Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Watchtower by Lee Carroll #review

Title: The Watchtower (Black Swan Rising #2)
Author: Lee Carroll
Publisher: Bantam, 2011
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Never judge a book by its cover, and this one definitely shouldn’t be. Nothing on the cover of The Watchtower indicates that it is any different than the slew of “skinny white chick in a prom gown” examples currently flooding the market. And I started reading, filled with severe misgivings that I’d just found yet another Fallen clone.
Fortunately, the cover is misleading.

First off, yes, some of the standard young adult paranormal tropes *are* present – the impossible romance between mortal and immortal, with a whiff of a love triangle. Then I’ve always held the opinion that it’s not having the tropes present, but what the author *does* with them, and writing duo Lee Carroll (husband-and-wife team Lee Slonimsky and Carol Goodman) succeed in engaging my attention. At no point did I want to hurl the book across the room.

Although this is the second book in the series (the first being Black Swan Rising) the story doesn’t suffer. There’s just enough narrative summary to sketch in the past without leading into reams and reams of exposition. Carroll keeps up a good pace from the get-go, the stakes growing higher as the story progresses as a sort of treasure hunt. Fairies, and definitely not the cutesy sort, abound, as well as the ubiquitous vampire, all wrapped up in a tale of time travel garnished with a Shakespearean theme.

What made the story for me was that Carroll paints a vivid picture of the surroundings, and characters all tangled with history and literature, so that I soon forgot I was reading. The story shifts in perspective between the main character, Garet, presented in first person, alternating with Will’s past in second person, as a sort of prequel leading up to how he became a vampire. I must admit at first the segueing took a little getting used to but by the time I got past the first few chapters, I found I enjoyed this swinging between tales – almost like reading two books simultaneously.

Garet, as a character, has far more depth than the standards such as Bella Swan or Lucinda Price, in equivalent genre novels. Although it’s clear she’s madly in love with Will Hughes, it’s refreshing to see a main character who has interests and ambitions other than just being defined by the unfortunate male with whom she’s romantically entangled. Will is not squeaky clean and there were times when I wanted Garet to kick his butt for him for being so self-absorbed. I must admit I did struggle to find his redeemable qualities, and often wondered what Garet saw in him, that she was willing to go to the ends of the earth to rescue his sorry posterior.

Overall, when it comes to the actual quality of the prose and narrative, this is possibly the better of the current crop of similar tales that I’ve encountered as reviewer, and an enjoyable read with a wicked little twist near the end.

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