Journey to Zlorta, Book 1
Heat Factor: There’s a fair amount of fantasy sizzle in here.
Character Chemistry: It was oddly flat, considering the fated mates/whoopie frequency
Plot: Sarah is kidnapped from her home after a foiled assault and brought beyond the Veil, where she learns that she is a key player in an attempted sort of magical coup, only she had no idea magic even existed.
Overall: This had so much potential but it just wasn’t fully formed.
*TW – attempted sexual assault.
Here we have the first book in a series, where the Heroine is unceremoniously yanked from her life mid-attempted rape and transported beyond the Veil with a Guardian vampire whose job is to protect her as she learns her immense magical power and saves everyone. But in the beginning, she’s an orphan, and she’s living a very bland life. I had high hopes here–she doesn’t know magic exists, she’s just kind of treading water. Here we go! Yes! Adventure! Power! Intrigue! And in fact, the whole first segment of the book where they are still in the real-world is ripe with detail and very visually satisfying. She’s just young! Her life is not exciting but it could be! She’s surely hiding so much potential!
Except that that’s pretty much her throughout the entire book. Every time something magical happens, Micheal the Guardian vampire (and yes, it is “Micheal” and not “Michael”–which is a pet peeve of mine, but that’s a personal problem) just kind of says, oh it’s a potion. Or, yeah, that’s magic. And our supposedly powerful Heroine nods in a very agreeable and docile way and does what she’s told. I kept expecting her to break free or show some moxie, but she just doesn’t. And I understand that this is the first book in a series and she hasn’t learned her magic yet, but there are just no bread crumbs indicating that this will change.
Even in her romantic encounters with Micheal, it feels very much like she’s kind of a sexual plaything. She’s innocent and the entire sexual vibe is her pretty much doing what she’s told. I understand that she is far less experienced compared to Micheal–but it’s frankly a bit off-putting in a way that kind of feels one-sided. She’s just generally passive to the point of being unrelatable. Even when she discovers that a person from her real world life who died is actually still alive and magic? Bland reaction. Where’s the betrayal for being lied to? Where’s the time necessary to process this information? Stages of grief?
I re-read a few passages to be sure I was reacting to this accurately and here’s where I think the problem is, because the author does say that Sarah is upset about things, or scared, or worried–this is a classic “show don’t tell” writing style that just isn’t as impactful. The author really doesn’t tease emotional scenes in a way where the reader can sink into the environment and empathize with the characters, so even though the author is clearly spelling everything out for you it just doesn’t stick.
For Sarah the Heroine, we really do need to see what she’s thinking and feeling, or we just won’t be emotionally invested in her. For Micheal, he’s spellbound not to reveal Sarah’s backstory–he has to wait until the book is really far along to share this information. The benefit is that we do actually find ourselves somewhat invested in him as an individual because we see so much of his backstory, but beyond “they’re fated mates” we don’t actually see Sarah and Micheal fall in love. It just seems to happen. Plus, there’s a sex scene involving groaning right before a scene where Micheal meets Sarah as an infant and he groans in a totally not sexual way–and while I completely understand that he’s a vampire and so the age thing shouldn’t be a problem, and it should have been totally innocent, it was just kind of viscerally off-putting. Put that with the way Micheal kind of head-pats Sarah and teases her in kind of a “silly you” kind of way and it just feels like the power dynamic there is off and it’s not sexy. She’s a future queen, and he’s her guardian. I would have expected to see more dignity and respect–maybe a struggle because of how naive and innocent she is? I don’t know, it just felt…off.
I actually stand by my initial assessment–this book absolutely does have a lot of potential. It just felt like the author put a lot of time into planning out a super cool plot and it just needs a little more time cooking.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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