Friday, 6 February 2015

Review: Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four

Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four
Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four by Nya Jade

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, let's line up the tropes first.

Protagonist is a Chosen One of Prophecy. Probably.
Ridiculously hot love interest has green eyes. (Seriously, can we stop that?) Is also possibly dangerous and definitely mysterious. Keeps rescuing the protagonist (sigh), because she heads off into known danger with no plan (eyeroll).
Convenient Eavesdrops.
Can defeat someone bigger and nastier, at least briefly, because of a week's martial arts training.
Half-hearted attempt at a love triangle.

The thing is, despite this parade of YA-fantasy cliches, I enjoyed it and looked forward to spending time reading it. There was freshness in the worldbuilding, the characters were likeable, and the protagonist managed to have agency despite her occasional Damsel in Distress moments.

I liked the fact that the vampire-like characters were also a kind of shapeshifter, rather than more traditional vampires. I liked the imagination that the author showed in general, and the way she set up the situation. A second school disguised under an ordinary school? Brilliant. And you have to love a class called Tactical Bird Song.

For the first 50 pages, I also thought that this might end up on my Well-Edited shelf, but sadly, it seems those first chapters were polished a lot more carefully than the rest, and the standard slowly deteriorated. By the time I hit the last fifty pages, minor errors were coming thick and fast. Mostly comma misuse and mispunctuated dialog, but also "discrete" for "discreet".

Despite that, and the occasional cliche, I was entertained and, overall, impressed with this first novel. Even though I figured out the love interest's background early on, his agenda remained mysterious and a source of suspense until late in the book, and there's a fascinating hint that his unknown father may be... let's just say "significant". I'd buy a sequel, but I hope it would move past the cliches (the author is obviously capable of it) and be well edited all the way through.

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