Thursday, August 22, 2013

ARC REVIEW: RELIC (Renee Collins)

Title & Author: RELIC by Renee Collins

Genre: YA Fantasy Western

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: August 27th 2013

Source: eARC provided for an honest review

After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive best she can in the Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries.

Working in a local saloon, Maggie befriends the spirited showgirl Adelaide and falls for the roguish cowboy Landon. But when she proves to have a particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to the glamorous hacienda of Álvar Castilla, the wealthy young relic baron who runs Burning Mesa. Though his intentions aren’t always clear, Álvar trains Maggie in the world of relic magic. But when the mysterious fires reappear in their neighboring towns, Maggie must discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it’s too late.

Sixteen-year-old farmgirl plays a dangerous game with expensive people and their shiny, shiny relics. Did I mention the shiny relics?

First off, I want to say how much I LOVE the magic system Renee Collins has created in this world. As someone with a fascination for shiny new toys in the fantasy game, I deeply appreciated the vivid worldbuilding encapsulated in these glittering pieces of bone. I finished the book half-convinced that relics were, in fact, real, and very nearly able to feel one lying heavy around my very own neck. I also enjoyed the Wild West setting of the story, something I haven't seen much of in the fantasy genre.

That said, I found that the rest of book fell a little flat. I had a little difficulty connecting with Maggie, the main character, although I did enjoy her distinctly Western storytelling voice. I took a loooong time warming up to Landon, her love interest -- to the point that I found myself hoping he was just a stepping stone on the way to someone else. And the plot, well, it wasn't a page-turner for me, but the fascinating magic system and general enjoyability of the book means I'll be reading the sequel if there is one.

Maggie works in a saloon that doubles as a brothel, although she's firm about staying OUT of that part of the business. Characters kiss in what Maggie calls 'a most indecent way', and there's one scene involving a sort of MIND CONTROL that ... ahem ... is not something I'd give a twelve-year-old. (Although that scene is ended by what might be Landon's best behavior in the book. So yay for that.)

I rate this book an evening huddled around a smoky campfire, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories while roaming packs of coyotes howl at ... whatever it is that coyotes howl at. Assuming that coyotes howl. Which maybe they don't.

Clearly I'm not the one writing a Western.