Ariadnis by Josh Martin
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Hachette, Feb 2017
Synopsis: Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.
On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.
As the day draws nearer, all thoughts are on the trial ahead. There’s no space for friendship. No time for love. However much the girls might crave them.
But how you prepare for a task you know nothing certain about? Nothing, except that you must win, at whatever cost, or lose everything.
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.
So, Ariadnis. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this book from the lovely Books With Bite once again, and I was really excited to read it; the book even came with little cards depicting the characters.
However, Ariadnis fell short of expectations for me. Let me just say, this book mainly got three stars because the imagination behind it was excellent. The story and setting were fresh, and there was a lot of diversity too. I really applaud the author for not regurgitating the same old YA Fantasy story.
Yet, for me, it fell short in other areas. Mainly: writing, pacing, world-building and characterisation. And yes, I am contradicting myself by saying it fell short in world-building. So, let’s start there.
The story is set on a magical island where huge trees grow beneath a cliff face, housing the city of Metis, and huge trees also grow atop the cliff, home to the city of Athenas. The setting was really imaginative, but I just could not get my head round the concept; I really struggled to picture this cliff face and the trees so massive they could hold up cities. And I’m not talking about a big forest, I mean nine trees per city. And you can also travel down or up through the cliff to get to each city. And in the cliff is a magical place called Ariadnis. And the city on top of the cliff, Athenas, has hollowed out its trees, filled them with machines, encased the trunks in metal, and built their city atop huge dinner plates on the trees. My brain just could not wrap itself around the entire concept; it was almost too imaginative.
So, not only was I totally mind-boggled from the get go, the characters then start mentioning a place called ‘Erthe’ that was destroyed by big waves and a comet. ‘Okay cool,’ I thought, ‘so it’s like a different world just named similarly to ours.’ But then one of the characters mentions Hindi and India and suddenly I’m confused all over again. It’s our Earth, but there’s magic. Normally, this is a pretty normal concept in Fantasy, mainly magical realism, but where did the magic come from? It hadn’t been there before, so why does suddenly everyone on this island have the ability to wield magic when no one alive in modern times could?
I was entirely confused, once again. I’m not a huge Fantasy reader; I like it, but I’m quite picky about what Fantasy I read. So, maybe a big Fantasy lover would be able to wrap their head around this world-building better. After all, I seem to be in the minority with these opinions compared to other reviewers.
Now, onto the writing and pacing. The writing was okay at the beginning – nothing special, but also nothing awful. However, I felt it began to unravel as the book progressed. The story is told in alternating POVs between the main characters Aula and Joomia in their respective cities. At first, their voices and story lines were easy to differentiate. However, when they eventually met up, I began to feel lost, especially because the POV would switch multiple times in a chapter. I would think I’m reading from Joomia’s perspective and then confuse myself, backtrack, and see actually it was Aula talking. I thought it would be easy to differentiate them as Aula is headstrong and uses ‘en’t’ all the time instead of ‘isn’t’, and Joomia is quiet and can only communicate via telepathy, shown in bold lettering, but I did end up becoming confused (again).
Really, what I think this book was lacking was precision. The ideas were great, but they needed a lot of skill to be pulled off correctly, and I felt that skill was lacking. It is a debut, so the second book may vastly improve, but it just felt too big and in need of more control.
The same goes for the pacing. The entire middle portion of the book sagged, which can often happen after the excitement of the inciting incident dies down and the climax is currently out of sight. Yet, oddly, things were happening, but it just didn’t feel like it. There were twists and a bit of action, but it all lacked a punch. I think this was also down to the writing; it wasn’t exciting enough. I don’t think it fell prey to telling instead of showing, but rather it just skipped over the action. Fight scenes were cut down to a couple of short paragraphs. Emotional scenes only took up half a page. I think it focused on the wrong details, and as such there was no suspense or tension.
In addition, as I didn’t really connect with the characters, any attempts at tension didn’t make me that nervous. The characters were clear-cut – I knew who was who – but for some reason they just didn’t excite me.
Also, one thing that did annoy me a bit was that everyone was horny all the time. Like all the time, at totally inappropriate moments. Someone would die and Aula or Joomia would be sad for five seconds before lusting over another character. It was like instalove but instead it was instahorny.
So, that concludes my main comments. I think Ariadnis was a great idea, but it lacked finesse and just wasn’t for me. Others might enjoy it, and certainly on Goodreads and Amazon there are a lot of glowing reviews, but if you’re not a big Fantasy fan, it may not be for you.
Have you read Ariadnis? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments below!