Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: The Holders by Julianna Scott


The Holders by Julianna Scott
Published March 5th 2013 by Strange Chemistry

17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called 'experts' who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland's perceived problem, Becca doesn't buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland's family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what's best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family's heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they've been waiting for. However, they are all--especially Becca--in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

She meets Alex, a Holder who is fiercely loyal to their race, and for some reason, Becca and Ryland. There's an attraction between Becca and Alex that can't be denied, but her true nature seems destined to keep them apart. However, certain destinies may not be as clear cut as everyone has always believed them to be.
Woah, my feelings about this one were all over the place when I finished it.  On the one hand, The Holders was definitely not the book I was expecting or that the synopsis made it sound like it would be.  When I first read the synopsis, my first thought was : cool like teen X-Men!  I figured it would have more of a fantasy feel, rather then sci-fi.  I wasn't wrong about that bit but I had seriously overestimated how big of a role the actual paranormal elements would have.  To me this read like a YA romance with some paranormal elements mixed in there.  I also thought the pacing could have been a bit more balanced.  That being said, I was impressed by the concise storytelling style used by author Julianna Scott and the well-developed & likeable characters did a good job of keeping me interested.  I think if I had known what to expect I might have enjoyed it more. It's always tough when expectations don't meet reality...

The Holders tells the story of children with special powers.  One such example is Becca's little brother Ryland how can hear voices.  Becca has had to protect him his whole life from people who wanted to 'help' Ryland, but only wanted to have him locked up or medicated.  So when two officials from St. Brigid's Academy show up at their doorstep & convince their mom to allow Ryland to attend their school for other children with abilities similar to Ryland, Becca goes into over-protective overdrive.  She convinces the officials to let her tag along so she can be sure they can be trusted.  Together, the travel across the ocean and begin to discover an entire race of 'Holders', other people like Ryland who have special abilities.  They learn that their estranged father has secrets of his own among this world, and as Becca begins to piece together pieces of her family history - she also begins to fall for Alex, a Holder who's oddly loyal to her and the rest of her family.  And just as things couldn't get any more weird, they do.  And Becca will never be the same again.

So, as I'm writing this I'm still undecided as to what I thought of The Holders as a whole.  I decided that writing my review might clear some things up & I figured outlining what I liked & what I didn't seemed like the simplest way to go so here it is.

-On the plus side:
  • As the first book in a planned series, there is enough potential here for me to want to read on. I felt like the story-telling was very concise and effective, never overly-descriptive or lacking.
  • The characters were all likeable and came off genuine. I especially liked the MC Becca. She was level-headed, noble & loyal though she could be rash even temperamental it never caused me to get really annoyed or frustrated with her. In fact it made her all the more real to me.  I thought her common sense and judgement a refreshing change from some of the more impulsive or brash female MC 's in YA lit.
  • The focus on her brother and his powers also gave the story a different feel than the usual.  And as seen from Becca's eyes as a normal albeit advanced older sister.  Sometimes a little detail like that can give a book a whole new feel.
  • On the surface, I liked the concept of 'Holders' and how their powers could be controlled with sciaths (special stones or gems worn on the person help hone & direct different abilities)
  • I LOVED the whole 'Boarding School' bit of it all. Especially the fact that the boarding school was in Ireland!
  • There were some beautiful passages about love & destiny at around 70% that had me highlighting in my kindle like crazy. Just really touching prose and effective wording to have me impressed with Julianna Scott's writing style, especially for a debut novel!
-On the minus side:

  • The special powers & the Holders elements really took a backseat to the potential romance that slowly emerges, and while the romance was fairly well developed and by no means insta-love, it just wasn't what I was expecting & it threw me off
  • There is not a lot of action in this one. At all.  The first half of it not much happens to be honest.  It was still compelling to read but I can see readers getting frustrated. I'll admit when I reached 50% I was like:nothing of substance has happened. And then BAM! Stuff started going down at around 51-52%!
  • While the love story was cute & I found it well developed, it was still kind of vanilla & I can see some people being put off by the whole thing.  For me, the issue was that the whole 'romance-aspect' seemed to be the big focus of the plot.  I was expecting a paranormal read with some light romance sprinkled in.  Instead, I got a romance heavy read with a little bit of paranormal sprinkled in.
  • The actual variety of special abilities used isn't overly original.  Don't expect to be blow away by their types or even the usage. Though the fresh-take on everything including concept of 'the Holders' and the usage of sciaths may be enough for some, it may not be for everyone.
All things considered, I'm still (obviously) of two minds when it comes to The Holders.  On the one hand, I do see a lot of potential for the series to progress & develop that has yet to be taped in to. While the story is lacking in the action department & on overall originality, the characters & overall writing style were big pluses and that mostly made it worthwhile for me.  Some passages were surprisingly touching and despite it's slow start, it still managed to keep me reading.  I do hope the next installment amps it up in the magic or paranormal department.   I'd recommend this one for fans of light paranormal reads with a penchant for more of a love-story mixed into it than actual action & magic.

My rating : 2.5 out of 5 stars ★★☆☆☆

*A copy of this book was provided via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.  Big thanks to Strange Chemistry for the copy*

10 comments:

  1. Oh wow yeah I wouldn't have guessed anything paranormal romancy about this--the cover screams high fantasy to me. I'm actually a bit more intrigued by it now since you know me and fantasy >.< But I'm not a fan of a book where the plot or anything gets pushed away for a romance. No insta love is rare though haha. Glad you still enjoyed it even though it was pretty different from what you expected going in.

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    1. It did to me too!! Yeah there was really minimal fantasy/paranormal elements here in my opinion anyway. They were there but most of the plot wasn't focused on it at all! But the romance was surprisingly well developed & believable so I still enjoyed myself >.<

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  2. Ohh I'm sad that you didn't enjoy it more! I adored this book from start to finish.
    Great review of the book, though! Agree with quite a few of your points :).

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    1. I<m glad you loved it that much Leah! It definitely had potential so we'll see how the next book goes!!

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  3. Huh, the cover totally screams fantasy to me just like with Giselle. It sounds interesting. It's too bad that it's not what you were expecting, but I'm glad that you did enjoy it and still want to continue the series. Awesome review. I love how you listed the positives and negatives about it!

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    1. Ditto! I think if I had known what I was getting into, I might have enjoyed it even more! It definitely has tons of potential so I'll be giving the sequel a go. Thanks for the sweet comment babe!

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  4. Hmm, I think I'll wait this one out a bit. I've had my share of books that start off really slow lately. All your pluses make me want to give it a go eventually though.

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    1. Yeah sometimes that's why I crave reading the 2nd or 3rd book in a series, just to avoid that slow 'first-book' start. I hope you will try it out eventually though :)

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  5. I feel the same - I had very mixed feelings about it. Though overall positive. My favourite thing was definitely the characters, as well. I was impressed that so many of them were so likeable, so well done there. I think my biggest disappointment was there just seemed to be so much potential wasted. You have all these fun superpowers, so why not make a fun action story? Not that I didn't enjoy the sweet romance, but I'm with you in needing more action and plot. And definitely more originality, too. I will likely wait to see how the sequel does in reviews before committing to anything. But I would be interested in trying out something else by the author. I actually really loved the format and your writing for this review, Micheline!!

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    1. I remembered your review back before I'd read the book so I was ready for the powers not being all that original...but I wasn't expecting such a lack in general action & magic! In the end the awesome characters & well-paced romance made it worthwhile, but it did take a bit for me to adjust to the story I was actually reading vs what I had expected! I definitely want to read something else by the author though now that I know what to expect - like you said: there's a lot of potential there :)

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