Monday, November 25, 2013
Book Review: Mortal Coils
Mortal Coils by Eric Nylund
Series: Mortal Coils (Book One)
Nothing interesting ever happened to fifteen-year-old orphans Eliot and Fiona while they’ve lived in the strict, oppressive household of their grandmother. A chance visit, however, reveals that there is much more to the twins. They are the offspring of a goddess and Lucifer, Prince of Darkness.
Now, to settle the epic custody battle between these two families, the fallen angels create three diabolical temptations, and the gods fashion three heroic trials to test Eliot and Fiona. More than ever they need to stick together to survive and to learn how to use their budding supernatural abilities . . . for family allegiances are ever-shifting in the ancient, secret world they have entered.
Because it's November, this book gets the unfortunate disadvantage of having been read during NaNoWriMo, meaning it was read in little chunks during my limited free time instead of being read over the course of a couple days. This doesn't help any book, no matter how well written (or not), so take this review with a grain of salt.
As the blurb says, the book starts out with twins Eliot and Fiona, trapped in a highly regimented and rule-bound household, wanting something exciting to happen to them. Of course all is not well, and even when they think they're just boring teenagers, the reader can tell that there's something special about them, even as they go through their daily grind of homework and thankless job.
Both twins get their chance to be the point of view character, and each handles the challenges around them slightly differently. They are similar in many ways and eager to prove themselves but have their own dreams and insecurities. While their voices can get muddled, having both perspectives strengthens the story.
The overall concept was what turned me on to the book. So much urban fantasy has become "tough PI (or the like) involved with vampires/werewolves/etc in a modern city," and while there's nothing particularly wrong about that, it gets tiring. The author chose to try something else and pit mythological gods and goddesses against the demons of Christian mythology. It's a clever idea.
The overarching "challenges to prove yourself" idea is one that appears in classic stories, and though it won't set the world on fire, is a great story structure to use. It wasn't hard to guess how it was going to turn out, but the "how are we getting there" is the fun part of this journey.
The first major problem the book has is its length. My mass market is 672 pages long. For a book that is sort of advertised for (and written about) teenagers, that seems like an awfully long story. I wouldn't be complaining about the length if the story grabbed you from the first few pages and didn't let go, but it felt like a long time until the hook and an even longer time until the really plot line gets moving. More than once I considered just speed-reading to the end and putting it aside. Not a good sign.
The second complaint is the Immortal/Infernal characters and their names. Clearly the author has drawn on Greek mythology rather heavily, borrowed some from Norse and Mesopotamian, and done the rest from the Judeo-Christian tradition. I have absolutely no problem with this, but I had a hard time trying to figure out who was who.
Most of the gods/demons are given modern human-sounding names. Again, this isn't a problem if you can identify them and figure out who they are supposed to be. But when you have a room full of Louis, Aaron, Dallas, Audrey, Henry and Uri, I have absolutely no idea why I should be concerned about these people. It's really hard to be concerned when you don't have the background on these figure. Toward the end it becomes clearer, but by that point I was beyond caring about who these characters, who have been conniving and plotting for 500 pages, are meant to represent.
All in all, I can't say I was disappointed in this book, but I'm not sure that it was worth the time investment.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Will I read the sequel? Probably not.