I feel like I've been waiting for the release of 'Unwritten' by Alicia J. Novo for ages. The beautifully intricate cover design caught my eye late last year and I fell in love with the synopsis.
The story follows sixteen-year-old Beatrix Alba, who has secrets. For one, books talk to her. Sometimes in whispers.. sometimes in shouts, they're a constant companion in a world she doesn't seem to belong in.
Bullied both at home and in school, she could put a stop to it all.. but she doesn't. Taught to keep her dangerous hidden power bound tightly within her, that hard-won control starts to slip with the loss of her beloved grandfather.
When the spell that keeps her and her magic hidden fails, one decision thrusts her into the midst of Zweeshen, a world seemingly made of stories like those tucked safely on the library shelves back home. But that realm isn't the whimsical escape from her own that Beatrix wishes it to be. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers.. and Beatrix holds the key.
Even now, just sharing the premise with you.. I get a little swept up in the concepts. Cursed conjurers, Egyptian gods, Regency heroines, there are so many fascinating elements that the very idea of it excites me.
Unfortunately, though the technical aspect of the writing is very smooth, it's just not executed in a very interesting way and it really slowed the reading for me because I kept putting it down. William was intriguing from the get-go with his dark, broody visage and his standoffish nature. He's brusque, but magnetic.. and possibly the character I was most invested in. Beatrix, the main character, has a lot of unique attributes to draw from.. but she just didn't draw me in.
Novo does an excellent job crafting backstory and developing her characters, but the journey itself feels inconsistent in depth. I love the whole 'books as portals to other worlds' trope and there's a test Beatrix goes through which could be really stunning imagery, but that was kind of glossed over for quantity instead.
Early on.. when I found myself facing what was ultimately a Monsters Inc door scene, I became disillusioned by the construction of some of the ideas utilized in this tale. In actuality, it's these last two things that for me are good examples of what didn't work for me with this book.
From a writing standpoint, Novo excels at scene writing. The strength of them still varies dramatically, but as this is her debut, I'm completely willing to give her time. Nonetheless, possibly because she can be so good at them.. it becomes much more obvious when they're weaker, and the paths in between them rather dull.
At this point, I'd think she'd do well with screenwriting, but her approach to the novel just needs more practice. The writing is still intelligent and elegant, she just needs to focus on managing the gap in her skills. That being said, though that lack of consistency made it difficult for me to stay invested, I think she has a ton of potential and I'm eager to see what her future holds as she learns and grows.