Monday, December 5, 2011

Bound by Kira Saito

Title: Bound
Series: Arelia LaRue
Author: Kira Saito
Length:  3638 kindle units
Rating: 1.5 stars

The Plot

Arelia didn’t think that her ability to communicate with spirits would affect her summer job working for the wealthy LaPlante family at the mysterious Darkwood plantation. After all, her only goal is to make enough money to help her grandmother pay their ever-increasing rent. But Arelia soon has more to occupy her time than just managing the needs of the plantation’s guests. The LaPlantes have been under a curse for over a century and a half, and they have been searching for a voodoo queen with enough power to break the spell. Power very like that which Arelia has at her disposal.

The Good

I really liked the mythology behind this story. Voodoo is a relatively unexplored area in terms of young adult fiction, so the type of magic is fresh and interesting. I particularly liked the concept of the practitioners, referred to in this book as “voodoo queens,” asking and receiving favors from spirits. Many of the spirits presented in the book were like voodoo demi-gods, who formed an interesting kind of pantheon with power over the swamp. Other times, spirits were simply the souls of those who had died on the plantation long ago. Regardless of their power, Arelia could communicate with these spirits and bargain for favors or information.

Bound also had some very interesting minor characters in the Dumpty family who was staying at the plantation. The father was repulsive on several domains, and I grew very concerned for his liver. I also had a great deal of sympathy for his son Ben, although given his independent behavior and his parents’ neglect, I did wonder how he had survived to be ten years old.

The Bad

Unfortunately, though the concept of Bound was original, the execution was lacking. During my perusal of self-published literature, I have come to be forgiving of the occasional missing comma, but Bound has made me realize that other forms of punctuation -  in this case quotation marks – are truly necessary for comprehension.

Arelia’s mood changed so quickly and repeatedly over the course of the novel that I was eventually forced to conclude that she must have the most rapidly cycling bipolar disorder in the history of the disease. She constantly switches between believing in voodoo and not believing, between realizing she is being rude and going ahead and making a snotty comment, between wanting to learn about curses and spirits and being squigged out by graveyard dirt. I feel the scene that best illustrates this incomprehensible duality is when Ben is bitten by a poisonous snake. Arelia has insisted many times that she does not really believe in voodoo, yet she decides to try to heal the boy with her power. When her first attempts fail, she not only continues to try but refuses to allow Lucus to call 911. Fortunately, she is eventually successful in healing the boy, though the next day she goes right back to not believing in voodoo. If at any point she had a rational thought or action, it completely eluded me.

The Romance

For readers of paranormal YA fiction, it is a foregone conclusion that two people of opposite genders and at least average attractiveness, and who are of sufficient importance to the story, will have some kind of romance between them. Where Bound fails is in thinking that this is equally obvious to the characters and that they do not have to have a reason for falling in love. It doesn’t have to be a good reason, but it cannot be totally unfathomable that the people would have any attraction for one another.

I can honestly say that I have no idea why Lucus falls in love with Arelia. From the time that they meet, she is always either unconscionably rude to him or ignoring him altogether. I can believe that he would want her to stick around and help him with the pesky voodoo curse that he’s been living under, but there is really no explanation for any deeper attachment.

Will I Read More?

As is probably obvious from my aforementioned comments, I am not going to be reading any further in this series.

I mentioned in my review of Savor by Megan Duncan that I felt like I had only read half a book, and I have that same feeling with Bound. I realize that the authors are trying to create a series that a reader wants to come back to, and part of that is leaving some threads open for continuation. However, if you think of many of the best series – be it of novels or television shows – each individual novel or episode contains a plot in and of itself. The story has a rising action, which leads to some kind of climactic showdown – the basic story arc that we have all heard described in English class. If you’re trying to decide whether you are done with a novel, don’t look at the word count. Look at whether you have reached a climax and are back into falling action. If your characters are still at the gather-information stage of their quest, you probably aren’t anywhere near done.


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