Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: Jasmyn by Alex Bell

(I haven't updated this blog in forever, but I've recently read several books that I enjoyed and wanted to post some reviews on them, so here you go! Warning: mild spoilers! No real turning points in the plot revealed, though.)

JasmynJasmyn by Alex Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jasmyn by Alex Bell is a book of myths and fairytales - fantasy in its purest form.

The story starts off being about a young widower, Jasmyn Gracey, who over the course of a week is approached by various odd individuals, all asking about her recently deceased husband or for reasons unknown to her, know exactly who she is.

After some bizarre run-ins with dead swans, a black horse, and apparitions of human bones, Jasmyn finds herself joining forces with her estranged brother-in-law Ben, in order to unravel the mysteries surrounding the life & death of her husband.

I found the plot in this novel to be good, and the story and characters kept me engaged throughout. The novel itself is not a particularly difficult read, but it is a very enjoyable one if you are fan of the fantastic with a bit of a taste for the macabre. The "twist" in the story, the one thing that seems to elude Jasmyn throughout the majority of the book, was fairly obvious (to me) about 1/3 of the way in. Despite that, I was still interested in seeing exactly how Bell managed this information, how it was parceled out to us, and what clues she left along the way.

And I have to say, while I found my suspicions confirmed as to the nature of certain relationships within the novel, I was pleasantly surprised by exactly how they were revealed to me, and I found myself slightly off-base as to the motives/identities of certain characters (which I loved). Gotta love a bit of smoke and mirrors in the plot.

There were elements in the book that are fairly fairytale-like in themselves: Jasmyn's albino complexion, her ethereal violin, her connection to her music, her perfect romance with her deceased husband Liam. I did like how other elements in the book (the black horse, the black swans, the red eyes etc) did not have the typical color associations they would other tales.

The novel was fairly fast-moving, and I enjoyed seeing things unravel from Jasmyn's perspective. My favorite moment in the book is the grand reveal, which is done quite well. Jasmyn has revealed so many of her memories to you in the beginning, and you've gotten to see how tightly she's held on to those moments, and how they've defined who she is. The moment when the life she believes she'd lived and the life the world has seen are merge with reality was really well done.

The ending was more or less what I imagined it would be (as this is at its heart a fairytale), but there were moments where the ending was left in doubt. One of the things that I liked about the book, was that every character took in stride the existence of the fantasy world that had bled into their own. There were no lengthy explanations or attempts to explain away what they'd seen/experienced. It happened, they accepted it, and moved forward. There were moments where the plot could have been a bit tighter, or perhaps the elements of the story less transparent, but overall, I'd recommend this book. It was a fun read for Saturday afternoon.

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