As a fan of the House of Night series written by mother and daughter team P.C. and Kristin Cast, I was excited to see that Kristin Cast was writing a series on her own. The premise of Amber Smoke intrigued me, and I hoped the story itself would be well-written and engaging. Unfortunately, this first book in The Escaped didn’t live up to any of my expectations. I felt like I was watching an action movie due to the speed at which the author jumps from scene to scene. The characters are flat, and I simply couldn’t get invested in their fight to save humanity.
Alec is the only son of The Furies, the three sisters who, according to Greek mythology, look after the souls of the damned. They live in an ancient world that runs parallel to ours, a world mere mortals do not know about. Alec is responsible for saving this parallel world from decay as well as keeping the souls from taking over the mortal realm. It’s a task he was born to do, but just before embarking on the first leg of this mission, he is told he cannot do it alone. His mothers tell him he must find Eva, a descendant of the Oracle of Delphi. Only together can they save the worlds of the living and the dead.
Eva has no idea what is in store for her. She thinks only of partying, buying fancy clothes, and finishing her college education. She and her best friend Bridget attend a party at one of Tulsa’s fanciest hotels, a party from which Eva doesn’t return.
The Tulsa police department is looking for the killer of a young woman. Due to the complexity of the evidence left at the crime scene, they’re sure she isn’t the killer’s first victim. When they take a call from Eva’s worried mother, they’re pretty sure their murderer has struck again.
Reading this description, you might be asking yourself what’s not to like about a blend of mystery, mythology, and romance. As I read the first few chapters, I asked myself that very question. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that the book simply wasn’t living up to its potential in a number of ways. It’s important for me to like the characters I’m reading about, but none of these characters is the least bit likable. Eva is shallow and frivolous and Alec is simply not developed very well at all. The police detectives are stereotypical and even the villain falls flat. Also, people do things that don’t make sense, and Ms. Cast doesn’t try to explain their actions. I found myself bewildered more often than not.
There is practically no time for Alec and Eva to develop feelings for one another, and in fact Alec talks about loving Eva about halfway through the book, even though he doesn’t really know her. For her part, Eva has some strange dreams that involve Alec, and she feels drawn to him when they finally meet. She never mentions love, but it’s clear that’s where the author plans to go. Granted, these two are bound to one another because of the mission they must undertake, but I couldn’t buy into their feelings at all.
At just over 200 pages, Amber Smoke could have benefited from being a little longer. Maybe scenes wouldn’t have seemed so choppy and frenetic if the author had allowed them to play out instead of cramming them together. Maybe Eva and Alec could have actually got to know one another, and we might have been given a better look at Alec’s world. All of these things could have turned this book into something enjoyable. As it stands now, I can’t recommend it, and I certainly don’t plan to continue with the series.