week over the next several months, but that’s also going to depend on how well my own writing is going on any given day. I’m an author first, after all.

My current review schedule is as follows: Restoration by J.G. Follansbee, A Land of Iron by Alex Washoe, In the Claws of the Indigen by Steve Rodgers, Horrid by L.C. Ireland, and Painted Girl by RA Winter. There are a number of folks after them, but these are the ones I’m working on for the forseeable future. I’ll put up another list when I finish Painted Girl.

This brings me to awesome announcement two. Covenant of the Hollow got an amazing new cover redesign by the lovely Rebecca Poole of Dreams2Media, and it’s on sale for $0.99 for the remainder of July in anticipation of Prisoner of the Hollows release. Look at this gorgeousness! Look at it! And click on it if you want to take advantage of that awesome sale!

Promotional stuff aside, I’m also looking for feedback on other things you guys would be interested in with the blog. I know book reviews are my bread and Smart Balance, but I’d like to expand the content a bit. Would you guys be interested in essays about some of the cool science-y stuff I learn as I work on research for my books? Cultural stuff? More ADHD writing and productivity hacks? Non-fiction book reviews for self-help stuff?

I’d love to hear back from you. My readership means a lot to me, and I want this blog to be as useful to you as it is fun to write for me.

All my love,

~Ashleigh (Alaakaad) Gauch