The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings” writes a review of The Almost Girl, a young adult science fiction novel by Amalie Howard published by Strange Chemistry Books. It’s currently available to buy now in both the UK and the USA, and is Howard’s first book that has been published by Strange Chemistry – but is not her debut work.
“The Almost Girl draws you in with its excellent cover and keeps you hooked right the way through. Fun, fast paced – it’s a young adult novel that manages to be original with a kickass female protagonist and a confident narrative. Recommended.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Seventeen-year-old Riven comes from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, a parallel world to Earth.
A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.
Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier and in a race against time to bring Caden home, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows.
Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was destined to be?
The second novel that I’m reviewing of the year is another Strange Chemistry book that I finished at the end of last year, and it’s another strong read from the Angry Robot Young Adult imprint. I mentioned in my review of Shadowplay that I haven’t read a book that I’ve disliked from the publisher yet and that trend is continuing through The Almost Girl, a book that won me over based on its cover alone. Just look at how awesome that cover is. It draws you in, and once you start reading, you’re hooked. It’s unputdownable, fast paced and lots of fun. The characters are fun and engaging and the plot is mostly original as well, even if there are a few cliched elements thrown in there which could have been avoided (I’ll touch more on this later). The Almost Girl is a fun book that does suffer from a few problems, but still manages to be a pretty solid read.
The book itself combines bits and peices from a lot of different genres. It’s a part science fiction thriller, part romance (but then, which young adult novel doesn’t have some form of romance in it these days?), and also throws in the involvement of some conspiracy theories in there as well. It deals with a lot of stuff and covers more plot ground than most other young adult books do in in two or more books – you’re certainly getting your money’s worth in terms of content, but despite this – you’ll tend to breeze through the whole book pretty quickly. Like Pantomime, Shift and other Strange Chemistry books, The Almost Girl has got the pace factor nailed down. It never stops being fast and there’s always something going on. However, whilst there may always be something going on, that doesn’t mean that it’s always good. Lots of young adult novels set on Earth tend to have some sort of high school involvement of some form and this book turns out to be no different, and frankly – this section just came across as cliched and one of the more dull parts in an otherwise exciting read. It’s not helped by some inconsistency when it comes to the main character, Riven – who is, like other popular young adult heroes before her, up to date with a lot of pop culture references – and we possibly get too many for one novel, which is a shame because it felt like it detracted from the plot a bit. However, saying that – I did like the reference to Stargate. But for someone familiar with most pop culture stuff be, well – more experienced with keeping her cover story? A part that frustrated me was the mention that where she came from her people had one name, rather than two. An inconsistency made even more glaring when the character is an experienced general – and I don’t know about you, but even at seventeen, Generals don’t tend to make that many basic mistakes.
The main character, Riven – heralds from world that runs parallel to Earth, only a lot worse off, ravaged by wars and authoritarian leadership. In short, it’s a nice place to live, and is bursting with enough depth that we could easily have had the whole novel set on the world without ever going to Earth at all. So Amalie Howard gets a point for that – giving some strong depth to a world without letting it dominate the flow of the storyline. Riven also seems to get stuff done pretty quickly too, at fourteen, she’s already a General and a gifted killer. When we meet her at seventeen, she’s spent three years on Earth already. Three years on the hunt for Caden, the Prince’s long lost brother in order to return the wayward relative, where his fate will most likely be death. Of course, to add some more tension into the book, Riven is not the only one hunting him for there are others after the boy as well.
Overall then, the book is fun and enjoyable despite its flaws. I couldn’t help but enjoy it and I think you will too, especially if you’re a a young adult or love books in that genre like myself, or are even both. Riven is a strong and confident character, and manages to be likable and rootable. The Almost Girl sees another good book from Strange Chemistry, and despite its problems it’s well worth a look.