When I started reading fantasy I decided that a genre was missing, ‘tense fiction’. Books that fit into the ‘tense fiction’ genre have a couple of unique characteristics – they are intense and make you tense! Awakenings is perfect for the tense fiction genre. I was so stressed out for the main characters Cal and Seth that I think I bit off all my finger nails, pulled out some hair and generally felt a bit ill with worry during the first half of the story. This is a fantastic book and I can’t believe that Awakenings is Lazellari’s first novel.
The first few chapters are dedicated to the story of the altruistic New York cop, Cal, and the selfish loser, pornographer, Seth. Both characters find their world turned upside down when they discover that they are being hunted by powerful creatures that are intent on killing them and anyone they love. It is these early chapters that Lazellari really ramps up the tension and lives up to ‘tense fiction’ while these characters fight to survive. The pair is rescued by the mysterious redhead, Lelani, who not only saves them but restores their memories of who they really are and where they came from. Neither Seth nor Cal can remember anything before the age of thirteen and discover, with Lelani’s help, that they were on a mission to save the child that could restore peace to their broken empire. The race is on for Cal and Seth to find the child and save the day.
Lazellari introduces a number of secondary characters to support the story of Cal and Seth and these chapters are written from that character’s POV. These also help to provide the story of Aandor, the world where they have escaped from and their mission to save the child. The backstory is also witnessed from Cal’s dreams where the reader discovers that he has another life and love back in Aandor. This leaves Cal conflicted as drawn both to his old life and love back on Aandor and the love of his wife Cat, who has joined in on their search for the child. There is relatively little back story for Seth and we only learn his role in the mission through one scene where his memories are returned. The characters are battling not just find the child but to find what they have lost crossing over to this world. It is difficult to say too much without giving the plot away.
Awakenings is not an easy read in the respect that the tension is kept high throughout the whole book. You easily become invested in the main characters and spend the majority of the novel worried something bad will happen, even the characters such as Seth, who aren’t easy to like. Lazellari is particularly mean to the reader by leaving them with a Mount Everest sized cliffhanger at the end.
Even if fantasy isn’t one of your favourite genres you are bound to enjoy Awakenings. The fantasy elements are secondary to the main theme of love, honour, and courage, and Lazellari does an excellent job of merging pure and urban fantasy. My one small criticism would be that the plot could be a bit predictable at times and the main reason why I didn’t give Awakenings 5 stars. On balance it is probably one of my top 10 best reads of this year purely on the basis of his ability to create tension and pathos. Others have criticized the ending saying that the story just drops off and in truth had I not known there was another book coming out I would have been a bit disappointed. I am however, eagerly awaiting The Lost Prince but April 2013 seems a long time to wait!
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- The Lost Prince (April 2013)
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