Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Harbinger



HarbingerHarbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


”Whether you know it or not, each one of you is at a critical turning point. If you are willing, there is still time to turn back from the terminal paths you have chosen. But Holbrook is your last chance. In the peace of these woods, we can lead you back to society, show you how to assimilate, nurture appropriate behavior. But if you turn your back on this final opportunity, the rest of the world will not be so kind.”

Well, they weren’t exactly kind either. Faye Robson has been fighting with visions and nightmares for years. Instead of trying to find ways to help her at home, or simply listen to her, her father brought her to Holbrook Academy, a glorified mental institution, and just left her in the not-so-gentle hands of Dr. Murdoch. At Holbrook, Dr. Murdoch maintains order with the help of her vicious Caretakers, armed with Tasers and pepper spray. They punish and degrade students at the slightest provocation, but Faye’s group is targeted even more often than the others, and something is happening to them at night while they’re under the influence of sleeping pills.

There are authors who write descriptively and atmospherically like it’s the easiest thing in the world because it comes naturally to them, and some of those authors are among my favorites. However, there are also authors who’d like to belong to that group but can’t quite pull it off. Sarah Wilson Etienne is one of them. Her prose screams that she was trying too hard. I’m not sure what she was aiming to accomplish with the first three or four chapters of Harbinger, but I can tell you that she failed spectacularly. As much as she tried to make her descriptions of Holbrook and the surrounding woods stunning and memorable, her sentences simply lack colorfulness and depth. She doesn’t even have a distinctive style like Tahereh Mafi, for example. (Hey, you can like Mafi or not, but you can’t deny that her writing is different.) As far as I can tell, she tried to find her voice and failed.

The worldbuilding was also a mess. (Wow, I’m being especially eloquent today.) In the not-so-distant future, people don’t live in cities anymore, they are organized in Cooperatives. What are these Cooperatives? Who runs them? If not in the big cities, where do they live? What caused the society to move and reorganize in such a radical way? Etienne mentions something about oil, and then around 25% she mentions Peak War, but the real explanation doesn’t come until later, and even then it’s a lot of telling and no showing, and I just couldn’t see the point. Why would she set her story in a dystopian world if she wasn’t going to develop it properly? Halbrook Academy could have existed in today’s world with a few minor adjustments. In fact, that would have been so much better because the focus needed to remain on the institution alone. I really don’t see the point of throwing your characters in a world that you leave unexplained until the very end. Bits and pieces of information were thrown in randomly, but it was too little and much too late.
The second part of the book was even more confusing and it showed that an excess of ambition can be a very dangerous thing indeed. I’m sure the story about the Red Paint People sounded fascinating in theory, but the end result was confusing and… well, I was trying not to use the word terrible, but it seems that I have no choice. It was a disaster.

In case all this wasn’t enough to keep you away, there’s also the small matter of instalove. Faye and Kel meet and they instantly know that they’re special to each other. Her powers work differently on him and he isn’t at all uncomfortable around her like everyone else seems to be. At one point, she suspects him of spying, but she’s drawn to him nevertheless. She doesn’t really trust him or confide in him, but of course he’s gorgeous so they must be made for each other.

In my opinion, Harbinger isn’t worth your time. If it were a self-published book, I’d say it’s one of those that gives self-publishing a bad name. I struggled to finish it, and I had trouble keeping up with the abrupt changes in pacing. Sarah Wilson Etienne has great imagination, but her writing needs more work.




22 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm sad. That cover is so different and striking!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much. I'm so glad someone else did not like this book even more than I did!

    Harbinger is definitely not worth the time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Now I don't feel so bad for putting this off. I wasn't intrigued to begin with and your review solidifies my belief that this book seriously would not be good for me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad I didn't pick this one off the shelf. It's the covers that get me all the time! The gorgeous aura they give off tends to hide the misleading story within. Thank you for the review, and sorry to hear that you didn't like it and was a waste of time. Hopefully your next book will lift your spirits.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I borrowed this book from a friend and still haven't gotten round to it. Maybe that's a good thing for now. It's a shame this didn't do it for you Maja! Good world-building is pretty essential to a story like this, and it's too bad you don't think the author managed to pull it off well enough.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, guess I will pass on this one. I am glad I am not the only always complaining about lack of detail in world building. It is so frustrating. I will pass on the insta love too. Thanks for the honest review Maja!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have seen so many mixed review of this book. I haven't really decided if I'm going to read it or not. Thanks for the honest review....

