Author: Claudia Gray
Genre: YA contemporary, PNR
Publication Date: March 5, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed – and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed.
Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them.
☆: 2/5 stars – incredibly disappointing and predictable.
Review: I tried with this one, you guys, I really did. I really enjoyed Gray’s previous effort, “Fateful”, and I have yet to read her debut series, but I was definitely hoping for more than what I got in this first book of her new trilogy, “Spellcaster”. And while some of the technical areas weren’t too bad at all, the rest desperately needed work. If you’re looking for something new and fresh in the PNR area of things in YA, you might want to look elsewhere.
Did anyone else get a very, very STRONG feeling of deja vu in terms of this book and the first in LJ Smith’s “Secret Circle” series? I know I did. Both beginnings are very similar, though Gray’s gives our characters more pain (which was great), and a smashing (no pun intended) entrance into the town, and thus into the rest of the book. Both feel very similar, though “Spellcaster” has a lot more tension and drama to its beginning, which was good.
And then came the insta-love. And the poor character building. And the remarkably predictable plot. Even though I DNF’d this at around halfway through the book, I did see all of the big reveals coming when I really shouldn’t have. I can’t tell you how incredibly frustrating this is, especially because this book’s basic plot was so very promising.
But with a severe lack of sensory language and imagery throughout the first fourth of the book (it’s only when Nadia really starts looking at the town do we start to look and really see things with her), I already had a bad feeling in which the book was going. I felt like there was some infodumping that wasn’t well-distributed, and generally, the characters weren’t too deeply built, even Nadia. Though Nadia was the most thoroughly built of all of the characters (thankfully), she still needed a lot more depth. It feels like she only used the craft as her identity, and for me, that just didn’t work. Characters need to leap off the page, and this just didn’t happen here.
What was good, however, once the sensory language kicked in? The worldbuilding. Gray did a great job of shrinking the world to only the Sound, and nothing really beyond it (aside from discussions of Chicago). We really start seeing this world from both Nadia and Mateo’s eyes after that first fourth of the book, and though I think there needed to be a bit more backstory than the simple information we were given before Nadia started on her great curse hunt, it was good enough to stand on its own. I would have probably noticed that less with stronger characters and a less predictable plot, though.
However, this doesn’t mean I’m opposed to reading more of Gray’s work – I LOVED “Fateful”, and it looks like she has another trilogy (this time with multiple universes involved!) with its first book coming out next year. I’m pretty excited about that, and I hope it’ll be closer to “Fateful” in quality rather than “Spellcaster”.
Final verdict? This needed a lot more work, even before going to the ARC stage of things. Characters needed to be stronger, the world needed to be brighter, and I needed to be able to use my senses more easily without to have to work for it. And the plot, which got PNR cookie-cutter predictable. Oh well. That’s just how I see it, though – “Spellcaster” will be out March 5, 2013 from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance and see where you stand on this book.