As some of you may have noticed, I have been getting a little discouraged with my self-published book reviews lately. When I first started this, I had already read books published by the authors that were very good. They weren’t usually perfect, but some of them were close enough they didn’t instantly jump out and scream that there wasn’t a large team of professionals working backstage to make it happen.
Then, I starting seeking out more, wanting to spread the love as best as I can. Unfortunately, this is when I started having problems. Not all books are created equal. I had a book I really enjoyed, and a couple that made me want to cry. I was honestly beginning to consider giving up on this crazy idea and switching to reviewing big publishing house new books like everyone else. At least then I might be able to give more good reviews and not feel like such a horrible person. I knew I needed to give it just a few more tries, and then, maybe I can switch over to debut authors for a little while to cleanse the palate.
Today’s book was one of my last ditch efforts, and I have to say, I am glad I tried. While not perfect, Winter’s Calling, by Marcea Paige gave me hope that the talented self published authors are still out there somewhere, hiding in the midst of other books.
Please, if you are afraid of spoilers, turn back now.
Winter’s Calling is the story of Leah Monroe, technically named Winter Leah Monroe. While her official first name gives the inspiration for the book title, if anyone tries to call her Winter, she is very clear she prefers to be called Leah.
Leah is a bit of a sad and depressing character. After her mother’s abandonment when she was a child and her father’s death just before college, she is alone. While she is fortunate enough to have a scholarship which allows her to attend school far from the town where she grew up, her classes are difficult enough she is in danger of losing that scholarship and all the hope it gives her. She doesn’t have friends, and often feels disconnected from other people. Her cruddy job cleaning offices barely pays bills, and her car, which she needs to get to both work and school, barely runs. Putting it plainly, her life sucks.
One day, as she is reaching what could possibly be her lowest low, she meets Israel Drake, an overly attractive guy who for some reason has an interest in her. She briefly tries to avoid him, not believing that a good looking guy like him could possibly like her. Of course, eventually she does spend some time with him, and learns that she is an Energist, someone who can control energy in many different ways. This power, without control, can be dangerous and potentially fatal to those around her. Israel, is not like her, but is a special Vampire known as an Abstract who feeds on energy. Israel and his friends, all Energists, take Leah in, planning to teach her. Things don’t go completely as planned, and Leah decides to go back to her house to get a little space. She still has strong feelings for Israel, but this is a lot to take in and she wants to be able to figure things out on her own.
Back in her own place she meets Lucas, another Abstract Vampire who wants to show Leah another side of her powers. He may or may not want to suck the special energy from her, but that is only a minor issue for Leah. Her brief time in his presence causes Israel and his friends to fear her choices. They swear they are not turning their backs on her, but unless she chooses their side she can’t come over to play anymore.
Vampire’s are slightly overdone lately. There are so many different versions of them, and everyone wants to put their own unique spin on the classic horror staple. I like the idea of feeding on energy; blood is the traditional food because blood pumps through human veins spreading life. A vampire is dead, and technically just needs something to keep them alive. Pure energy would seem like a more efficient food source. While it is a difference, it also doesn’t play a huge amount into the story.
Leah’s struggle to understand this new world and how she fits in it feels more authentic than many other novels of this kind. She doesn’t instantly pick a side and she does make a few mistakes. As much as she cares for Israel, she refuses to just bow to the orders his friends try to give her. There is a part of her that is drawn to the darker side as much as is drawn to the light. So many characters get powers and instantly know they are meant to fight for good; Leah just wants someone who will be honest with her and allow her to figure things out on her own. I think that is more like how I would be if I was given supernatural powers. Technically, yes, I would want to do the right thing, but I would be willing to go with someone I knew was a little evil if they would at least tell me the truth.
The story over all was good, with a few technical struggles. The writing is in the first person. Mostly, you are hearing from Leah, but it does briefly switch over to Israel. When the switch is made it is basically a chunk of book in a new perspective with nothing from Leah for that time. It threw me off a little partly because I never read chapter titles, so I didn’t see the hints at a new voice before I started reading. While I have never been a fan of switching perspective in first person story telling, I do see it’s purpose. Switching perspective allows the reader to see what is happening from another side and can be essential to understanding motive and actions. If the perspective hadn’t switched, Israel and his friends might have just randomly shown up looking to fight at Lucas’ doorstep with no indication as to what they were doing. I do however think the switching perspective would be better used with a regular changes. Here, the author switched perspective only to move the story forward in one section. If the voice had been switched more often, it would have created a better flow through the story and given more consistency. Instead, it is almost as if the other characters are frozen in between their turn to talk. I’m not certain there would have been much of interest for the characters to be doing if they were given more chapters of their own, but strictly from a writing perspective, it could have made more sense.
As good as it was, there was a certain quality that is unique to self published novels. Maybe, it is only because I knew it was self published that I attribute this quality to the book. It’s a strange quality, something that is hard to define. Sometimes there are a few more typos, or sentences that seem to be missing. Sometimes it is a story problem, something that doesn’t make sense or seems a little too easy. Over all, it is a slightly unpolished feel to the book. I’m not entirely certain how you would fix it in every case, but I imagine with the help of an agent and editor, it would be smoothed over. As much as I could still see the rough edges, I did like it enough to be willing to read the next in the series when it comes out.
I have to rate this book one sprouting seed. There is so much potential for what this series and this author can do, but they are just starting out. More than that, they helped to give me hope for self published books again.
I know I say this every time, but once again, my opinions on Winter’s Calling are my own, while all rights to the book belong to Marcea Paige. No one asked me to review this book, anymore than they told me what to say. You don’t have to agree with anything I said, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am allowed to say it. If you doubt my ability to review this book, please feel free to read and review it on your own. I would love to hear what everyone else thinks about it as well.
I am always on the lookout for self-published or debut authors for review. If you have written or read a self-published or debut author book, I would love to have new recommendations! Please feel free to comment or email your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org