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Awakenings Hardcover – 17 Oct 2011

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Edward Lazellari is a talent to watch with high expectations.--Ben Bova, six-time Hugo Award Winner

About the Author

EDWARD LAZELLARI has worked as an illustrator and graphic artist, doing projects for Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, and Jim Henson Productions. His short story, "The Date," won "Playboy "magazine's prestigious college fiction contest in 1999. Lazellari lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. "Awakenings "is his first novel.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 32 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Decent fantasy but stops right in the middle of the story 30 Aug. 2011
By Karissa Eckert - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I got an advanced reading copy of this book signed by the author at Book Expo America. I was excited to read this new urban fantasy/fantasy by Tor. It was an interesting start to a new series, but it is just that a start. The story pretty much ends right in the middle of things.

The story begins with a number of men with the same last name being hunted down by unnatural evil beings. As things unfold you find that these men came here from another world and were sworn to protect a special child. But these men can't remember anything and the child is missing. A beautiful woman comes to round up the men and remind them that the fate of their kingdom rests on the shoulders of the missing child.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this novel. There were all of these strange and supernatural evil guys hunting down regular joes who had no idea what was going on. The plot gets more interesting as things unfold, then part of the way through the book it kind of stalls out. The main reason for this is that there are just too many viewpoints being covered and it is hard to keep track of them all. You hear from five to six viewpoints throughout and the book isn't that long.

The plot is well-wrought, intricate, and spinning out to epic proportions by the end of the book. The characters were all okay, but not completely engaging. The majority of the characters were somewhat unlikable; they just didn't come off as having a ton of personality and this is probably because of the constant switching of character perspective throughout the book.

This is a strange book because it starts in a modern city and ends in a fantasy-like world; if feels like you are reading an epic fantasy but it is an urban fantasy setting for the majority of the book. There is a ton of political stuff going on in the fantasy world and I had trouble keeping it all straight.

The book ends dead in the middle of the story which is obnoxious because this wasn't advertised as a series. I hate it when books do that.

Overall it was an okay book. It has an interesting world and plot and initially started out as an engaging book. The characters are hard to get into though because the book is constantly switching viewpoint; this made the story kind of choppy and hard to stay involved in as the book went on. This is definitely the beginning of a series since the book pretty much stops right in the middle of everything (I hate this!). Although the book is decently written, I probably won't read more of this series because I just wasn't that engaged with the story or characters by the end of the book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A gripping fantasy that leaves the reader wanting more 19 Oct. 2011
By Dessi Schachne - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fantasy is typically not my go-to genre. I enjoy reading novels as much for the phrasing and quality of penmanship as for the plot, and certain authors, Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins included, have left me wanting more in terms of the eloquence of their prose, despite their brilliance at plot and character development.

Awakenings is a satisfying read on both fronts. Lazellari's writing is remarkably vivid and crisp, infused with graphical detail that undoubtedly comes from the author's background as a comic book illustrator. He paints his scenes and his characters with bold colors and intense emotion. Cal MacDonnell is a (hunky) New York cop, but there is more to this dedicated family man than meets the eye. Seth Rancrest is Cal's foil, the anti-hero, and maybe extremely so. A photographer with a foul mouth and an even dirtier mind who adds a touch of comic relief to a story that is filled with danger, suspense and not without violence.

As the plot unfolds we learn that both protagonists have come to the reality that is our present day New York from an alternate world, and they're not alone. The cast of characters includes two strong, spirited women, one from this world and one from the magic realm, both depicted with depth and dimension; a boy coming of age, shaping his understanding of right and wrong, sorting through the emotions of first love, desperately seeking a role model and not finding one, and sensing that he is somehow different, that his true destiny is yet to unfold.

