Author: Jason N. Smith
Publisher: Mascot Books
Pages/Word Count: 304 Pages
At a Glance: Despite its fairly hefty problems, Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy is an interesting story.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Addy and Ethan are the best of friends, who happen to be cousins, and who live in the outskirts of the town of Salem, MA. The beginning of their senior year is rocked by the brutal ritualistic murder of two twins in the woods near their homes and the Achachak River. At a school assembly concerning the horrible murders, Addy suffers a seizure and falls into a coma. Her best friend and cousin struggles to find a way to help her while struggling with his own identity in the face of pressure from those around him and the strange dreams and experiences he keeps having.
Review: Jason N. Smith’s debut novel is a daring undertaking to say the least. Presented with multiple points of view that are often tossed back and forth with dizzying speed, the story, nonetheless, is a good one. Unfortunately, the overly flowery and stilted language, particularly by teen characters, makes this story a hard one to always follow. However, before I delve into what worked and what failed to make its mark, I must say that the plotline itself was interesting and, at its base, new and refreshing.
In brief, the story revolves around two cousins who are not all they seem. There is, in fact, a dark past that surrounds them both and ties them together. As two fatal slayings rock the small Salem town in which they live, powers long dormant and a destiny preordained will propel Addy and Ethan into a tailspin of catastrophic proportions. A long lost mother whose witchy powers embrace all that is evil is intent on retrieving the two children who had been ripped from her at birth. Immediately exiled after as a punishment for breaking the basic rules, which maintain the careful balance between god and evil, Arabella is trapped between worlds. But her followers have enabled her to finally breach the cell holding her, and she has returned to earth with a vengeance, wreaking death and turmoil in her wake.
Now Ethan and Addy are in a race to discover their own rich powers, and somehow find a safe haven in which to learn and grow into their abilities. But the question remains as to whom they can actually trust, for each step toward safe ground is rife with betrayal and danger. Will the two teens discover their power in time to stop Arabella from snatching them up and using their gifts to further her own evil domination?
What my bare bones synopsis does not tell you is the incredible layers of background given about the various ancestries and histories of past generations that bring the reader to understand what is happening in the present day. Because the author opted to skip around in laying down this ancestral groundwork, there is a real sense of confusion as each new chapter unfolds in this lengthy novel. First, it is not apparent who is telling the story due to the fact that almost every chapter is narrated by someone different from the previous. Also, we skip about in time from the present day to several hundred years in the past, making it truly difficult to assimilate all the history being given. The switching point of view is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this story. I found myself needing to go back and reread a few pages at times after I had finally figured out who was narrating. However, once I got the abrupt transition, the rest of the chapter flowed well and the chapters tied together, never losing the basic vein of the plot.
There were times—particularly late in the novel—when the language usage became less stilted and more age appropriate. Often I felt the teen “voice” was so formal and out of sync. Whether due to a lack of contractions (did not rather than didn’t, for instance) or the overly flowery and highbrow word usage, Addy and Ethan rarely sounded their age. In fact, there were many times when I stumbled over the lengthy descriptive passages and the way the inner thought patterns of the two teens seemed to come over more like a Victorian gothic novel rather than a modern day paranormal story.
Unfortunately, this dated language was also coupled with a retelling of something that had already been explained or experienced by a previous narrator. Basically what began to happen was one character would suss out a key fact and assimilate it completely, and then, in the next chapter, regurgitate the exact experience in order to explain it to another character. I felt some good editing should have caught this pattern that, in my opinion, really slowed the overall pacing of the story.
However, despite these fairly hefty problems, there was, at its heart, the making of a really good story here. The latter third of this novel moved very swiftly and introduced a new coven that had other young adults whose interactions were much more contemporary and fit the character’s age and background. These last few chapters is where this author hit his stride and that makes me eager to watch for future stories that hopefully will have cleaner editing and a less chaotic format of delivery.
At its core, Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy by Jason N. Smith was an interesting story. I do believe this is an author to watch. He definitely has a gift for weaving dramatic and intriguing ideas into a richly detailed plot. I think with a healthy dose of self-editing and more relaxed dialogue we could see some fascinating stories by this author in the future.
You can buy Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy here: