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Coiled Kindle Edition
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Oh boy. Okay, so I had the hardest time deciding how to rate this book because I had so many differing thoughts about it. I finished it last night but needed some time to organize my thoughts.
First of all, Coiled was the first (I believe) romance novel I've read. Romance is not a genre that I've ever found appealing, but Coiled drew my attention through its fantasy-based setting and premise.
Let me also point out that the writing itself was professional. Were my rating based on style/voice alone, this would have easily been 4-5 full stars.
Here are some of the aspects of Coiled that I enjoyed/appreciated the most:
-Laidra as a protagonist evokes a very tangible sense of empathy. Not only that, but she's a complex, relatable character that doesn't rely on physical prowess or a haughty nature to be "strong", something I detest about current trends.
- The overarching themes/messages are convicting without being preachy, and they're lessons I think a LOT more YA books need to be instilling in young readers. Emphasis on the word 'overarching'. More on that later.
- The bickering between the demi-gods (is that the right term?) towards the end got pretty entertaining.
- I wasn't familiar with the Greek mythos behind this story, but I feel like the plot stands on its own. For a guy who generally avoids romance novels AND retellings like jalapeños on a summer day, the fact that I genuinely enjoyed this book--which is both--says something about the story's strength.
- I really appreciated the fact that most of the antagonists ended up with varying degrees of redemption. A refreshing change from the average BAD GUY LOSE AND GO BOOM.
I did, however, have a few problems:
- Some of the moments that could have had a lot of emotional impact ((view spoiler)) and the affected characters' reactions to those moments felt glossed over. I felt they needed to slow down and really develop those moments to maximize that impact. They weren't bad at all, just...I was left wishing for more punch, I guess.
- For a book that markets itself as clean YA (and given what little I know about the author's background), there was quite a bit of material that honestly made me uncomfortable. Naked characters (because of plot reasons), frequent and casual mentions of physical intimacy, drawn-out perversion in the case of some characters, and multiple instances of extended physical interaction with clear sexual implications between characters who barely know each other at first (again, for plot reasons) kept catching me off guard because the overall tone and "feel" of the book is based on genuine, clean/pure relationships. Never anything graphic or explicit, but it kind of felt like opposing magnets trying to coexist in the same space. This was my main issue with the book and the biggest reason why I didn't give it 4 stars. Because, again, it's marketed as a clean read for young audiences, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it to Christ-centered teens (which, as far as I can tell, are the primary intended target audience) despite its solid and valuable overall message.
- On a less significant note (sorry, that last point really got me going!), I don't think the Greek mythology and the vague/subtle Christian worldview meshed as well as the author probably meant them to. It wasn't a prominent enough factor to make a huge difference for me, though. I just wish the author had chosen one or the other, and for this specific story, I think the mythology had more going for it for obvious reasons.
- On an even less significant note, the magic (supernatural power?) was too ambiguous for me to really appreciate it. I didn't really understand the curses, or how they worked, until the very end. Moreover, Zephia's pendant/jewel thingy made no sense to me. It seemed to function based on plot convenience with little to no explanation of what it actually is or why it does what it does.
All that being said, please take this review with the following grains of salt:
-I'm not a romance genre reader. Never have been, never will be.
-I'm a pessimist, and I'm picky when it comes to books.
-I brought up these points not to be a party-pooper, but because I valued the book enough to put careful thought behind my review/discussion and the matters I thought were important.
- I DID ENJOY READING THIS STORY OVERALL! It definitely has a lot of strengths and very human, relatable, and LIKEABLE characters. H.L. Burke is unquestionably a talented writer and story-teller, and I envy her ability to create such well-rounded protagonists.
A twist on Eros and Psyche, the story of Laidra and Calen is at times heartbreaking, heartwarming, and full of intrigue, adventure, and even an Olympian-style quest.
Laidra is cursed with hideousness that worsens whenever she heals someone, while Calen is cursed with the incredibly debilitating–and rather inconvenient to say the least–problem of turning into a giant snake when he is seen by another person.
There’s beautiful symmetry with the two curses, and ugly humanity rears its head in different ways when their respective families are confronted with just how to handle their cursed children.
I enjoyed this read from beginning to end, and though I thought I could see where it was going one moment, was pleasantly surprised by each turn of events. I thought the tale was expertly woven, and–importantly for me–no cringe-worthy romance: I loved watching Laidra and Calen’s relationship develop right from the start.
Burke’s characters always have real depth to them, especially in this book. Even the gods and demi-gods, though by definition are stuck within a certain role, each has quite a personality and lends their voice to the story. I always love the humanization of mythological gods. On the side of a vase the gods look all perfect and pristine, but when they get involved with mortals, they’re squabbling and plotting right down in there.
I would highly recommend for a pleasant YA read that will give you a good adventure, love, curses, intrigue, and even a magical beast or two! I read an advanced copy and was happy to review it!
Coiled, releasing in just a few short weeks, is another amazing tale from an awesome writer.
This book is a retelling of Eros and Psyche wrapped in coils upon coils of Burke's own special touches. Laidra is a princess cursed with ugliness--Calen is a prince cursed to become a snake if he is gazed upon. Together, they might find a happiness neither thought possible.
I loved watching Laidra's and Calen's relationship develop and was rooting for them from the start--and rooting for their tormentors to get their just desserts. Though I would have liked a little more at the end with them and their families, ultimately this story is about two hurt souls finding a way to heal together, and in that respect, Coiled is as shiny as the scales on a freshly bathed snake.
I highly recommend this to readers who love retellings of myths, romance, and snakes. Even if you don't like snakes, give Calen a chance--he's a big softy at heart, I swear.
I received an ARC copy of this book and chose to review it because I enjoyed it so much!