Celestia by J. D. Evergreen

Synopsis: After the sudden death of its king, the land of Katera is thrown into chaos. One man leads an army towards the capitol, destined to claim the throne as his own by any means necessary, including using dark magic. Few are able to avoid the effects of this man’s rampage, but among the lucky are Taliah, Kent, and Chloe, who have their own destiny to fulfill.

Sigh.

Initially, Celestia‘s description drew me in. It built up significant expectations of intertextuel application, resounding commentary on the hero’s journey, and a fresh take on the ‘ancient world full of magic’ trope.  Unfortunately, it did not deliver.

It is apparent that the author, J.D. Evergreen, has a wonderful imagination. However, this story gets so caught up in the conventions of a typical fantasy journey story that, despite a few forceful alterations to the stereotype, the book just isn’t interesting or new. If you’re a huge fan of fantasy (which I admittedly am not), and want to read the same story that you have read before, only with different names, then this may be fine.

There are several things which make this book difficult to read beyond the predictability of the plot. From the beginning, the protagonist, Taliah, is not very bright. Throughout the story she fails to make connections that are obvious to the reader and her traveling companions. She is forced to fit into the stereotype of the *chosen one* who doesn’t realize who she is or what she can do until she suddenly manifests magical abilities at exactly the right moment. While this might work in some stories, it doesn’t flow here. Taliah’s ability to do magic is foreshadowed early on (not subtly, I might add), and it does not take her friends long to realize that she has some sort of supernatural power. However, Taliah does not understand the signs that are literally right in her face, such as her eyes changing color.

Once Taliah catches on that she can do powerful things, her powers are never explained. They are whatever she thinks she needs to be able to do to get out of whatever unfortunate situation she finds herself in next. Granted, a degree of ambiguity and continual discovery would be okay if Taliah did not suddenly talk as if she knows everything about what she can do just a few days after recognizing her power and with no formal training. I became increasingly irritated towards the end of the book as she would refer to powers that the reader has not seen demonstrated or discussed, but Taliah somehow knows exist. There is no reason to know that she can do certain things, yet it is written as if the reader should know without being told.

Many of the characters are inconsistent, or at least poorly described. We have very little background on any of the protagonists, making them difficult to understand. From the trio we follow from the beginning to the Phoenix who is mentioned throughout but does not show up until the end, there are a lot of unanswered questions I have about the characters, their philosophies, and their histories. Surprisingly, the antagonists are more thoroughly developed, and some of them only show up in the last quarter of the book.

I could continue in detail about all of the things that made this book a struggle for me to get through, but I’m sure you get the point. Additional (brief!) criticisms include the following:

Taliah isn’t a good leader.

The romance is underdeveloped.

There are too many unnecessary commas.

The ending is extremely abrupt. Is the realm really saved? How will the kingdom be ruled from now on? What is the purpose of the Phoenix, and why are there now two? These are just a few of the questions I am left with.

Everything bad that can happen, or could have happened in the past, seems to occur. Despite this, it is difficult to empathize with many of the characters because of their own repression and disassociation, or because of the blunt way such things such as death, kidnapping, and torture are mentioned and then dropped.

There is one scene which defied many (though not all) of my reasons for being disappointed with this book. The initial meeting between the trio and the Phoenix is written at a significantly higher quality than everything leading up to it, and for a few pages I was hopeful that the book might turn itself around and be redeemed with the ending. It didn’t last, but I was impressed with this one scene.

Unfortunately, there are too many irritations in Celestia for me to recommend it. There is so much that could be done to improve it; the idea behind the book isn’t bad itself. There are just too many issues in the way it plays out.

 

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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