Saturday, September 7, 2013

INDIE BOOK REVIEW: ‘Witch Avenue’ series offers glimpses of destiny, hope

Young adult titles are an iffy proposition for adult readers.

When the author hits the right mix of angst and pathos, the combination can entertain fans of all ages.

When the author focuses too much on teenage drama and adult ideas, though, the series actually collapses under the weight of overextended expectations.

The ‘Witch Avenue’ series, by Karice Bolton, is a young adult series that mostly succeeds on an adult level.

The concept is fairly simple: Teenage Triss is hanging out on the beach with her mom when her mother suddenly disappears. Triss and her mother are part of an area coven and Triss is understandably upset when the coven declares her mother dead without a body.

Triss is almost 18, so she manages to stay in her own home with a family friend: Logan. Logan is another teenager that used to be best friends with Triss when he was younger and then he moved away. Of course, when he comes back he’s a “dreamy” specimen of a man and Triss can’t believe she never noticed how hot he was before.

In short order, Triss realizes that there’s a lot more going on in their little magical community than she originally thought. Not only is her mother probably not dead but the father she long ago forgot about is reentering the picture, too.

There’s a lot of intrigue in this series. There's a lot of angst, too.

As with all young adult fiction, Triss is special and all those around her realize she’s special. Logan
declares his devotion within days of returning and everyone that comes into contact with Triss realizes she’s exceptional.

There are certain constructs to young adult fiction that authors don’t stray from – even though I wish they would. It is one of those constructs that presents my biggest problem with the Witch Avenue series: Logan and Triss declare their eternal love to each other and never think twice about it even though they’re so young.

While this series does not make the two heroes get married before having sex (something that drives me crazy), by the end of the books they are engaged. I’m not a big fan of teenage engagements – and I don’t know why they’re necessary. I honestly think young adult fiction that furthers that stereotype – including the hunky boy that will do anything for a girl – is totally unrealistic.

There’s a reason young girls are always disappointed with boys in real life – fiction like this. Still, Bolton is hardly the first (and she won’t be the last) author to do this, so I can forgive a lot of the contrived nature of Triss and Logan’s relationship.

What Bolton does right more than makes up for it, frankly. Triss is a strong heroine. She is not like Bella Swan. She doesn’t feel the need to constantly have someone come to her rescue. Sure, Logan is there when she’s in a pinch, but she saves Logan just as often as Logan saves her (if not more).

Triss is a character that doesn’t compromise her morals and beliefs just because a boy wants her to – and she’s not a heroine that would go to bed for six months because a boy broke up with her. That’s why she’s a great heroine.

As for Logan, he's a hero that has done some horrible things. He's not afraid to cross that line again -- even if it means endangering himself. In other words: He's not a white-washed character. That's a relief in this genre when authors feel the need to make their characters "perfect." Logan is not perfect and he's a better character for it.

If I have any complaints about the books they almost all revolve around the third entry in the series: ‘Released Souls.’ The complaints I have are fairly minor, but I did feel the sudden revelation of Triss’ powers was ridiculously hurried and forced. I still enjoyed the book, though. I would have just rather had the reveals doled out over the first three books instead of having them stuffed into the first third of the third book.

It’s a minor quibble, though.

This is an indie and there are a few typos in each book. This is really clean for an indie, though, and
you have to almost be looking for them to find them. They certainly don’t remove you from the narrative.

What I appreciate most about Bolton’s work is that she is not trying to soak her readers for money by extending a story that doesn’t have any more narrative direction to take. This is a four-book series. It has a start, a middle and an end.

Readers can easily lose themselves in this world and be happy when they extricate themselves from it. Bolton should be proud of what she’s accomplished here. It is a magical world -- both literally and figuratively.

The four books range in price from free to $2.99 – so you can explore the world with very little risk. It’s definitely worth the time. Trust me.


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