A review by Nalini Haynes
The short version
Awaken follows Abandon (book one) and Underworld (book two). Usually I recommend at least reading my previous reviews of a trilogy to avoid spoilers but this novel is different: ignore what I said previously. There are some flaws in the previous books but overall I thought they were enjoyable, light reads with archetypal mythology interwoven, an overall win. However, Awaken seems to suffer from first-draftitis, that fatal flaw when an author rushes to meet a deadline and the editor is too busy or overawed with the author’s status to actually edit the damn book. Awaken has so many holes, you could drain your spaghetti.
Sitting down to dinner after finishing Awaken, I entertained my partner with my ranting. He laughed, commenting that some authors would be jealous that I had so much time and energy to expound upon the details of this novel. Hmm.
Only read this book if you enjoy pulp YA romances or you’re a die-hard Meg Cabot fan.
The longer, very spoilery version
Detailed criticism of Awaken would take the equivalent of a novella so I’ll just touch on a few details to give you an overall impression; the previous reviews give context to the overarching story (Abandon (book one) and Underworld (book two)).
In the early novels Grandma was revealed as a Fury who tried to set her own daughter up with John Hayden (a modern Poseidon). The plan was for John to experience happiness then Grandma would take it away from him.
Because that worked so well with Persephone.
Trite and convoluted, this superficial idea works best with readers who have issues with their maternal forbears.
Grandma’s dastardly plot – providing a love interest – failed with her daughter but was successful with her granddaughter, Pierce. Then Grandma tries to kill Pierce, over and over. Can anyone say ‘melodrama’?
In book two, Pierce’s cousin Alex shifts from being a nice guy to an asshat who refuses to come home after Pierce, his MISSING-PRESUMED-DEAD cousin, returns to the fold like the prodigal daughter. Instead, Alex sits in the middle of a festival PLAYING WORLD OF WARCRAFT ON HIS PHONE. Sigh. Don’t get me started on the impossibility of this feat let alone the negative geek stereotype conveniently introduced in book two because PLOT.
Pierce has Alex delivered home safe and sound. So, knowing his cousin fears for his safety, Alex sneaks out to walk to the cemetery as you do when you know someone has just slashed your tyres.
Alex arrives at the bad guys’ mausoleum, finding the bad guys there, as they would be after midnight with an impending hurricane. Seth Rector has appeared to be a nice-ish guy up until now but suddenly he swirls his black cloak, revealing himself as the evil villain – dun dun DUNNNN – by stuffing Alex in an empty coffin to die. Because all mausoleums have empty airtight coffins on site, dontcha know.
Alex is brought back to life – no-one is quite sure how – to be taken to the Underworld with Pierce, John and company, who also take Kayla because she’s visible on the security cameras.
Yes. The mausoleum has security cameras. MONITORED security cameras. That would have revealed Alex’s murder (or attempted murder). But they don’t pursue that avenue as a defence, they run away instead.
In the Underworld things are getting out of hand; a fog covers the lake while ravens wheel overhead in increasingly dense flocks. The two ferries that take people across the lake to their destinations are coming at ramming speed so John and Pierce talk about it.
They kiss passionately.
They talk some more.
John wants Pierce to tell her she loves him but Pierce refuses.
John strips off his shirt and boots so they don’t get wet (and so Pierce can be distracted by his body) then dives in to the lake.
Someone freaks out only to be assured that JOHN DIDN’T EVEN GET WET, HE JUST BLINKED OVER TO THE CABIN OF ONE OF THE FERRIES. (He never had to ‘dive’ into the lake before.)
Those left on the dock talk some more.
Then they decide to evacuate to the castle.
BECAUSE THE FERRIES ARE STILL COMING AT SUPER-FAST RAMMING SPEED.
And, y’know, walking off the dock onto the beach isn’t an option.
The two ferries approach the docks at ramming speed; John acts to save Pierce. So he teleports to the cabin of the ferry aimed at the OTHER dock. John uses that ferry to ram the ferry aimed at Pierce. As you do.
John Hayden, a modern Poseidon, dies IN THE UNDERWORLD.
Queue death scene. This was one of the redeeming features of the novel because the descriptions of mourners’ behaviour spoke of personal experience. Somehow it lacked emotional weight; perhaps it was just me, because I expected John to be brought back to life as part of the climax and resolution.
Pierce, Kayla and a few others go to Kayla’s car, which has multiple parking tickets. Pierce comments that, with an impending hurricane, you’d think the cops would give her a break for parking on the wrong side of the street – they’re only allowed to park on one side of this street. (This car belongs to someone who is, presumably, a fugitive from the law, but it’s been left accumulating parking tickets.)
Kayla tries to start the car to flee Mr Mueller, who is possessed by a Fury. Kayla finds it difficult to reverse park out of her parking spot because she’s never been good at parallel parking. So. How many other cars are parked on the wrong side of this street?
Up until this point, Furies possess human bodies changing their personalities but the bodies remain human. If the Fury leaves the human body, the human regains consciousness and their own personality although possibly with some memory loss. Except now Mr Mueller turns into a literal monster. Because he’s a Fury.
People start talking about Thanatos, a minor Greek deity responsible for harvesting souls. Turns out that Thanatos is a real dude who’s kidnapped John’s soul, although we never find out how that feat was accomplished.
HE TIED JOHN’S SOUL UP and left John where John could see Pierce as if through an open door. Where John is almost driven mad through sensory deprivation from not being able to reach Pierce for a matter of hours.
While it may seem I’ve walked you through every plot hole conceivable in such a short novel, trust me, I HAVEN’T. These are only SOME of the plot holes in the first 60% of the novel. The character work is flawed with the world-building rules changing and characters rewritten two or three books in. Plot ‘twists’ occur with contrived, inadequate explanations shoe-horned into the story after the fact. Awaken is a deeply flawed novel suitable only for the avid reader of pulp romance.