by Suzanne Lazear
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
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Wish. Love. Desire. Live. Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock's hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer's eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.
The cover of Innocent Darkness called to the cover whore inside me and she immediately had to have it. I mean look at it~ in all of its steampunk fineries. As the first book in the Aether Chronicles, I went into this book expecting a steampunk novel with a fantasy twist. What I got was a young adult fantasy with a steampunk mention. I am noticing a trend in YA novels that seem to cross multiple genres and I am personally not happy about it. It waters down the genres and has me as a consumer leery about what I am actually buying. Despite my disappointment, I did enjoy this dark fantasy.
The tale begins in steampunk-gooey-goodness as we meet our protagonist Magnolia “Noli” Braddock. She and her friend V are working on her missing father’s flying car. They reside in an alternate version of Los Angeles in the year 1901. We quickly learn that Noli is perceived as a hoyden and has a knack for getting into trouble. When she takes the flying car for an unauthorized spin she is forced to attend a reform school in San Francisco. This is where the steampunk element ends, except for a few teasers here and there that felt thrown in. At the school, Noli tries to behave so she can be returned to her mother. The school is horrible with incredibly cruel punishments and a creepy staff. She befriends a girl named Charlotte, who would rather stay in this dreadful place then be returned to her uncle. When things get to be too much to bear Noli makes a wish to be “any place but here.” She wakes to find herself in the Otherworld. The tale that unfolds has elements of suspense, sexual tension, magic, fairies, and romance.
The characters in Lazear’s world are interesting but lacked depth. Noli is a brilliant child who tries to please her mother and has always had a crush on V. Her brilliance constantly competes with her maturity level and she wavered back and forth between them. She wasn’t developed enough for me and some of her actions were annoying. V adores Noli and has secrets, lots of secrets. Kevighn Silver is the huntsman for the Queen. He is sent from the Otherworld to find a young woman with the spark. While on his quests he indulges in hired woman and opium. There is something a little sick about Kevighn and he gave me the creeps. The path the author leads him on never really worked for me. Both V and Kevighn love Noli and I feared the dreaded love triangle. Noli did choose but the loser is not satisfied. The Queen was interesting and kind of reminded me of the queens from Alice in Wonderland and Snow White. I like Charlotte and my heart tugged for her. Overall these characters were unique but underdeveloped.
The world-building was both exciting and disappointing. I really enjoyed the backstory and the altered concept of 1901. Sadly this altered version of 1901 was not completely believable. Language, settings, and circumstances didn’t quite jive with me. Lazear’s description of the Otherworld and how both worlds are kept in balance was both creepy and original. I loved this world and wanted to know more. The Fae world and its rules while not new were nicely depicted.The pace flowed nicely with highs and lows. There are two climatic scenes towards the end. One was very predictable and the other while not unexpected was filled with tension and excitement. While this novel had its flaws I still enjoyed it and will give this series a chance to redeem itself in book two.
This novel had the potential to be so much more. Fans of fantasy and the Fae will enjoy Innocent Darkness, while fans expecting a steampunk series will be greatly disappointed. The cover and the tale do not match and despite my disappointment, this was an easy, light, enjoyable read. This could have easily earned, a five cups of coffee rating, had it focused more on the fantasy aspect and added more depth and detail. The next book in the series has yet to be titled and has an expected publication date of 2013.
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