Cracked (Soul Eater #1) by Eliza Crewe
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release date: November 5 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
In a word: A hysterically funny main character, whose voice is smart and perfectly written, some unexpected relationships, but with a few minor plot holes.
Death is my art form—when I fight, I’m a ballerina. Graceful. Chi lacks my grace, but makes up for it in energy and enthusiasm. His fighting style is like breakdancing—strong and frenetic with some really sweet moves. Jo’s is . . . the Macarena. Ugly, but it gets the job done.
Cracked was such a fun book to read, and the main reason for that is its main character, Meda. It isn’t often that I read a book with such a strong, funny and distinct first person voice, and I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud at times, something I don’t often do. Crewe’s tale of a group of demon hunters called Crusaders, based on the Knights Templar, would have been an entirely different animal without Meda’s voice telling the story. While some of the world-building was sketchy and confusing, it was Meda who propelled me through the book, and I forgave some of the plot holes just because I fell in love with her.
When the story begins, Meda is “living” in an insane asylum and has just located her next meal, a guard who killed an innocent girl named Callie. Meda knows this because Callie’s ghost has come to her for help and wants Meda to kill him. Meda eats souls, you see, and the guard is just what she needs. She’s hungry, and she wants to help Callie, so it’s a win-win situation. In the aftermath of the soul-eating, which involves lots of blood and evisceration, Meda is suddenly attacked by demons. Luckily, a ragtag group of teens arrives just in time to save her. Meda isn’t sure why they’re there, or who they are, but she senses they might be able to help her discover who she is. Meda has no idea why she is so strong, or why she eats souls. Her mother died before she could explain things to Meda, and she’s never known who her father is. With the arrival of Chi, Jo and Uri, she shrewdly thinks she might have a real chance for some answers.
The three teens, demon hunters who call themselves Crusaders, think Meda might be a demon magnet called a Beacon, so they take her back to headquarters for protection. But will Meda be able to pretend to be someone she’s not long enough to get the answers she so desperately desires? Trouble is brewing for the Crusaders, and Meda is about to be caught right smack in the middle.
I want to talk about the characters of Cracked first, since they were the best part of this story, in my opinion. Meda is a fierce, strong and sometimes scary teenaged girl who hides her soft squishy side (yes, she has one!) behind sarcasm and snark. When she meets Chi, Jo and Uri, she pretends to be an innocent in order to pry information from them. What makes this work so well is the way Crewe alternates between Meda’s thoughts and the things she actually says out loud to her new friends. Here’s an example, where Meda is trying to convince them to take her with them:
…I reach out a gentle claw—err, hand—and place it on his forearm, tugging his attention from her smarts to my lovely-little-girl helplessness. My lower lip trembles and I hear Jo snort in disgust. Now for the pièce de résistance!
“You…” Faux-brave sacrifice always chokes me up! “You can leave me behind. I—” deploy waterworks, hard swallow—“understand.”
He crumbles, my tiny tears beat him down like powerful waves. “No,” he says. “You’re coming with us.”
Victory! Take that, you clever cripple!
He turns toward her. “We’ll test to make sure she’s a Beacon as soon as we can.”
One of my favorite parts of the book was Meda’s growing friendship with the hard, unfriendly Jo, a girl who has her own sad back story. Jo hates Meda on sight, and she’s immediately suspicious (and rightfully so) of Meda’s claim of innocence. The author spends most of the book developing their relationship, and little by little you can see the walls between them crumble. A very sweet moment between them near the end of the story gave me goosebumps, and I look forward to more of their relationship ups and downs in the next book.
I also loved Chi, who Crewe sets up as a love interest for Meda, but she turns that notion on its head and Chi becomes something else entirely. Chi reminded me of—OK Buffy fans, this is for you—Wesley Windham Price from Buffy, when he first appears on the series. Chi is a know-it-all doofus who thinks he’s hot shit, but really isn’t. He preens as Meda pretends to be helpless, and she eats it up. Chi was a loveable ball of hot-guy-who-thinks-he’s-hotter-than-he-really-is, and I’ll admit I fell for him.
Crewe smartly avoids your typical YA romance in Cracked, which was a nice change of pace. She fools the reader into thinking one thing, then turns around and does something completely different. And in Cracked, whatever romance there is never goes smoothly. We get some kissing scenes, but don’t expect to get butterflies in your stomach when you read them.
What didn’t work as well for me was the world-building and the concept of the Crusaders. I felt there were holes in the plot that were never clearly explained, and there were so many rules that defined the Crusaders that I found it a bit confusing. The demons who threaten the Templars—the bad guys in the story—honestly didin’t scare me all that much, probably because they first appear as men in business suits and later as curvaceous women in flowing gowns. That visual confused me and made the demons feel like less of a threat. It also wasn’t clear why the demons were after Meda, but hopefully these things will be developed more in the next book.
Aside from some plot issues, Cracked was a blast to read. If you are looking for a story with a strong and unique voice, some kick-ass action, and some very sweet relationships, look no further.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version. **Join me tomorrow on my Cracked Blog Tour stop! I’ll be interviewing Eliza, and she’s even sharing photos of her pet hens:) Don’t miss it!
You can find Cracked here: