Elemental felt like I would’ve, should’ve like it better, but couldn't. My hopes remain so close, yet so far. When deciding a rating, it wobbled between 2 1/2 stars and 3. I went with the higher rating for benefit of the doubt and because I'm still hoping the next book, Firebrand will give me what I want.
In the end, I will say that it was a fast paced, action-oriented read and enjoyable depending on what your preferences are. It worked as the first book in a trilogy setting up, and drawing in while holding its own as a story.
I will be reading Firebrand to find out what happens next but without a burning need to read it right now, I don't know when I'll get to it. Hopefully, it recovers, strengthens, and clarifies to meets the high expectations I had for Elemental. It’s good enough with plenty to discuss, though it's not all pleasant. Most specifics are spoilers though, so that will be far down below behind tags.
|Genre: "Dystopian", Paranormal, Action/Advnture, Romance|
Format: Hardcover, 320 pgs.
Published: Nov. 21st, 2012
Source: Won,Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.
Rating: Wobbly 3 Stars
A lost colony is reborn in this heart-pounding fantasy adventure set in the near future . . .
Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.
In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’ world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.
|Cover Love! It's what drew me to Elemental in the first place|
|Loved the premise and world||World-building felt haphazard, not enough to start and patched as it goes along. Not enough for me|
|Fast paced and tons of action||Struggled to get immersed and imagine the world at first; perhaps a forward or more information up front would've helped|
|Two favorite characters||Didn't care for most characters: unable to connect and they fell flat, including Thom, the main character|
|Solid groundwork for a paranormal beach colony||Dystopian doesn't show up as a possibility until the end, even so it might be better as a post-apocalyptic|
The concept, the cover, the premise, and the world sound great and have a good basis. The problem comes in with what was lacking, mainly follow through.
Characters were okay, only fell in love with two and neither was the main character. It was hard to connect with almost all of them. The pacing was fast but considering my other issues, slowing down or including a forward would've been preferred; something to set up what the colony and its people were like under everyday circumstances. I think that would've solved some problems, including forming a better connection. For instance...
The beginning was a struggle. It wasn't what I expected and it was hard to keep every one and thing straight. I wish there was a reference in the back to assist. There’s the saying about not introducing a lot of characters in the start of the book and skipping to the move might've been to alleviate some confusion by narrowing the focus but it didn’t help me.
It’s hard to get a handle on who these characters are, their relationships, their dynamics and what their baseline is, when we get told things about them in the beginning and the rest is spent showing the opposite. "He's always calm" yet he's freaking out over something the whole time, for a hypothetical example. It felt so topsy-turvy. There really is a lot going on here, and it maybe just too much to push into one book so quickly.
As for the writing, it wasn't bad but it felt like telling not showing. I went flipping back for an example, but couldn’t pinpoint anything. Maybe it was not being connected or having so much shoved at me in a short period. It’s action-oriented so there’s the movie style factor, which I kept picturing as in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Though the only similarities are the pirates and ships.
With more of a Swiss Family Robinson than a dystopian feel for me, it was mostly confusion and disappointment at first. The only time it moved towards the latter is when Thom was trying to figure out everyday things from 'the before'. Of course, not necessarily dystopian, aliens would have the same reaction. The Plague talk is certainly post-apocalyptic but that's not the same thing--hint:government--and it didn't land with any impact anyways.
It should've garnered a reaction, but instead I felt like a neutral observer to another planet's problems. (Maybe I’m the alien here.) I think that comes from the kid's own inability to grasp how far widespread and devastating this event was. I think (hope) this will be amped up with the next book, Firebrand, especially due to the ending reveal and subsequent questions.
Otherwise, it was a paranormal group of people with magical powers stranded on a island. Which isn't a bad thing, just not what I was expecting.
More Specifically: *Spoilers Below*
I keep it vague as I can in the beginning and hide true spoilers behind tags. But the only way to dig in is discuss in detail so.... If the spoiler tags don't work (on your device, RSS, Feedly, etc.,), let me know.
- Thom: I like him generally because he's a rather general boy like a placeholder to put yourself in the story, rather than a fully fleshed out person. I wasn't attached to him in anyway. He's very wobbly, like a baby calf standing up after being born. I’m sure he’ll get it eventually, just not really a fan of his in Elemental.
