Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Unworthy by Joanne Armstrong

This blog post originally appeared on The Review Hart, 3.11.14. Click here to see the original post.

Postcard Review:
This is a book for people who enjoy good character development with palpable emotions. The plot itself is interesting, and while I’m back and forth on the ending, the overall premise and world-building is well-done. The characters shine in this book, their motives are carefully thought through, the personalities are strong and clear-cut, and the emotions are realistic and palpable. This is clearly the first book in a series, but it’s a quick read (in a good way) and shows promise for the rest of the series.
Full Review:
The characters are the big selling point to this book. They are very much the focus of the story, and while the plot is still present, it’s clearly the first book in a series. The overarching question is resolved and the journey completed in the loosest sense, which does give some resolution. There are a lot of questions and threads left open at the end, meaning that the plot arc as a whole isn’t completed, but it’s resolved enough to give a feeling of satisfaction. That being said, the plot arc is a particularly simple one, although the twist at the end leaves a lot of potential for further development of the characters and the world. That, however, doesn’t mean that this book reads like idle filler or a book of pure exposition. Unlike so many first books in a series, there is some character development and forwards progress through the plot. The world-building gives some insight into the setting and lays a solid foundation for further plot in later books. The real focus is on the character development and the insight given into the character’s history and personalities.
The protagonist, Arcadia, in particular shines as a very real teenager who has grown up in less than ideal circumstances. Her personality was forged by her upbringing and surroundings, yet she’s still a strong, interesting woman. That then gives room to explore the secondary characters around her as they react to her, and all of them prove to be thoroughly developed and interesting. Each of the characters has a well-thought-out backstory that fits in with the world as it’s established and explained.
The broad strokes of the world are very familiar, in that there is an oppressive regime that the majority of people are happy to accept. The regime came about after a disaster that destroyed most of humanity, and that same disaster is used to support the choices they make and keep people in their place. How the author chooses to construct that world makes it stand out. The world is described with vivid and emotive imagery that, with geography, has understandable effects on the politics and evolution of the society.
There’s an interesting mix of traditional superstition and speculation over a broken future and what would happen should the disaster strike. It’s familiar while being quirky and fitted to this particular plot and set-up. The focus of the world is on health and strength, in face of the great plague that wiped out most of humanity. That leads to those who are deemed to be weak and unfit being pariahs, almost like the Untouchables in Hindu life. There are a number of plot points and moments of character development for Arcadia and a number of secondary characters where the author uses that set-up and caste system within the society to move the plot forward. It ties together to form an interesting narrative and is used well.
The actual plot is a little thin, but that’s barely noticeable, with the focus being on the characters, how they adapt to their new understanding of the world, and the development of the world itself. On a technical level it’s very clean. There were a couple of typos, but I could count them on one hand. The choice of tense and voice may throw some people, as it’s first person present, but I found it enjoyable and a lot of other readers will no doubt agree with that.
Altogether, this is a well-written book with thoroughly developed characters. The writing style means that the emotion shines through and the vivid imagery brings the interesting world to life. Unworthy is very much a character-driven book, which means that the plot is a little thin, but it remains in the background and allows the characters to develop and be the focus. That being said, the final twist was interesting and gives potential for something much more in the next book. Technically it’s very sound; some readers may find themselves a little put off by the tense, but that’s a personal choice and I feel it works well. There’s a lot of potential here and I hope the author fulfils it.

Shen Hart, The Review Hart
Reviewer Bio:
Shen stalks innocent stories down dark alleys where she dissects them, revealing the bare bones and silky threads. She is driven by the need to sate her readers’ lust, their addiction for new books to ravage. She is, the Review Hart.

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