Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: "Wicked" by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Spoilers won't show up until after the jump. :)

I have this weird relationship with Jennifer L. Armentrout's books. I can never stop myself from reading them, and the only book she's written that I couldn't handle was her "Stone Cold Touch" series (I read a few chapters, and had to put it down), but this isn't a review of that series. I just want to have full disclosure here--I'm weird when it comes to her. I keep reading because her books draw you in, they're exciting, and they're easy. My biggest complaint is is that I feel her books all follow the same exact plot, and that the entire plot is revealed in the last chapter of the book to keep the ready purchasing books. Cliffhangers are one thing, but dragging out narrative only to put the entirety of the action in the last chapter feels cheap.

Also, full disclosure, I don't read a lot of NA. I'm a mild prude--I also hate discussing sexual things, generally, and if my account weren't so distanced from my real name, a lot of this review wouldn't be happening.

But I was looking forward to "Wicked," a New Adult supernatural novel that follows twenty-two year old Ivy. Ivy hunts fae for a secret organization known as The Order in New Orleans. She was born into this organization, as were all of the other members. Four years prior to the book, Ivy's parents and first love (Shaun) were killed by fae. (Side note: my husband's name is Shaun--spelled the same way, which is a rare find, and when I told him about the coincidence his response was, "I can promise you one thing, I will never be murdered by fairies.")

The fae that Armentrout has brought into this world are closer to vampires than most would imagine fairies, however, she does address that in a tongue in cheek way throughout. These fae "feed" on the essence of humans, and can kill them with a blood poisoning, etc. They also use glamours and compulsion. Armentrout doesn't limit herself to the fae mythology, and there are other auxiliary supernatural characters--namely Tink, a pixie-type side kick of Ivy's. He's a fan favorite, and most people I've discussed the book with remember him as a key character.

The cusp of the novel is the romance that develops between Ivy and Ren. Ren is, of course, a textbook sex god--complete with many references to his abs, and swoon-worthy speeches about feelings and innocence. I'm a sucker for any ship that sets sail with the couple hating each other, so when this one initially started that way, I was excited, but after a while I was unimpressed.

The gist of the story, without spoilers, is that Ren has been transferred to Ivy's region of The Order, but they stumble upon a conspiracy that involves worse than normal fae with apocalyptic consequences. There are a lot of secrets and double takes, and some pretty predictable twists.

Overall, I grew frustrated with this book (the way I do with a lot of Armentrout's writing, as I previously discussed). I will admit that my main point of concern--that the plot is missing until the last twenty or so pages, did not hold true for this novel. The plot points are spaced well and keep the action moving. The frustration came from some competing characterizations and actions, and with the romantic plot.

I am going to discuss some examples of this, they aren't necessarily spoilers for the main plot of the story (because you know that Ren and Ivy are going to become an item), but be warned. Let's call them Diet Spoilers (aspartame free!):

  • Ivy's boyfriend Shaun was killed four years ago, when Ivy was approximately eighteen, and depending on the chapter, they were sexually active. Ivy has a seen of...self pleasure, where she discusses how she misses his touch, and the orgasm, and so on. Later, after her first encounter sexually with Ren, she says something to the effect of it being her "first orgasm that wasn't self-handled." But then we find out that Shaun and Ivy only had sex one time. Now, what eighteen year old do you know that can pull off intense orgasms in the first and only sexual encounter? I know exactly zero. 
  • The same goes for how much Ivy misses her high school boyfriend, and how often he comes up. It was annoying after a while. We actually heard more distress about Shaun being killed than her adoptive parents...who raised her...or her real parents. I mean, Shaun=most important person apparently. This was particularly awful given how little detail we have about anyone at all. There are no details about Shaun, no memories. Nothing. Hell, we don't even find out Ivy's last name until about 75% of the way through the book! The lack of detail really hurt the story for me. 
  • Ren's character fluctuated between being cocky, to being emo (which is fine, really, I like that), but in off kilter ways. For example, he places Ivy on a pedestal of beauty, consistently talking about how he isn't worthy, etc. but then would say things like, "let me tell you how this works with me" or treat her like a complete damsel in distress other times. See, I like a protector, especially for kick ass heroines like Ivy, but to chastise and command and then switch to being less than was confusing. 
In the end, I would give this book TWO AND A HALF STARS. 

I want to add a little side note here as well--as stated, I'm a bit of a prude, I'm also 25. I'm never ashamed to read YA, but I am ashamed to read things that look like cheesy romance novels. The cover for "Wicked," while gorgeous, is exactly what I'm afraid to read in public. This isn't necessarily always bad--for example, I ADORE the Vampire Academy series, but the original covers were embarrassing. Just saying. 

More details and spoilers after the jump. 

Ok, this is a spoiler zone. You have been warned. 

This book barely held my attention unless the scene revolved around Ren and Ivy. Armentrout would have been better off doing away with the entire Ancients/Halfling/conspiracy story line and just made them fae hunters who start a relationship. Oh wait! That exists! It's called the Half-Blood series! Until it too went off the rails, deep into poorly written, disconnected mythology. 

In fact, that is the best way to describe this entire book--disconnected. There was a serious lack of consistency throughout--characters, plot, mythology, and romance. 

Another example of this was the awkwardness with which romantic scenes would start. You always knew they were about to get hot and heavy because Ren would "look through his lashes" at Ivy. Almost every time, the scene felt forced. I don't judge anyone's writing process, but it felt like the author wrote generic sex scenes and then just interspersed them throughout the action. They didn't feel organic or real, and because of that, it made (an already hesitant) me, feel that I was looking in on characters I didn't know and couldn't connect with. 

I hated Val, another disconnected portion of this novel. She is supposed to be this trustworthy best friend, but in the end, I felt like she was a mean girl-esque hussy (to use Merle's term). The constant sexual flaunting and never discussing with Ivy made me roll my eyes. I get she was supposed to be the sassy best friend, but she was just sassy, and the caring qualities went to JoAnn. Armentrout didn't really need both of these characters. She already had the sass and sex with Tink, she could have focused on normal JoAnn, or sassy, with a hidden sweet side Val. Too many sidekicks. 

And, if you didn't understand that the entire purpose of Val was that she was the mole within The Order, then we can't be friends. Because it was so glaringly obvious, that I almost stopped reading. Also, I was quite frustrated that Ivy turns out to be the Halfling, because the premise had been suggested, and then dismissed consistently. It's one thing to cause speculation, or leave an opening, but to outright lie to a reader so that a sex scene isn't interrupted is something else.

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