Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Author: Gena Showalter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
By this point in the Intertwined series, you either love it or you hate it. Put this reviewer in the former camp, but I am well aware that it's not for everybody. In reviewing the previous two books, I noted the randomness of the plot, the way it picks up and drops plotlines at random, and the occasional out-of-character moments. I also noted that, on the whole, the books rise above that by being unique, unpredictable, and plain old fun. Book three more or less stays the course in that respect, serving up a fun little read, albeit not exactly thought-provoking.
At the end of Unraveled, Elijah's prediction of doom came true when Tucker -- under Vlad's mental domination -- stabbed Aden to death in a dark alley. Victoria tried to save Aden by turning him into a vampire, but things went screwy. Aden survived, but Victoria's beast -- the physical manifestation of her vampirism -- wound up in him, while the souls bonded to Aden wound up in Victoria's head. Twisted opens with the two of them convalescing in a dank cave, oscillating between feeding, sleeping, and wanting to tear each other apart. Eventually, Aden recovers and returns to the vampire mansion to take his throne, but he's a changed man, with a new and strange darkness in his soul. Victoria, too, has changed, feeling weaker and more human for her ordeal. Meanwhile, Mary Ann has run away, fearful that her life-draining powers will bring tragedy on her friends. Heartbroken, Riley leaves the mansion to track her down. Unbeknownst to the young werewolf, Mary Ann has joined forces with Tucker, who's trying to resist Vlad's influence and needs her power-nullifying ability to keep him sane. Having nothing much else to do, the odd couple is researching Aden's past, trying to dig up clues to the identities of the souls inside him. As various adventures ensue, Vlad lurks in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to reclaim his throne and cast down his enemies.
I was done with this book a week ago, but due to various dramas it took me this long to finish the review. In the intervening time the ideas I intended to put on paper had eroded away into a list of bullet points, which is what you get:
1) First and foremost, If you liked the last two books, you'll like this one. Period. It still has likeable characters, a compelling if somewhat random plot, and the savvy not to take itself too seriously. Thumbs up despite the problems illuminated below.
2) Showalter has got to get a handle on these characters already. While it's been a while since I read Unraveled, both Aden and Victoria are much different than I remember. This is justified pretty well, but it still jars. These are not the people I've been following for two books.
3) Tucker has been given a bigger and more important role. This is good. What's not good is that he seems to be locked in what TVTropes calls the "Heel/Face Revolving Door": he flips back and forth between tortured snarker in need of atonement and pure evil. Yes, I know he's supposed to be struggling with both his demon half and Vlad's mind-control, but it feels more like he's two characters compressed into one, which isn't the case.
4) Sorin, Victoria's brother, is badly handled. First he's bald-facedly retconned into existence, then after we've gotten to know him a bit he changes rather abruptly from vicious enemy to cheerful and loyal ally.
5) On the bright side, the plot structure has improved significantly. Instead of jumping back and forth between storylines, we follow one at a time until it's done and then start the next. This works a lot better, lending the book the feel of an episodic TV series rather than the mish-mosh of subplots that the previous books entailed.
6) The writing is also very strong, with brisk pacing and punchy dialog. Fights and (PG-rated) love scenes are also very well crafted.
7) The ending stinks. The final arc plays out far more subdued than it should for what goes down, then after it's over, we have fifty pages of cleanup between there and the back cover. Not too bad, but then in the last twenty pages no less than three different characters act absurdly out-of-character for the sole purpose of setting up a edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger. It doesn't work. It comes off like a pointless screwjob on the cast.
So to sum up: A popcorn read, but a good one. Not likely to change anyone's outlook on the world, but good, solid entertainment. Read and enjoy.