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Superbly written superhero slice of life

By Chrysalis, author of Gift of Light

Nov 2, 2016: At the time of this review, I read the first two ‘days’ (about 24 posts). I got the impression that I was still in the initial build-up phase of this serial, so the reading experience may change once there is more content available.

At this point, I hesitate to call it a superhero serial. There is a lot of focus on character introductions, and so far the action consists mainly of dialogue, with a few exceptions (Lexie’s chapters). I haven’t encountered any supervillains in the story so far, and the protagonists technically aren’t heroes. They don’t wear costumes, either.

The first thing I noticed about this story was the absolutely fantastic writing, which improves further in later chapters. I’d say it’s probably the most well written story I discovered on WFG so far. It’s so good that every once in awhile there was a paragraph I read twice (or more) just because it was THAT good. I never read paragraphs more than once, not even in traditionally published novels that have been edited by a small army of publishing professionals. I envy the author for his talent. This story is a smooth, easy read.

However, the numerous separate plot threads and POV switches demand a lot of patience. I counted six (!) main characters with their own POVs, and occasionally there are guest interludes thrown in.

All of the protagonist POVs are told in first person singular, which I personally find hard to get into when it doesn’t focus on a single character – even though their voices and personalities were different, all those ‘I’ characters kind of converged in my mind and as a result, I found it hard to get emotionally invested in any of them.

I really liked the character portraits at the beginning of each chapter. They seemed to fit very well and helped keep track of everyone.

Sanctioned’s second strongest point (aside from the writing) is the world building. This world is SO interesting! It’s kind of like our world, but also kind of . . . not. It’s a dystopian setting, where Scotland and England are actually at war and powered folks are being used for warfare. Glasgow is a ruin, inhabited by mutants who can’t control their powers, and York has a serious zombie problem. The United States have fallen apart and are in shambles.

It’s such a rich, wonderfully constructed setting rife with conflict and tragedy, but unfortunately the reader doesn’t get to experience much of its uniqueness first hand. There is one POV focused on York and its zombie apocalypse, but the other characters deal with issues that I personally found much more mundane and less interesting. Because there are so many different characters and their POVs usually switch after every chapter, their individual plots move at a glacial pace. I found it hard to get invested in any of those stories because of the constant back and forth and the slow plot progression.

The murder of Glorious, a world-famous and popular heroine, appears to be the main plot. However, the reader doesn’t get to experience what makes Glorious so special. The characters talk about how great she is and how much she means to them, but it was all telling without a personal history to connect the heroine to the characters, so I found it hard to understand why they cared that much.

What’s more, there are chapters that are wonderfully written but spend thousands of words repeating information the reader already knows, with only a little bit of new information thrown in. For example, there’s a full chapter dedicated to a BDSM scene to show just how much [spoiler] wanted to be dominated by her lover. It felt a bit gratuitious to me – all of this was already implied in previous chapters. The novel part that actively contributed to story progression came at the very end and was rather short. I would have preferred if the whole chapter was dedicated to new information and moved the plot along a bit faster.

I feel that the pace and disjointed structure work to the detriment of the story, which is such a shame, because the world and the writing are SO GOOD. If the author focused on one POV and plotline (say, York), I have a feeling that the ebooks for this story would sell like hotcakes. The author has all the talent in the world to write a bestseller. He only needs to tighten up the pace and plot progression.

To summarize:

Writing 4.5 stars (would be 5.5 of 5 stars without the overlap and pacing issues)

World building 4 stars (5 for York because the reader gets to see and experience it)

Story 3.5 stars

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