Book Review: Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast

Posted June 19, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Diversion Books on June 9, 2015
Pages: 275
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

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There is a world that runs parallel to our own, a world in which the souls of the damned are caged, where they are looked over by the Furies, and where they spend eternity in torment, mirroring the devastation and mayhem they created when alive.

Someone has opened the cage.

Eva has grown up, beautiful and beloved, but surrounded by secrets. First, she will be hunted in an ancient feud that will threaten her life. Then, she will become the hunter.

With the police closing in and two worlds on the verge of crumbling around them, Alek and Eva must find each other, discover the limits of their powers, and work together to save everything they hold dear, including one another.

First in The Escaped urban fantasy series for the young end of Young Adults and revolving around Eva and Alek, destined to save both their worlds.

This ARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Diversion Books for, unfortunately, an honest review.

My Take

Oh, boy. I think Cast needs to have a chat with momma about show versus tell. It was something of a blend between reading a screenplay and a children’s book, and I have no interest in reading book #2.

The prologue was cute with a teen-angsty Maiden pouting at Mother, as if the two of them really were a teenager whining at her mom. I suspect it’s intended to make teen readers identify with the Maiden. It was also hard to believe as I didn’t believe in a Maiden who was this ignorant. Nor did Cast make me believe that a “love so pure” could create a curse in Tartarus. How lame is that? Ooh, then Hera “gifts” Maiden with a son born of her love, and he will become a warrior and save Tartarus from this awful curse. Oh, brother. The writing is on the wall about how this series will go. Besides downhill, I mean.

Cast did nothing interesting with the cliché of mother love unable to see her child as a man. No, gagging does not count as interesting. Then there’s the young man. He’s twenty-three now and has had experience in the Mortal Realm, supposedly. Not enough that he has a clue about how anything operates in our world — in spite of the fact that he and his three mothers can observe what’s happening on earth. He doesn’t appear to have had any training in warrior pursuits, his language skills are limited to dude. Maiden mommy whines that he hasn’t experienced the true baddies, and all I can say is, he’s twenty-flippin’-three years old. He should have had plenty of experience by now. Instead he’s so incredibly immature, that that is the more shocking aspect. He has no clue about the respect due to someone like the Pythia, not that he even knows who she is *eye roll*. He cowers. He hides behind chairs. His actions make him seem more like someone born yesterday who shot up to full growth overnight. Why didn’t they train him on the whole focus/concentration routine earlier? In fact, just what has Alek been learning all these years? Anything?

Where does this bit about Eva being his true master come from?

The melodramatic writing doesn’t help, and I truly, truly wish that Cast had some clue about infusing emotion into her story. Telling me that she’s crying isn’t as engaging as making me feel her tears, her fears, her panic. Heck, that scene where Mom, oops, I mean, Lori, is panicking because her daughter hasn’t come home sounds more like she’s about to invite the detectives in for tea and cookies and ask them how their day is going. There’s no emotion in that. Nothing to tip me off that she’s alarmed let alone terrified. WTF?

I’m confused about that whole time thing. His mothers say it’s been an eternity, he says it’s only been a few days, and then he goes on to say that the days are too long. Did Cast mean to say the “days are too short”? I’m also confused about that text message Bridget sends Eva about the link she sends her. Is this a new slang thing that I’ve not yet heard: “…won’t get out of my ass about…”?? Maybe she meant off?

Just how is it that Bill manages to kidnap Eva if he’s at the ballet with Lori? I do like how hard Eva fights. I hate a female character who just stands around whining, and Eva does not do this. She fights back. Actually, the scenes in which her kidnapper is talking to her are seriously creepy. It’s a well-done bit of writing.

Bridget should stop drinking now. How does Schilling come to the conclusion of the x in the tree branch meaning that the killer has ended that part of the victim’s family? Did Cast give him a preview of what’s coming? Does Alek know how to get into a house without breaking down the door?

I know I’m just being picky. It’s because I’m feeling pissy. But I did do a double take when I read “She posed with a hand on each hip of her white dress”. I got this image of her having like six hips or maybe the dress had extra hips. Why not just say on her hips? I don’t think that would count as a cliché. More pickiness. What’s with calling James Graham James throughout the story, but Schilling is always just Schilling?

