Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ARC review CONJURED by Sarah Beth Durst


Summary from Goodreads:
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.
At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

When I was just a few dozen pages into Conjured, I said to one of my reader/writer friends that the main character, Eve, felt emotionally blank, and was kind of hard to connect with. I felt badly for her, but I couldn't get a handle on her personality, who she was as a character.
And I knew...I KNEW...Durst was an experienced author and a dang good one, too.  I suspected she used a somewhat remote narrative voice on purpose.
 I just didn't know why.
And as it turns out, there's a really good reason for the sort of bland narration. But figuring out how to explain it without spoilers is impossible...
So, I'll say what I can, and it ain't much!

When Eve uses magic, she blacks out, leading to these  fascinating, creepy flashback scenes told in first person. As Eve begins to unlock more of her memories and make more connections with the people in her life, mainly Zach, her co-worker at the library and love interest, the POV switches entirely to first person (it starts in third person) and becomes more engaging. So hold on if the beginning is rocky for you, because you might enjoy the story more as it progresses.

That said, don't expect a crime drama or action packed thriller, although the book blurb could lead you to expect those things. Magical serial killers.
Paranormal witness protection program.
 Solving murders. Those sound pretty intense and actiony. But in reality, they aren't primary elements to the story. The main thing happening is Eve trying to figure out what the HECK is going on in her life since she loses her memory all the time, and has very little recollection of her past to work with when she has any at all.

 The payoff to the "What's going on here??" comes in the last third of the book, and it's a pretty big one. I can almost guarantee that any theory you come up with about Eve's past will be wrong. Super-duper wrong. If you called it from the start, I'm impressed.
And also scared of you.
 Because of all the many, many YA speculative fiction books I've read where a character was trying to figure out precisely WHAT they were (not who...but what, because clearly the answer wasn't "a regular average human person with nothing extraordinary  or unusual about her whatsoever")...well...the answer to this question for Eve in Conjured is probably the creepiest dang one I've ever come across. Ever.
( People who have read this: Tell me if you thought it was creepy. Is it just me??)

The carnival imagery and the macabre stuff Eve remembers, and later in the book encounters in person, are all pretty awesome. Durst's dark creativity in this area was outstanding, and the highlight of the book for me.

Overall, it was an interesting read, but not one of my recent favorites.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!


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