What makes the book so compelling and a quick read are the real relationships that develop and evolve as we go for the ride. We root for the characters and sympathize with their struggles and bite our nails as we wonder which "reality" will they ultimately chose, as there is much to be gained and, for some, much to be lost in the balance of that choice. Book one ends with a not so subtle cliffhanger which makes us only want and expect so much more from the second installment. Lazellari has his work cut out for him. A talented new voice on the fantasy landscape.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Tight, thrilling contemporary fantasy 8 Sept. 2011
By Stefan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In August, tordotcom posted an excerpt from Awakenings, the exciting debut novel by Edward Lazellari. That post fell smack in the middle of that site's Noir-themed week, so maybe it's not surprising that the excerpt was the novel's prologue, which introduces Colby, a down-on-his-luck private investigator who gets contracted by some shady -- and, as soon becomes clear, truly terrifying -- characters to track down a list of people for unknown purposes.

However, the noir-ish tone of that excerpt may be a bit deceptive, as Awakenings takes a completely different turn after that prologue, mostly focusing on different characters, broadening the scope of the story by a few orders of magnitude, and losing much (if not all) of the noir atmosphere. Don't get me wrong: I really enjoyed the prologue, but it didn't prepare me for the rest of the book, which is much more contemporary fantasy than true noir.

So, if you enjoyed the quality of the writing in that excerpt, you're in for a treat, but if the noir thing isn't your cup of tea, don't be discouraged because there's much more to Awakenings than a run-down PI in a grubby little office...

Once you get past the prologue, the novel mostly focuses on two characters who are, on the surface at least, very different. Cal MacDonnell (incidentally, one of the names on that list given to the prologue's private investigator) is a police officer in New York. He's successful, happily married, and has a lovely young daughter. Seth Raincrest, on the other hand, is a self-centered jerk who is quickly running out of friends, and who scrapes together a living by talking girls who need quick cash into adult photo shoots. Seemingly, the only thing Cal and Ryan have in common is that they both suffer from amnesia: they remember nothing that happened more than thirteen years ago.

As Awakenings gets started, it becomes clear that elements from their forgotten past are now resurfacing. This process will lead them on a journey that involves another dimension, an heir who may be a magical kingdom's last hope, and a number of human and non-human allies -- as well as terrifying opponents who will stop at nothing to prevent them from their mission. Aside from Cal and Ryan's perspectives, some of the story is told from those opponents' points of view, as well as from that of Daniel, an adopted thirteen-year-old with a mysterious birthmark, an abusive stepfather and abundant troubles at school.

Even though it's hard to tell from the cover, Awakenings is actually the first book in a series. This is definitely one of those novels where I would have liked to see "Book One in SERIES NAME" on the cover, rather than having that information sort of hidden away at the bottom of the inside flap, as it is here. This would have given the reader the proper expectation: Awakenings is the start of a longer story and not a standalone novel. Initially the novel presents itself as contemporary fantasy, but you quickly get the idea that this entire story is mostly the opening chapter of what may turn out to be an epic fantasy that spans more than one dimension. You could call it a reverse portal fantasy, with people and magical creatures from another realm (or, to use the novel's term, another "brane") entering our reality, but the true situation is a bit more complex and suggests the possibility of some really exciting developments in later books in this series. I'm genuinely curious to see where Edward Lazellari will take this tale in future installments.

As a title, Awakenings is perfect for this novel, because the entire book revolves around characters coming to the realization that their lives up to this point have been, if not exactly illusions, at least just minor detours in a larger plot that started, from their point of view, a long time ago. The novel is about characters realizing that there has been a gap in their awareness and finding out about the events that transpired during that gap. Maybe most importantly, it shows them trying to figure out how to reconcile what they thought of as their normal, everyday lives with the greater destiny they are now suddenly part of. For a debut author, Edward Lazellari juggles the different arcs these characters go through with admirable skill, not only for the main players like Cal and Seth, but also e.g. Cal's wife Catherine, who suddenly has to come to terms with the fact that her husband has, through no fault of his own, a whole other life.

The novel has some weaknesses, but surprisingly few for a debut. The magic system (if "system" even applies here) seems a bit haphazard, but that may be because the majority of the players don't have their full capabilities (yet) and don't really understand what's going on for most of the book. There are one or two unfortunate puns ("eye of Newt Gingrich" as a spell ingredient being the worst one, even if it was meant as a joke) and one reference to chili -- one of my favorite meals -- which I will unfortunately never, ever be able to scrub from my brain again. There's some moral grey in at least one of the main characters, but as for the opposing side, they're all so purely evil that it's almost cartoon-level silly, especially when compared to the subtlety of the rest of the book. And finally, the ending of this novel is on the weak side and really nothing more than a setup for the next novel. I'm sure some readers will expect something a bit more explosive to wrap up this otherwise very exciting novel, especially those people who picked this up expecting a standalone novel rather than a series opener.

