Broken Forest (The Daath Chronicles: Book One) by Eliza Tilton
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Release date: May 2013
Source: Finished paperback from author
The nitty-gritty: An atmospheric and magical tale that just needs more work, with female characters that mostly disappointed me, but some fierce action scenes that sort of made up for some of the let downs.
I’m a bit surprised by all the five-and-four-star reviews for this book on Goodreads and Amazon. Maybe I’m just not the right target audience for this story. There is no doubt that Eliza Tilton has a vivid imagination and a promising future as a writer, but the execution of this story did not work for me in many ways. The author sets out to write a fairly traditional fantasy novel, complete with character names that are nearly unpronounceable and a fantasy realm that may or may not exist, and to some extent she succeeds. Broken Forest has a quality of mystery and magic to it that I really enjoyed. There are riddles to be solved, characters that you don’t understand and who require more scrutiny, and exciting action scenes that were very well written. However, despite the very low page count of this book, it took me nearly a week to finish.
The story goes like this: Avikar is a young man who feels responsible for his young brother’s death—he drowned in a lake while Avikar wasn’t paying attention. When his sister Jeslyn is kidnapped, Avikar feels it is his duty to rescue her. But the rescue plans don’t go all that smoothly, especially when Jeslyn gets to the land of Daath, the magical realm where her captor, Lucino, lives.
Not everything worked for me, although these things did:
1. A sense of magical mystery. A lot of plot points aren’t explained until late in story, which kept me interested and trying to guess what was happening. Several clues about who Lucino really is are dropped here and there, but the author never really explains his origins. It was frustrating at times, but hopefully book two will delve into the mysteries of Lucino and his people.
2. Bows and arrows, swords and general violent mayhem. Bows and arrows! Enough said.
3. Multiple points of view. I do love stories that jump around to different characters’ POVs, and Broken Forest circled around the three main characters—Jeslyn, Avikar and Lucino—giving the reader a broad picture of the rather ambitious scope of the story. It’s always fun to peek into the minds of both the good guys and the bad guys!
4. A secret realm called Daath that humans don’t believe in. Just like the fae realm, Daath is simply a fairytale that humans have grown up hearing stories about, but they don’t believe it actually exists. Jeslyn doesn’t either, until she’s brought there by Lucino.
And in the spirit of constructive criticism, here are some things that I think needed work:
1. Tilton’s writing is solid, and she’s on the right track, but some of her sentences are particularly awkward and strange and needed more editing, such as:
“The brush passed through my hair methodically.”
This definitely felt like a “first book” to me, and while I can see the author’s potential, it just wasn’t up to my standards of writing.
2. The character names had me scratching my head. I understand the need to come up with “fantasy” names to make your story feel exotic, but I stumbled over most of the names in this book, over and over again. Avikar, Lucino and Tarrtainya all stopped me in my tracks, for some reason. More perplexing to me was that in the midst of these fantastical names, a few of the characters were named “Martha” and “Susie.” Huh?
3. The horrifyingly old-fashioned, downtrodden, and abused female characters that saturated this story. As a (yes, I’ll admit it) feminist, I’m always on the lookout for strong female characters. It’s almost a given these days, at least in YA literature, that your female lead needs to be strong. But the women in Broken Forest were mostly weak. Jeslyn, our “heroine,” fainted so many times I lost count. Instead of being enraged by being kidnapped and taken to another world, where she will be forced to marry the leader, she meekly accepts her fate, gushes about the wonders of Daath—the flowers! the animals! the beauty!—and (gasp) starts to fall in love with the enemy. Only one female character avoided this trap, sort of, and that was a plucky girl named Raven who, despite her pluck, starts to fall for Avikar.
4. The unexplained “reptilian race” that Lucino is part of. I know, I know, up there I said I liked the mystery. But it was also frustrating that Lucino kept referring to himself as able to change into his reptile form, but we never really get to see that happen. (At least I don’t remember it.)
There was so much more I wanted to know about the characters and the world that Tilton created, and I’m sure she has much more in store for readers in the second book. Whether or not I will read the next installment is still up for debate. Unless Tilton’s female characters take a giant leap forward, I’m not sure I’ll be there for the ride.
I want to thank the author for supplying a review copy.
You can find Broken Forest here: