Break the Chains by Megan E. O'Keefe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Some authors need a lot of editing, and, judging from the pre-release version I read (and the first in the series, which I also read before its release), this author is one of those. I hope she gets it, because underneath a great many vocabulary fumbles and some comma and tense mistakes, there's a well-told story here. At the same time, I didn't feel as engaged in this book as I did with the previous one, and I'm struggling to put my finger on exactly why.
The protagonists have clear goals, which they pursue determinedly and at cost, against fit opposition. This would normally make for a compelling story, but I wasn't quite compelled. Perhaps I was looking for the characters to succeed a little more frequently in making progress towards their goals, though they do succeed occasionally.
Could it be that the two main viewpoint characters are separated throughout the book, so we keep switching from one to the other, and they never actually appear in a scene together (even when they're in almost the same place)? That may be part of it. I seem to remember that they were separate for much of Book 1, but they did join up partway through that book and have some interaction. Here, they don't interact at all with each other. Each one has a sidekick to talk to, although of the two sidekicks, only Tibs is really developed much, and his role is mainly to insult his friend in order to keep him mentally stable. Otherwise, the sidekicks don't contribute very much to the plot that any other generic character in the same situation couldn't contribute, and this seems like a lost opportunity.
Then, too, we don't have an onstage villain through most of the story, either. While the viewpoint characters face opposition, much of it is circumstantial, or from people who have somewhat adjacent, rather than opposing, agendas, and who either become or could become allies. The first book had a strong onstage villain with her own clear agenda, in opposition to the heroes', and that, I think, made it more engaging.
I liked this (setting aside the many failures of vocabulary, which, as I say, hopefully will be fixed); but I didn't love it, and I'm not sure I'll pick up the sequel. It's a story with a lot of potential, but I didn't feel that potential was fully realised.
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