Those quibbles aside, Awakenings is an intriguing and inspired debut. It's not perfect, but it's more than good enough to have me eager to get my hands on the next book in this series. Edward Lazellari's prose is confident, his characters are intriguing, and he knows how to pace the story in such a way that your attention stays focused, even with the frequent changes in perspective. He drops several hints about the broad setup of his fantasy universe, but mostly plays his cards close to the vest, leaving the reader curious about where this story will be going next. Grab a copy of Awakenings if you're looking for a tight and thrilling contemporary fantasy that holds the promise of a dramatically widening scope in future novels. (Alternatively, grab it for the beautiful and mysterious cover illustration, which is yet another stellar job by Chris McGrath.)

(This review was originally writen for tordotcom, and all links can be found there.)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A debut which showcases promise & potential 16 Jan. 2012
By M. Wanchoo - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If not for a friend of mine, I might have missed out on Edward Lazellari's debut novel, Awakenings. After all, the synopsis only provides a small picture of what Awakenings is all about, so reading the book was a surprising joy.

Starting out, Awakenings introduces readers to the book's cast of characters which includes Colby Dretch, a detective who has been having problems with the local law enforcement; Dorn who hires Colby for a seemingly simple task; New York policeman Cal MacDonnell and his wife Cat; Seth Raincrest, a smut photographer who is having a hard time keeping hold of his friends; and Daniel Hauer, a thirteen-year-old kid who comes from an abusive home, but wants to do right by his family & friends and to make something good out of his life.

Once the character introductions are over, the author quickly engages the reader with a mystery-driven plot involving Cal MacDonnell, Seth Raincrest and beings that do not seem to be of this world. A separate plotline follows Daniel Hauer as he goes through school and his private life, trying to be a good person but finding trouble at every turn. From here, unexpected plot twists, tantalizing clues about what's happening, and the tribulations of the characters will keep readers hooked all the way to a reasonable conclusion that is smoothly executed, but leaves many threads left dangling for the sequel.

Of the novel's two main storylines, I was most enamored by Daniel's thread, which is heart-breakingly tragic and was the emotional core of the book. The other thread is more action-packed while providing background information and laying the groundwork for future sequels, but it largely pales in comparison to the riveting emotional context of Daniel's story.

Characterization as a whole is very rewarding with various personas--a New York cop, a teenager from an abusive home, an anti-social photographer, etc.--admirably brought to life by the author and put into situations where their normal lives have been yanked out from under them. The sense of vertigo each character experiences when receiving shocking new information about their identities and so forth was particularly impressive. Meanwhile, Edward Lazellari's prose is quite skillful, especially for a debut, which makes an already strong tale even better.

Awakenings does suffer from a few drawbacks however. This includes plot threads that take a while to converge, a mish-mash of genres that may disappoint readers who are expecting a certain kind of novel, predictable plot developments that can cause a lessening of tension, and an unfulfilling finale.

CONCLUSION: As a whole, I enjoyed reading Edward Lazellari's debut. Awakenings features a nice mix of genres that will certainly surprise readers, especially those who go in with no preconceived expectations. Admittedly, the novel is a little rough around the edges, but Edward Lazellari's talent is obvious and I definitely want to see what happens next.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Anticipation 22 Sept. 2011
By lit mind - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found this novel to be a surprisingly engaging book- although the cover illustration gives a hint of the gritty urban world to come, the sci-fi fantasy woven inside walks on dark, stealthy quiet cat feet, pouncing with a dash of humor just for fun. Reads like a cross between the Daily News and Arthurian legend; the company this book will keep on my shelf is that of Philip Pullman, Douglas Adams, Carl Sagan, and Neil Gaiman, among others. It gets better on the second read, when the details can be appreciated at a slower pace, without the mad dash to see how it turns out. I look forward to the next part of the series impatiently!
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