This novel left me conflicted, and it makes sense.. since 'Rachael Vaughn' is actually the pen name for a couple. According to their website bio, Laura Rachael Black and Trenton Vaughn Hockersmith share the writing duties.. and while such a partnership can yield amazing results, it requires the partners to be on equal footing creatively. These two do not seem to be. Though it's difficult to be certain who is responsible for what.. exactly.
Black is cited as the 'wordsmith'.. though the bulk of the writing weaves back and forth between effective use of a decent vocabulary and a really annoying habit of repeating the same word over and over, often within a paragraph, sometimes.. even the same sentence. I don't know if she's responsible for this, but someone is absolutely fixated on the word 'now.' 'Now' and 'now.' And it doesn't just happen with that word, but it is by far the most frequent offender. There's a difference between knowing some extra words and remembering to use them. Also.. someone fixates on references. It's absolutely unnecessary to refer to 'The Rot' by name.. more than once in a paragraph. Same issue. If that's our wordsmith, I'm glad her tattoos are lovely.
Hockersmith is credited as the world builder and plot developer, and here.. the book starts to shine. The imagery.. both realistic and fantastic.. by design, are rich in color and form. Yes, it's easy to compare some of the approach to Alice in Wonderland, but I think that's bound to happen just about anytime certain types of elements come into play. I still felt it was well done and distinctive.
The story itself, while easy to predict (there are no secrets along the way really, even if there are meant to be), is still enjoyable. The characters are robust. Unfortunately, the lead is a bit whiny, which left me more invested in the supporting characters and there's a whirlwind moment at the end that feels very much like an afterthought. There's no real build toward it through the novel and that made it feel almost forced. A moment for the sake of having one.
All in all, it's worth a read for the setting and story.. and I suppose that's what matters.. if you can ignore the repetition of those certain words. It does get easier. Most of the time.