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This review is from: Zenith (Paperback)
The best thing you can say for this book is that it feels like real life. Not because the characters are so well drawn you feel you know them or the descriptions are so lifelike or the plot is so terribly believable. No, Zenith feels like real life because it's events don't happen in an ordered, meaningful way where everything is explained like in most books but are seemingly random, often never properly understood by the characters and sometimes don't enrich the plot at all. But annoying as it is to read, this does make the book feel almost like a true story.
The whole of the book is from the point of view of Mara,who is sailing with the refugees on a ship, Fox, who is plotting a revolution beneath the city and a new character called Tuck who is a "gypsea".Now I really really didn't like Tuck at all. The author seemed to intend him to be a "mixed bag" character who is a combination of good and bad which is fair enough but there wasn't actually one moment when I rooted for him or liked him even the slightest bit. His vendetta against Mara seems completely unreasonable, even given the circumstances, because it's very obvious it's not her fault what happened with his people. His later love interest plot with her was an interesting enough plotline now I think back on it but whilst I was actually reading the book made me scream with frustration because I just wanted her to end up with Fox. I was not remotely interested in the plotline about him finding his true talent, which is what he takes up at the end of the book and I kind of felt that he had beeen given the happy ending Mara should have had, which did nothing to endear me to him. What he does before he runs away from Mara's group is just EVIL. Interestingly the review to the sequel hint that he becomes a villain so...we'll have to see.
As for Fox, I liked him in the first book but since he never did anything at all in the bits of Zenith that were about him, I've started to go off even him. I was hoping the fact he was living with Lily would mean we got to hear more about her and Callum but the author completely dispenses with Callum and we never get to know how he feels now about either her or Fox. I know he was only a minor character in Exodus but I actually found him fascinating and it really annoyed me that we didn't even find out how he feels about Fox's betrayal.
Other characters don't do anything to improve the book either. Rowan behaves like an ass in this one and the ending about him didn't make me happy at all, Mara's companions from the first book are quite interesting until one of them vanishes and the others just mope for the rest of the book, and the new characters introduced seem there to fit cliches-the tough mean girl who's endured loads of suffering and squares off against the heroine but then realises they're actually alike and they make friends, the wise old woman...The author appears to get bored with these characers halfway through and they either die or vanish with no explanation.
Then there's Mara herself. The author appears to be frightened to turn her main character into one of those heroines who whines all the time about missing their boyfirend and goes so far the other way that Mara comes across as not missing Fox at all. Again the author goes down the route of cliche with what happens to Mara, setting the sequel up well but not making this book any better. Some of Mara's personality has seems to have been sapped by the events that happen and she mostly just moves sluggishly through the book, reacting lethargically or with resignation to the next bad event. The only time she wakes up is when she meets Fox through the computer system; she actually reacts with indignation to the fact people knew about risng sea levels and did nothing instead of the general guilt and sadness she treats everything else with, whether or not it actually deserves guilt or sadness. I'l admit the author takes quite an original approach with the ending of Mara's storyline but it didn't make me happy.
The real problem with this book wasn't the characters or the plot, it was the way events were strung together. Things happen and are just never explained and characters jump from one place to another with no apparent reason for how that happened. At one point Mara is a prisoner with some other characters. The scene then jumps to those who've escaped being prisoners hiding out in a cave. Suddenly they see Mara walking across the beach towards them! But she stops, having just discovered the dead body of another character. One of the people in the cave asks a question and it is answerered by Mara, who is now standing right next to them, even though a minute ago she was on the beach. Then they move on to talking about how they're going to survive, never mind how Mara escaped from those who'd caught her, never mind the fate of the others caught with her and never mind how the woman on the beach ended up dead. It just ddin't make sense.
On top of that, the whole book was just too sad. Nothing and I mean NOTHING, good happened on one single page. I kept thinking that all the early suffering was going to be made up for later, but it never was. I suspect this book would actually be much better on rereading because I wouldn't have false expectations and in a way the tragedy that plays out is shaped and done quite well but this wasn't what I was expecting at all and it really annoyed me that it didn't do anything I wanted it to.
But on the plus side, all it's faults do make it feel very like real life. I'm not sure if that's what the author was going for, but it is one strength.