Review: The Willow by Stacey Kennedy

Title: The Willow
Series: The Magical Sword, #1
Author: Stacey Kennedy

Quick Take:
The mechanics of the story were a mixed bag; interesting overall world building, alongside rushed (and perhaps uneven) manner of exposition. All told, it didn't offend or wholly satisfy me, but did provide moments of excitement and adventure.

Book Description:
     In Carson City, Nevada a tragic car accident has claimed the lives of Nexi Jones’ adoptive parents. Now, without them, her reason to live has vanished and she is determined to end her pain.
     The problem with that, it’s not heaven she wakes up to, it’s the Otherworld. Nexi must reconcile the truth about her past, and her heritage as part guardian/part witch, while she begins to train to join the Council’s guard. But it’s not the combat training that has her worried, its attempting to keep her cool around the luscious guardian, Kyden that’s her biggest concern.
     Before long, Nexi’s skills are put to the test as she begins to fight against the supernatural who have taken a human life. But nothing can prepare her for the journey ahead. Soon, she will find herself lost in a mystery and fighting to keep all she’s gained, as Lazarus, a vampire, threatens to take it all away.
Review:
Well. We can't love everything all the time, can we? ^_^ The Willow has many elements that usually perk me up over a book: a heroine who discovers and develops her own amazing abilities and origins; playful romantic intrigue; a team of supernatural-regulatin' badazzes. Cracking open to the beginning of this story was also intriguing. A grieving, devastated young woman sits under her favorite willow tree, in the middle of a suicide attempt. She wants to end her lonely existence, and almost immediately gets her wish, though not in the way she expects.

From the start, and for the first several pages, there's quite a bit of exposition. I mean, a lot. This is not an inherently negative thing; it's just that it didn't feel all that smooth, but rather stilted and rushed. The progression of events--as well as Nexi's reaction to them--just didn't ring believable to me. Suspension of disbelief--not for the fantastical elements, but the mundane--only took me so far.

About halfway through the book, things did get pretty fun. The overall tone (and pace) was infused with excitement and intriguing twists. It'd be a lie for me to say there weren't some high-octane, tension-filled segments.

…but it's too bad I was unimpressed with the main villain of the story. he was mentioned early in the tale and was built up as intimidating, worthy of fear and wariness. Indeed, he was powerful being that caused trouble…but to me, he never really made it out of mustache-twirling territory. He remained pretty one-dimensional and thus not engaging.

Now, I'm not usually one to delve into the more technical aspects of a book (I hesitate to even bring it up now)…but in this case I can't not bring it up, since it was actually distracting. I'm referring to the legion grammatical errors. In some places it was a few per page. Now I know such a factor does not have bearing on the "meat" of a story…but seriously, it kept pulling me out of the tale. (If you know me, that's saying something.)

The structure of the supernatural world was a big point of interest. Head of each supe "species" forming a council; an "enforcement" crew who carries out the law…I really dug it! I anticipate the politics being quite a complex and engaging draw in future books, now that a fair bit of world building has been done.

So yeah. I didn't outright dislike this book, so I can't rate it lower. But I didn't find it wholly satisfying, either, so I can't rate it any higher. I know I'll eventually pick up the next book, though (I don't give up on a series after one book, period), and do look forward to it.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

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