[Review] Elemental by Antony John: An Ambivalent 3 Star YA "Dystopian"

Brooke Banks | 11:34 PM | | | | |
I was all over the place with this one. There was a mix of the successful, acceptable, so-so, and lousy.

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.


Cover with a ship approaching a stormy beach with an elaborate symbol in the top middle beneath the title Elemental in gold lettering
Genre: "Dystopian", Paranormal, Action/Advnture, Romance
Age: YA
Format: Hardcover, 320 pgs.
Published: Nov. 21st, 2012
Source: Won,Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.
Rating: Wobbly 3 Stars
Recommendable? Conditionally
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.
Young Adult IconAction/Adventure IconApocalypse IconDystopian IconparanormalInsta-Love IconMixed Bag IconCover Love


Pros Cons
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.

Characters:

  • 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:


 



Conclusion:


Good 3 stars
I did say this was a wobbly 3 stars at first and that is still true. It's a good story but it wasn't fully enjoyable because of how disconnected I was and how downright annoying two major players became. But I don't regret reading and have hope for the sequel, Firebrand.

Recommended For:
YA lovers who want fast-paces movie-style action, a male narrator, aren't picky or have expectations for dystopian or post apocalyptic standards, if you don't mind love triangles at all the wrong angles, and are willing to wait to get to the good stuff.

4 comments:

  1. This is a great review, but I don't know if I would read this book. The cover is beautiful, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I agree on the cover. It's what originally pulled me to this book.

      Delete
  2. This one looks so interesting - I'm curious to pick it up myself and see what I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to know what you think. I was bouncing around so much on how I felt, I had to talk it out to myself to make sense of it.

      Delete

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