Review: “Elemental” by Emily White


Title: “Elemental”

Author: Emily White

Genre: YA, space opera/sci-fi, paranormal

Release Date: May 2012 (expected)

Summary: Just because Ella can burn someone to the ground with her mind doesn’t mean she should.

But she wants to.

For ten years—ever since she was a small child—Ella has been held prisoner. Now that she has escaped, she needs answers.

Who is she? Why was she taken? And who is the boy with the beautiful green eyes who haunts her memories?

Is Ella the prophesied Destructor… or will she be the one who’s destroyed?

☆: 4/5 – Space…faeries. Please sir, can I have some more?

Review: This one was a little hard to get into at first because of the jarring (but awesome) use of in media res for the first few chapters – but it was quite the fun read. Who would have thought that mixing faeries and space opera would turn out to be so awesome? This is a really quick read, and I was kind of hoping it would be longer, but there is another book coming in 2013. I had quite a few questions I had that went unanswered here, so I’m hoping we’ll get more backstory and more fully entrenched in this world that White has created in that next book. Note that there are spoilers within this review, so read at your own caution. If you want a very original look at the future and a new look at the war between faeries and humans, you simply must check out “Elemental”.

However, therein lies the rub of this book – while White creates a wonderful world/universe with Ella, the Auri, and the rest of the human/fae that populate her universe, her worldbuilding isn’t entirely solid. We know that El helped create the Auri which is like a fae/human hybrid species – but it’s never explained where El comes from, just that he happened to give humans wings once they had enough technology. In fact, it felt like a bit of a deus-ex-machina in that he just kind of came along once humans got technically advanced enough to travel to other planets. For me, that wasn’t enough, and really kind of brought down my enjoyment of the book a bit. El is implied to be a god, but nothing more is said about this. However, the explanation of Ella’s existence, that of the role of the Destructor and of the Auri race itself as tools for destruction as well as their arrogance for playing gods across the universe was very well told and explicitly made clear – they are no longer a human species, but a post-human one, even though their descendants helped start the Ladeshian with their civilization. Another detail missing is that if Auri helped start the Ladeshian civilization with two Auri people – at what point does all of that Auri interbreeding cause the blood to revert to human (if I did understand all of that correctly)? I loved these parts of the stories, where the world was really starting to build up, and how our present players fit into it all of it, but there were a few details that were unanswered, and it did start to annoy me. Hopefully this will be resolved in future books. But White’s emphasis of how the Auri have pretty much lost their humanity was very interesting, and it flowed very well within all of the arcs and sub-arcs throughout the book.

I would also love to know why El has a beef with Mamoo, and why it thinks that Mamoo has been engaged in an “evil reign” over the whole universe. I wanted to know more in terms of why they were warring, and why Mamoo wanted El dead, as well. I hope we get more details in the next book, because that was also one of my largest questions that was unanswered. Is this just a case of Greek God-like rivalry and jealousy? Or something more?

I was amused, though, at the bit of retelling of “Le Mort d’Arthur” and “The Mists of Avalon” in terms of Morgan and the Fae’ri (the Fae’ri queen who tried to take over all the planets – a retelling of Morgan Le Fay of Avalon and her lust for power over the land of Avalon, that of the land of the Fae) and how White twisted that to her advantage in a post-human future. I liked that and wanted to see and hear more of it, so I hope more about Morgan’s bid to take over all the things comes up in future books. (I would love a prequel with Morgan the Fae’ri queen of the planets! Just sayin’.)

My other big issue was the bit of insta-romance between Ella and Cailen – even though they were childhood friends, them being together “just felt right” (Ella says this herself in the book). Or at least, it feels like a insta-romance because Ella has been gone from the Auri for ten years, imprisoned on the ship Sho’ful, and that’s a long time to be away. People change, and you have to get to know them again, especially when the change is as traumatic as it is for Ella having endured ten years’ worth of abuse from the people who want her dead (and she doesn’t feel very charitable toward them, either). She even wonders why she trusts Cailen so much who, “was by all rights a stranger” (Ella’s words, not mine) ten years out of her childhood. I’m really not a huge fan of that in books – if you’ve been reading the blog, you know that. HOWEVER. I can disregard the insta-romance because of the Big Reveal at the end concerning the Auri and their “bonding” process and its huge payoff. And Ella’s reaction as she finds out is not only awesome, but priceless. Well played, White, because I definitely did NOT see that coming. And I am very, very satisfied with the result. I was totally trolled, but I loved every minute of it.

But the other technical aspects were quite well developed – there literally was tension on every page from the first page on, and that’s hard to do, so I applaud White on being able to accomplish it. The story did not drag at any one point, nor did I feel bored. I did get confused at times and had to reread a few passages in the beginning concerning the genesis of the Auri, but once the full story as told by Cailen came out, it was very smooth sailing from there. So there were a few stutters, but in a story as complex as this, that’s to be expected. Perhaps one more draft might have smoothed all of this out, but I’m satisfied with what I did get. Ella’s character (as a concept) takes a good journey arc to become someone and something greater than herself compared to who she is at the beginning of the book, and that was wonderful to read. When she finally stood up and refused to keep running from her seeming “destiny” as the Destructor, I cheered. It’s so nice to have a ballsy heroine, even if her development as one is a bit late. Winged ballsy heroines are even MORE awesome.

All in all, though? I really enjoyed this one. It was so different from the usual YA fare that we get, and I’m glad it’s being published, all of my nitpicky issues aside. It’s good to see that hard sci-fi/space opera, biopunk, and post-humanism works are making their way into YA through books like “Elemental”. These are some of the few genres in YA that doesn’t have many books in their canons, and I’m hoping that we do get more in the future within the YA umbrella genre as a whole and I’m very glad that “Elemental” is one of the few taking steps into those halls of canon for all of these sub-genres. “Elemental” will be available through Spencer Hill Press on May 1st, 2012. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you really can’t miss this debut!

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2 thoughts on “Review: “Elemental” by Emily White

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! « birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: EYE ON INDIES 06: “Elemental” by Emily White « birth of a new witch.

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