Why didn’t they pick up a burner phone for Eva? I think it’s too late for Bridget. The drinking has affected her mind. First she forces Eva to come out and get lunch, and then she turns around and tells her that she’d be curled up in the fetal position in bed if she were Eva.

Oh, and, oh man, L. O. L., what’s with that conclusion the detectives come to at the end, after they have evidence that this serial killer has been engaged in his particular style of killing for years in Mexico? Can someone explain that one? Did Cast even have editors? Do they really believe her readers are that DUMB??? The whole story is full of stupid contradictions and idiotic clichés. It’s almost as if this were a contest between Cast and another writer to see how much they could make their readers swallow.

The Story

Love has caused a curse to rise up within Tartarus and only the warrior son of the Maiden can destroy the curse. He must return the evil that escaped the Underworld before the curse destroys Tartarus itself.

Young Alek must ally himself with the Oracle, once he finds her, to save her world and his.

The Characters

Twenty-three-year-old Eva Kostas is attending college, trying on all the majors. Bridget Falling is Eva’s best friend, with a trust fund, and she’s more interested in her and Eva’s social life than anything else. Yiayiá is Eva’s Greek grandmother. Lori is Mom, and why Eva calls her mother “Lori”, I have no idea. William Morgan is Lori’s boyfriend recently back from a mission trip to build houses in Mexico. Dean is the husband who took off.

Alek is the Warrior who will save Tartarus from the curse. The Furies are sisters: Crone, Mother, and Maiden. The three live in Tartarus where they keep evil imprisoned. Galen Argyris is the dead man, giving up his place to save his son. Pythia is the Oracle of Delphi. Atropos is one of the three Fates and a sister to the Furies. Charon is the ferryman for the dead. Aeacus, Rhadamanthus, and Minos are the judges of Tartarus.

Alastor the Great Avenger is one of the prisoners who escape.

Tulsa County Sheriff
Gordon Charles is the chief of police. (I’d a thought he’d be the sheriff if he’s at the sheriff’s department and giving statements.) Dr. Catherine Pierce is the medical examiner. Veronica is back working at the ME’s office.

Detectives Schilling (Jeannine is his wife) and James Graham are the leads for the serial killer case. There’s some mystery about Graham’s past and a woman named Mel. Captain Alvarez is their boss. Officer Winslow keeps showing up with pictures, tips, and more. Nina is a police officer who doesn’t know what she’s got and prefers to arrest people in private, *snicker*

Maya is the nurse at the hospital. Dr. Cole needs to work on her bedside manner.

Madeline Bailey is the latest victim. Chera Kimiko and Tailia Kirk are on-air reporters. Spencer Burke is a gorgeous guy with a lousy approach to women. Jill is some friend (?) at the party. Red, a.k.a., Bethany, Brown, Black, and Blonde are the college girls from whom Alek is demanding answers. Jason may be a jerk, but he did step up to protect the girls. Counselor O’Brien is Bridget’s lawyer. Tyson Andrews will be a new type of victim. Monica is/was his girlfriend.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the best part with its dark background relieved only by the evil-feeling swirl of gray smoke curling up out of the fog alongside Eva’s bare back, her right hand clasping her shoulder, her profile to us, slightly masked by her long, wavy, brown hair. The clincher is that silhouette of a many-branched bare tree.

The title refers to the Amber Smoke that will breathe life into the savior of Tartarus.

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6 responses to “Book Review: Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the genre or the target audience, but of the author and her editors. Where were they? I’ve read a number of YA stories and series, and they have about the same percentages of good and “evil” *lol* as do the adult ones. This one…ooh, boy…

  1. Wow … that sounds like quite the book. 😉 I could help but laugh at the “… get out of my ass” comment. I’ve heard of talking out your ass, but not getting out of it. Unless she was saying she’d been all up her ass about something, and now she’s getting out. lol – I don’t know. I doubt I’d read this.

    • There were a few lol moments, unfortunately, they were mostly of the “out of my ass” variety. I wouldn’t waste my time on this…oh, wait…I did. Wahhh.

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