The only reaction to him I had was wanting to smack him for 50 pages due to whining about never again being touched or loved, when he could have just realized, “I’ll ask [person who would clearly know the answers] so it's not hopeless!” Even if Thom's would-be mentor was dead or is going to die, Thom could’ve showed some gusto by becoming determined to figure it out and standing up for himself.
Instead he continued the pattern of self-hate and self-pity. A boy feeling emotions isn't the problem, I'd hate a teenage girl whining about the same thing when it's clearly wrong, if they'd think for a second.
Then there’s the pathetic excuse of a love triangle. Oy.
- Rose: Mostly defined as quite, meek, and shy. And by Thom’s attraction to her, which is superficial. He keeps saying "She's SO Pretty! She’s always pretty! Look at her hair and her skin and her face." I wanted to start calling her Pretty Polly Pockets, after all they are both pretty blondes and need someone to move them around.
The personality is where? Oh, she's apparently really nice but I don't know about all that. I’ve been told that countless times but have yet to see it. She's mumbled about "my father shouldn't say those mean things..." and "you're special too..." but what about actually about being NICE?
She helps who she likes, when she wants but I don’t see her jumping to save Alice or being nice to Griffin. She decides to become her own person later in the book but it was so little, so late it didn’t really have an impact on me. She isn’t really active or payed much attention to, except for being leered at by Thom, so that’s a factor. Hopefully in the next book she’ll make more of an impression.
- Alice: My favorite. She felt like a full character with her rebellious, spitfire personality. She's active and uses her strengths. Her motivations, and her reasonings are clear. There’s a standout moment at the fire where she stands up for herself and calls out Thom. It really showed who she was and how she felt. Of course, Thom’s like "I didn't think [it] had anything to do with [spoiler] me." Stupid, stupid Thom. And he’s supposedly observant? *snort* Anyways...
- Griffin: My other favorite. He feels solid and compelling. There were so many moments and actions that showed who he was: strong, compassionate, talented and smart. I don’t know if I just liked him, or removing the ability of using (often) long sentences made it impossible to tell Griffin. Maybe it was that he and Alice were different and stood out while Thom and Rose were bland. Maybe it was that Alice and Griffin struggled and overcame, while Thom and Rose wallowed or did nothing. Whatever it was, it worked well for Griffin and Alice, not so much for Thom and Rose.
The Love Triangle:I get why there’s a love triangle seeing as how they are a small isolated community. There’s limited options. However, it doesn’t work for me because of personalities, lack of connection and obviously skipping over other people.
I get why Alice likes Thom, and that Thom thinks Rose is the prettiest girl ever. However, I don’t get why Rose is into Thom besides being pushed together by parental figures (doesn't that usually cause rebellion?) and not having another option. When Rose finally showed some character, I was miffed at Thom’s dislike of her progression beyond convenient floral decoration. They don't line up and what's connecting them is shallow.
Then there's Thom's flip-flopping towards Alice. They're mainly friends, which is cool. But "more" only came when she was willing to touch him simply because she was willing. Settling for the better character because of desperation was irritating. Either appreciate her and return the feelings or fuck off. Then he goes back to drooling over Rose while bellyaching over how torn he is between the two.
It was all weaksauce. It makes me wish Rose was the nice, caring person she’s supposed to be and all of them realizing Griffin is a person too. He can communicate and contribute. It’s frustrating how he's written off. Alice and Griffin were my two favorites yet no one else seems to grasp their greatness. A Rose and Griffin couple and a Thom and Alice couple seems far more interesting a development.
Since hey, if the seer mom could be with someone, why can’t Griffin? It would mean not just more developing romantic relationships but throw a stick into the guardians design and cause more than just 'brotherly love all the time' between Thom and Griffon. Character development, growth, and conflict all by changing up the love coupling.
Thom would have to get over being shallow and be happy for his brother. He'd start sticking up for himself as well, if he'd follow Alice's advice. I see more compatibility between him and Alice honestly. Thom has anger but suppresses it and turns it inwards, where Alice turns it towards those that cause it. They both have the rebellious tendencies and great cause to upset the balance. They've also been friends despite the odds with more in common.
