Dark Innocence by PJ Alexander
3 stars – it was okay, but not my style
This is another book that was sampled from an ARC website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have my computer read it aloud to me as I usually would, seeing that it was only available in mobi or epub instead of pdf, so it took me a lot longer to read.
Read: Oct. 24 – Nov. 6, 2022.
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An Interesting Spin on the Wizard of Oz
This book is about two sisters in a coming-of-age dystopian world. Their parents have been killed by I-Six, the new tyrannical power taking over the world, and Liylah and her little sister are left orphaned and alone to survive the aftermath. They live with Liylah’s friend Theen and boyfriend Haven in a mouldering basement. One day, after a close call on a supply run, Liylah decides it’s time for her to learn magic—the dark arts.
As I say in the heading, this book carried quite a few ideas from The Wizard of Oz. The main character first begins in her own world, and a terrible event lands her in a new world with a special item that the antagonist wants. She continues through this new world, meeting new characters along the way as they all journey to the mysterious mystics in the mountains. Unlike how most people view The Wizard of Oz, though, this story has a lot more horror aspects and was quite unique.
This book puts a heavy emphasis on the main character’s inner thoughts, and often the narrative spends more time in her head than in the surrounding settings. A lot of background information is shared about her life and struggles, especially in the beginning, and it plays a much larger role as the story goes on.
This book is written in first-person point of view in the present tense, and I think this is a wonderful choice on the author’s part because a lot of the story focuses on Liylah’s experience and her memory loss. It’s centred on her as an unreliable narrator living in the moment and is the perfect medium for this story to be delivered. However, this book also has a very casual tone. Liylah is constantly making casual remarks to herself or, more specifically, to the listener of this story, like she knows that she’s actively narrating her own story. It’s not something I enjoy while reading and I believe it was used to excess here.
In the midst of reading this book, I was torn about whether the new world is actually real or if it’s all in her head. It was unclear to me for most of the book, and I found that very compelling. It was one of the main reasons I kept reading when the pacing slowed.
Unfortunately, I found myself unable to connect with the characters, specifically Liylah the protagonist. She is seventeen, creative, and relentless, which is good for survival, but I found her also very immature and “snotty” to take a word from the book. I’m unsure what to think of the way she continuously gets expressions and idioms wrong—it doesn’t seem plausible to me that every single one is incorrect. The way she argues with Rorah, who is six years younger than her, is juvenile and frankly somewhat annoying to read. Usually, I only enjoy two characters exchanging quips if they’re clever, and I didn’t find any of Liylah’s or Rorah’s insults clever. On top of that, I don’t feel like enough backstory was given about Liylah and Rorah’s backstory. I don’t have any younger siblings, but I understand that Liylah would feel responsible for her younger sister. However, in the new world, a new character appeared who was also young than the rest o the group, and since this character was not Liylah’s younger sister, I found it confusing as to why she was added to the group. She had wandered away from her own group to follow them, but she didn’t really have any reason to be there. She was just another mouth to feed, and they already had limited food and water. She was constantly annoying Liylah, and though she was shown to have some useful skills in trapping animals, they didn’t use that skill often enough to merit her being there. To me, it felt like she was only there because the author wanted her to be, unlike how in the book that this is based on, each of the characters had their own wish to be granted and thus it made sense that they joined.
I already spoke a little bit about the writing style, and I’ll say that the book was nicely copyedited. There were a few spelling mistakes that I found, but otherwise, the book is well-written for its audience of young and new adults. It’s not for me, though, as the book is written in a very, very casual tone, which I didn’t like. Some scenes felt like Liylah was tapping on the fourth wall like she was talking to the reader directly about what was happening, but not enough to fully break it, and it’s my opinion that if you’re going to include that kind of familiarity with the reader, you should fully commit. Dancing along the line isn’t to my taste. The pace also left much to be desired for me. I like fast-paced books, normally, and this one dragged on and on in my opinion. Some scenes felt unnecessary to me—aside from heaping on character- and world-building, which I would do fine without.
This is a good book for someone wanting to read about a pair of sisters who are constantly at odds with each other and must learn to get along. It may appeal to people who value character growth and don’t mind flawed characters. The pace is a bit slower, so this book is for people who enjoy stewing in a book and getting as much content out of it as possible.