Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Icing on the YA SciFi Cake
Shield, Rachael Craw
I was so impressed with this author's debut, thrilled when the sequel proved so strong, but now -- oh -- now I can scarcely believe this entire tale was a beginning for Craw since the final installment bears no marks of inexperience -- how she has honed her writing!  For those awaiting Book 3's release in two short weeks, assured be, your pre-order money is well-spent; you will not be disappointed.  I chomped through the pages and came away impressed again and satisfied;
  • Reviewing the online glossary for the world of Spark was sufficient refresher for me to fall back into this story and quickly care about the characters again.  I remembered much of the details from the previous two books without re-reading because the story arcs of both are memorable.
  • I loved picking up where things left off with the central characters.  There's all of this hankering going on and it is a treat quickly delivered for fans.  Furthermore, having a male love interest who offers unfailing loyalty instead of snark? Thank you, Rachael!  Ladies, take note, good guys can be attractive.
  • And the heroine?  A delicate balance of feisty and fallible.  I especially like when she says and does things I am willing her to do but doubt anyone would do...oh wait, Evie would.  Also: Sometimes protagonists who are coincidentally and conveniently Super bug me; but Craw has succeeded in creating a cathartic pleasure in Evie's BA-ness; I don't roll my eyes when she is stronger and better than everyone else, I inwardly scream, "Take that!  Don't mess with Evie!"  It's good writing to have me so on-side and unquestioning.
  • The relationship trees, nay, webs of the story manage to be fun instead of contrived or confusing.
  • The short exchange dialogue remains en pointe!  It's sharp, smart and current.  The lengthier conversations are juicy too, enhanced by thoughtful consideration of each person's motivations and angle.
  • Early on there are a few dream recounts.  A lot of the time I find dream recounts superfluous.  These weren't.
  • I enjoyed the politics of the story and the level of world complexity -- it had enough dimension to make it more than a tough female fighting a system (what system mattered), but not so much that it bogged down the momentum;
  • ...which would be a travesty, since the pacing of the novel is one of its finest features.  I love that this book spits out bookmarks mercilessly, denying any page as a fitting home for such a thing.  Books 1 and 2 were also well-paced, but they relied on novelty, suspense and well-plotted twists for such effect.  Although Book 3 is less novel (we know the world), less suspenseful (we know what we want to happen and hope hard at least 75% of this will be delivered) and certainly less twisty, it is probably the most riveting.  Instead it is a story that sets off running, and doesn't take breaks.  That device works too.
  • I'm not at all surprised Spark is already optioned for the screen, Shield continues to read very cinematically.
  • If you haven't tried this series yet, you're in for the late-comers' delight of a) no wait between title releases and b) the promise the entire journey you're about to embark on is good from beginning to end.  Lucky you -- you need not even go out on a limb and worry you'll be left on a bouncy twig with nowhere else to climb!  It's all solid, friends.  
  • Isn't it a huge bonus that the covers are stunning?!  Good shelf candy.
  • If I had to say there was anything I look forward to seeing polished in future works, it is the resonance and uniqueness of the villain; at some point during my reading the bad guy morphed into an alter ego of The Hunger Games' Snow.  This isn't the worst comparison to have made, especially since it's the only note I feel is worth giving.
Overall, Shield has left me excited.  I wasn't sorry when I closed my review copy that it was all said and done, because Rachael Craw isn't all said and done; her latest tight, confident crescendo work may end this series, but is not the grande finale.  I am looking forward to what YA page-turner she delivers next.

Shield is in bookstores September 1.  Review copy received from Walker.

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