Series: Dance of the Elements #1
Author: A. M. Deese
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating: 3-3.5 out of 5 stars
This is a solid read. While I only gave it 3 stars (maybe 3.5) the reasons are not to do with plot, characters or world building. Instead it's the ending. Once you get to the end of the book you feel like you only read a prelude; not a full book. It's not that the page count is particularly short (however for fantasy it is) but more that the major plot points are not resolved AT ALL by the end. This really bothered me. Yes it will get me to read the second book but it annoys me as a reader and certainly is a huge part of why this is not a four star book.
Characters, Plot & World Building
A. M. Deese gives us characters that are all quite interesting. There is perhaps a bit of cliche and YA trope in many of them but overall I liked our lead gal. I felt compassion for her at times, and was overall cheering for her which is not always the case for me with female heroine YA books.
The sort-of romantic interest is an interesting set-up. In general the use of flirtations and feminine wile's (if you will) is exactly what one would expect the women to use in male-power society and Deese does a good job of keeping these in line with what a teenage girl (our lead gal) might know or do.
One of the major highlights for are chapters from Kay's POV. She is a younger child and her narrative is written perfectly. It feels just like the young girl is speaking to me the reader and telling me her reasons and side of the story. I adored this and couldn't help but feel like there was some true magic to Deese's ability to capture a child's thoughts and voice so well. Certainly all the characters felt like their own people but Kay's chapters really stood out to me.
The actual plot and world building of this fantasy novel are very intricate and well done. I love that water is the currency. It's going to be our future Earth currency one day (as prophesied by many sci-fi writers and scientists) and so it felt like the perfect type of trade currency. The intricate council politics and in-fighting of families is wonderfully done and feels like solid, political high fantasy to me.
Why is this YA?
This was an unusual read for me in that I wanted it to be adult fantasy and not YA. Not because I don't like YA; but because the plot, politics, hierarchy, fighting and other elements all felt like they would be amazing if written at a 'higher' level. That's not to say that YA books can't have these things (and should have them of course) but it just seemed like Deese had dumbed down some elements (like possible romances and narrative of our lead gal) in order to make it a YA book. When instead it could have easily been written at the adult level with the characters voices still representing their age. I'd be curious to know if Deese intended this to be a YA book initially or not. It seems to me that her writing style would be best served if it was elevated to a Sanderson, Martin, Goodkind level of fantasy storytelling. That said it is good reading for older teens or adults (like me!) that love YA.
A Bit Choppy
There were points in which the chapter swaps (including POV change) were a bit stilted. Now this may be because it appears my Kobo ARC was missing some pages that my Kindle app ARC was not... so forgive me in advance if this is not true in the final publication. There were times where I wanted more of a transition to remind me of who the next POV voice was. Especially near the beginning when a name wasn't necessarily enough to remind me of which character was which (there are a fair number of POVs in the book).
The biggest reason for my three stars is the sudden ending that really frustrated me.. I just wanted so much more! Now that may not seem like a bad thing; but this is such a cliffhanger with no major plot resolution and so it's not at all satisfying. It's not the kind of 'ahhh I learned things but now I want more' cliffhanger; and instead feels like it just ends in the middle of the climax. Maybe it's more that the ending is a bit rushed? I'm not sure but something about the end and it's drop off really took the enjoyment out of the whole book for me.
I am definitely going to watch for this series to continue and hope to read more from Deese. I think there is a great future in store for Deese and hope she continues to improve into the type of fantasy writing she seems to be headed towards.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.