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Shadowhawk takes a look at one of the recent debut novels from Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot. This is also the second in my Advent Reviews series for 2013. You can find a full list here.
“Fun. Quirky. Delightful. Recommended.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Ever since its launch last year, Strange Chemistry has been putting out one debut novel after another. I’ve read a fair few of them by now, and for the most part they have all been quite fantastic. The ones that haven’t missed the mark yeah but they weren’t all that bad either. So on the whole, for the books I’ve read, Strange Chemistry has had a pretty good track record. Their parent publisher, Angry Robot, is known as a publisher who put out some great quirky stuff that you wouldn’t find elsewhere exactly. Strange Chemistry has done the same again and again. The latest example of that is author Eliza Crewe’s debut novel Cracked, which is one of the best examples of YA urban fantasy that I’ve read to date.
The novel starts off on a really surprising note, and it ultimately sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Meda, our protagonist, is a really fun character to follow along and her dialogue is always enjoyable. Eliza Crewe makes no missteps along the way and she really does give you a protagonist to root for, even though she is more of an anti-hero and not a traditional urban fantasy hero. This is only one of the many ways in which Eliza Crewe eschews the regular old tropes of the genre and subverts them, even though she acknowledges all those same tropes throughout the novel.
One of the common flaws that most urban fantasy novels have is that they have heroes, of either gender, who are fixated on romance and sex and this ends up being a distraction in the novels rather than a crucial element. With Cracked things are very much different and while there is some romance here, it is a bit subtle and never exactly “in your face”, which was just as well. And it gave me just one more reason to like it.
The central mystery at the heart of the novel, Meda’s true identity and her history have been kept from her all her life and now she begins to learn more and more about them, is told in a really engaging way. The author teases things out one by one and never overwhelms the reader with all the information. Through the excellent supporting cast, we learn more and more about this world that the author has created and in the end, I really wanted more. There is so much that goes on here. I loved the whole angle with there being a Templar order in the modern times that is dedicated to fighting against demons. It creates a really strong backdrop to set Meda’s journey of self-discovery against, and the author does the entire premise justice.
And there’s a lot of action in the book, right from the get go and all the way through to the end. Given Meda’s…. special nature, the action scenes have quite a twist to them, one that I liked, and paired up with her absolutely awesome inner monologue/voice, I loved all of it. Truly.
For my time’s worth, Cracked was a damn good read and I’d love to get back to this world with a sequel at some point.