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Lightning-fast superhero romp with grave consequences

By Chrysalis, author of Gift of Light

Feb 18, 2019: This review is part of a review swap. I was provided with a free copy of the ebook, but all opinions are my own.

I’ve been sitting here pondering whether I’d rather assign four or four and a half stars. Graven has its flaws, but in the end I decided that these flaws (such as the class A speed of the plot development) actually aren’t detrimental to web fiction. But there are a lot of typos and minor editing issues (their / they’re, some one instead of someone etc), and Amazon customers have higher expectations, thus I’ll rate the ebook four stars.

Graven incorporates many of the narrative elements that I personally prefer in superhero fiction. The atmosphere is bleak and dark, our heroes are more morally gray than not, and POV characters can actually die. Hell, one of the PoV ‘heroes’ is in fact a (former?) villain!

I also appreciate the ‘realism’ of the battle scenes. Yes, there are superpowers in action, and some power combinations between teammates are kind of overpowered, but the author is aware of this and just rolls with it. Besides, some opponents are equally or even more overpowered. A fight between powered characters can and will lead to severe injury or death in split seconds. There are no flashy acrobatics happening, the characters are fully focused on killing or disabling their enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible. No triple backflips in midair for the sake of looking cool. Ain’t got time for that nonsense when you’re about to get killed. There are some interesting power synergies going on between characters, too.

Plus, the cast is almost entirely female (for reasons rooted in the setting and the mystery of the Doorways) and ethnically diverse. I really have to applaud the author for that.

On the other hand, the main plot felt rushed and didn’t really grab me, though there were some chapters / interludes that pull me in and made it hard to put my Kindle down, something that rarely happens these days. I would have appreciated more Worm style human drama and less focus on end of the world type stuff. The characters were interesting, but I didn’t spend enough time with any of them to feel any sort of attachment. I’m also not a huge fan of multiple first person POVs. I’d occasionally forget whose POV I was reading, and the various ‘I’ people congealed into an amorphous mass in my head. But that’s 100% matter of taste.

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