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sigh. Another case of worldbuilding-lite. Thanks for the review, Maja.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, that sounds absolutely awful. :( I hate when that happens. Brilliant review as ever though Maja. I'll be skipping this one this year.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I avoid instalove books like the plague these days, but I was never all that intrigued by this book in the first place. Like Kate said above, I've seen a LOT of mixed reviews. It seems like people either love it or really don't like it, and not a lot of opinions are falling in the middle. Oh well. Not every book is for everyone!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow. Too bad you didn't like it, but great review. I'll definitely avoid this one in the future, as bad writing and instalove annoy the crap out of me. The worldbuilding sounds like it could have been intriguing, but wasn't really supported, which is too bad. Whenever I read these kinds of books I just wonder what the beta readers and the editor were thinking. But I appreciate the warning, and I hope you enjoy your next read a lot more.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Get ready, because I'm going to dazzle you with my eloquence skills and say, Bum Deal! If I had no interest in reading this book before simply because I dislike the cover, then you've just sealed the deal. LOL

    I think my biggest issue would have been with the lacking world building. I hate it when a dystopian society can't hold it's ground, more than I hate instalove. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts in another amusing review, Maja. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I know what you mean about this book, Maja! :( I started reading it the other day but just couldn't get into it -- you definitely have more perseverance than me! x) The writing and strange world-building got to me too, and I only just saw the insta-love when I decided to maybe get back to it later haha. I'm really sorry that you couldn't like this book either! Not everybody can be a Tahereh Mafi, right? ;)

    Still, thank you so much for the amazing honest review, Maja! <3 You just made me feel much better for not enjoying this book that much when a bunch of my friends have! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for the review, Maja.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Steering way clear from this one. To be honest, I didn't know it was dystopian because, as you said, the whole concept of the visions and academy could work just as spiffy in the real, current world. As a rule of thumb, dystopias are not my thing. Poorly done ones give me a rash. Mental institutions are generally frowned upon in my book, too. And let's not even get started in absurd insta-love (I might be able to forgive it if f the chemistry really is there and it's not crucial to the plot or the character's decisions, but... this is just too much).

    So, thanks for another wonderful, honest review... And double thanks for the warning! :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great, honest review, Maja. This is a book that hasn't appealed to me, I don't like the cover and never bothered to read the blurb and I'm glad I didn't add it to my to-read list because now I've read your take on it and it sounds disappointing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The cover is lovely, but I think I'll pass because of the flimsy world-building. I was looking forward to this, but oh well:( Thanks for the review, Maja.

    ReplyDelete
  18. So sad you didn't like this. I know exactly what you mean about authors who try a little too hard. I really dislike where the writing gets in the way of the enjoyment of the book. I find it's more disruptive when the writing tries to be too literary (I'm thinking of Chime) than when it's just plain bad (Twilight).

    ReplyDelete
  19. WHAT? This sounded SO GOOD! And I already bought a copy! Why do I do that before reading your reviews!? Haha. Really though it's disappointing it has a great premise but to me world building is the biggest thing. Well, maybe I'll wait on this one. Thanks for the warning Maja! <3 your face!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Eeeek, I'll have to take this off my TBR! Sorry you didn't care for it Maja. :(

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh, it's too bad that you didn't enjoy this book, Maja! The premise is really good anyway, and the cover is so pretty. Actually I didn't even realize that it's a Dystopian! The whole idea of mental institute kind of reminds me with Darkest Power series by Kelley Armstrong. It sets on current world and I can understand your frustration that if the story will be focused on the academy, what's the point of Dystopian world?

    Haha, I smiled when I read the insta-love part. 'he’s gorgeous so they must be made for each other.' I really don't understand why heroines in YA keep thinking that since he's cute and gorgeous and everything, they are still hopelessly drawn to him even though they can't trust him. Talk about self control. Well... teenager surely don't have much. ;) Thanks for the honest review, Maja! Awesome and full of details like always. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm very on the fence about this book. People are basically going from one end to the other on this one. I just don't know what to think.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for stopping by and commenting. If you're a fellow blogger, I'll visit and return the favor as soon as possible. If your're using Google+ to comment, please make sure that your blog link is clearly visible on your profile.

Unfortunately, this is now an award and tag free blog, but I do thank you for your consideration.