I was asked to review this and I’m glad I did. Forbidden Shades of Dracula is up my ally.
So, moving on, this book has a lot going on. It’s not another fifty shades rip off. You could say there are some fifty shades elements, but I think Natsumi does something else entirely in this book. In some scenes she does give in to familiar erotica precepts, like exhibitionism and using the adjectives “smooth” and “delicate” too much. There is a scene, however, involving a cucumber and the discussion of death that is bizarre and thought provoking, and also the reason I’m giving this five stars.
Every time I started to think Natsumi was going to do something boring and cliche, she pulled me back in with some killer one liner. Her characters were not the usual “I’m deep because I listen to indie rock” types. At times I felt like the characters weren’t just fantasies but I’d somehow spied in on their real lives. Like I said, she does have a proclivity for cliche, so the feeling wasn't always there. Eva Natsumi created something raw and that was enough to make me contemplate five stars.
There were some grammatical errors, but not as much as I’m used to with indie books. It looked pretty decently edited, actually.
All in all, I did struggle a bit with giving this book five stars but only because it felt like it could have been something more. It’s teetering on mainstream erotica while verging on something weird and new. I gave her five stars because this book did entertain me, I did find it sexy, and, most importantly, I’m hoping to see more from her. I hope with her next books she comes in to herself. Her eery and thought provoking style is something I like. It’s not something I’m used to and is something I’m definitely looking to see more of.
This story was very unique and utterly gripped me at times, but it also had some problems.
To start, there are many different dialects and thus many grammatical errors. The errors are carefully researched to reflect the dialect of each character's native upbringing. It isn't clear the errors are purposeful representations of the dialect and, as such, feeds in to my bigger complaint: not enough development.
I read 2/3 of the book and it felt like 1/3. Only at the end of the book did substantial development happen. Many characters present their point of view, most of them artificial components of the game. Artificial intelligence was one of my favorite concepts, it fiddled with the perception of life. I was disappointed that concept wasn't expounded upon. This is also a key complaint: lack of better explanation for unnecessary explanation. There were many great concepts brushed over and most action and dialogue could be condensed.
Though the book is written as excerpts from multiple points of views, it becomes quickly obvious the reader is to focus on only two. We get to know them slowly and, again, their growth is packed in to the last third of the book. There were too many characters for growth and reflection. Some characters felt abandoned.
The premise itself is incredibly interesting, though. I can't think of any similar stories. It draws inspiration from all kinds of fairy tales, but also everything from science fiction, to wizardry, to Aikido as well. There were descriptions as unique as the story. A particular one that stuck with me was about comparing deaths of parents:
"It's like a tooth coming out. There's a hole that hurts when you put your tongue into it, but you keep putting your tongue into it. You don't really want to, but you can't stop it. You always want to compare."
I cant think of anything similar to that simile. Incredibly unique and profound.
I don't want to go in to much detail about the story, because there is a great ending that I didn't see coming. That is something to marvel, an author who can write a twist without the reader expecting the curve.
This book has a lot of those bursts of profundity, because the premise itself is profound. Of the premise is artificial intelligence and of that we come to know the AI, or the self-aware, godlike, omnipresent and omnipotent quantum computer. It comes to be another focal character discovering itself and others. It introduces prevalent motifs like benevolence, punishment, purpose, survival, and evolution. The reader gets to experience the simultaneous birth of a mind and the creation of a God.
So overall, the writing could stand to be hit with a mallet by an editor, but the premise is so unique that it has the potential to be a very intriguing and resonating fantasy series. I really hope to see more from this writer.