Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: YA, Alternate Universes, Paranormal
Publication Date: September 3, 2013 (Walker Childrens)
Source: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis: Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.
At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.
2/5 stars – Great premise and strongly written flashbacks, but it fails to deliver
I’ve heard Durst’s novels are a little unpredictable in how good they are; they can be great (Vessel) or they can be terrible (Ice). The premise for Conjured and the ability to get ahold of a copy was what cinched it and got me to try my first novel from an author my best friend loves because of Drink, Slay, Love. How did it go? Not well, unfortunately.
The premise is intriguing and despite disillusionment fairly early on, I kept going because I knew it was going to be delivered on eventually and the flashbacks/visions Eve had after she used her powers were so well-written, enticing, and overall mysterious. More than anything else, those and the mystery behind them were what drove the book early on.
Unfortunately, Eve herself was difficult to get invested in or see a lot of development in because she’s such a blank slate. Every time she uses her powers, she faints, has a vision, and comes back to herself to find days or weeks have passed since she was last conscious of the world around her. She’s been up and moving in the time she can’t remember, but she (of course) has no idea what she’s been doing.
Her lost time makes what MIGHT be a decent relationship with Zach, a boy whose constant word vomit and declaration in their very first conversation that he’d rather kiss her than shake her hand made him difficult to like, come off as insta-love. She doesn’t know what all she’s done with him and neither do we, so we get no development. It’s simply something that happened. Then it devolves into something of a love triangle with the addition of Aiden, a teen with powers of his own and declarations of how Eve is a prize he’s destined to win or something like that. Huh?
After 234 pages, this is what I learned: Eve has powers; Aiden and two other teens also have powers; they all come from the same world; Eve has powers thought impossible; and people want her dead. That’s all I know after reading more than two-thirds of the book. There’s mystery and then there’s keeping readers in the dark in the most frustrating way, and Conjured fits the latter more than the former.
The sad thing is that at the point at which I decided to stop reading (the aforementioned page 234), things were finally starting to get interesting. Eve stopped trusting the people guarding her, the narration switched from a distant third-person to first-person as she came back to herself and decided to be more active in what was going on in her life, and it seemed like we were FINALLY getting where we should have gotten a long time ago. Sadly, all my patience was burned up by then and I had no interest in seeing how everything came to be resolved. None whatsoever.
I’m perfectly willing to read other novels from Durst. After all, the all-around praise for Vessel has been tempting me since the book came out in September 2012 and that premise sounds even MORE tantalizing. Why I passed up the chance to get a finished copy a few weeks ago is beyond me, but the point is that my bad experience with Conjured isn’t the end. It simply wasn’t the right start.