Rose would progress as well by willing to stick up for someone who needs it, not being a judgemental jerk, and defying the colony. Griffin is the kind and gentle yet ‘don’t mess with my family’ type that seems to flow more with Rose’s shy, quiet type. Of course, Griffin with Alice and Thom with Rose could work as well, though I think it’ll take more work. And it'd have to be done extremely well for me to believe, let alone cheer for, all things considered. *sigh*
But there’s this wobbly, weak, forced, stereotypical in every-YA- book- around -now (and I’m sick of this) love triangle instead.
It's the least attractive, most annoying and disappointing aspect of the book. I can deal with just enjoying the ride and not getting attached to most of the characters. I can deal with the struggling in the beginning. I can deal with relationships not working out how I see it and terrible people I’m suppose to like. However, this poor showing of an overused trope in a book I had such high hopes for was too much, especially on top of everything else.
Other Random Things with My Reaction and Reasoning:
- *happy* Nice job with the controlling the element energy
with your heartbeat. It explains how his mom even could survive being pregnant with an energy elemental. I actually am really excited to have Thom start learning and exploring his element.
- *mixed emotions* Who else is in the merry colony? Thom mentions 15 people and there’s vague mentions of the other guardians but... There’s 15 confirmed in the beginning and two dies. We only meet one, who doesn’t last long and wasn’t pleasant. Their death was just a clue, convenient movement and drama. No need to grieve or feel anything, it’s not like any of the characters did. Then there’s the second death, and get treated to two sentences about them, which is then used to clarify how the kids are reacting. It wasn’t impactful. I didn’t care. It liked one of the attacking pirates dying - okay then, better them than someone important but whatever. It, again, was used as movement of plot and drama, very much like the first death. I get what movement was needed and what it accomplished, it just felt really weak element to the story; just more blah events meant for the bigger picture that’s underwhelming. I counted all the characters I know, and there’s still 4 unnamed/unknown characters, the majority of the guardians. We’ve only meet two guardians and only the kids are evacuated so they have to be guardians. These are the people I’m suppose to be so worried about getting back. Yeah...about that...I only cared about getting them back because the kids needed the adults. If those 4 had washed up dead, I doubt there’d be any emotional response for them either. Hard to care when there’s no connection or reason for it.
- *left out information* There's at least one couple of parents (who? no clue but there’s a vague reference to a mother eventually) yet still the youngest child is 9? Are they using contraceptives? Too old? (I have no idea how old they even are.) Not having sex? What is this colonies daily life even like? What’s on this island? I don’t get it.
- *worried* If King Pirate Dare is
one of themwouldn't he KNOW that there's a chance Thom is a seer or an energy elemental? With a seer mother and an fire/energy elemental dad, WTF else is Thom suppose to be? And Thom was three when the pirate there last so...if he didn't check the element of Thom then he was stooooopid because it shows up in kids. Young kids, every kid so far is described as showing at 3 or 4 at least. Everyone else clearly knew from the very get go, so why didn’t Dare? Sure, there’s no clear explanation of what happened the first time he raided but still, Dare is stupid for not being open to the possibility of it happening. Considering what we are suppose to believe this guy did, it’s hard to buy this oversight. Did the others lie to Dare? Tell him Thom is a fire elemental? And Dare believed them, even after using the lantern and not setting fire to the ropes to drown the pirates? After the lantern thing, what did he think Thom’s element was?
- *confused* What did they feed the brand spanking new infant Griffin when the mother died the day after he was born?
There aren't any kids described as his age, the nearest being 2 years apart so how likely is it that someone was breastfeeding and willing to do it for him? This little colony doesn't look at all close from what I read, so I don’t see it happening. With older kids they couldn’t have used left over baby formula (though I doubt it’d still be good after all this time anyways.) There’s no talk of animals besides wild horses on the island for milk. Or is this what Thom’s dad was blackmailed with to make that terrible promise to hide their energy element? Did Thom’s dad keep him alive by giving him energy? Would that even work for a growing infant? Hmmmmm.....
- *confused and worried* What does that
secondary elementmean? Is the author going to pull some Captain Planet bull with the "Element of Strength" and "Element of Heart"? Or is it just pumped up generic super human side stuff?This is one question that will be in the next book but am worried how it could go.