SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Drift, by Casie Aufenthie
This review reflects my own opinions and judging criteria, and not those of other members of Team Escapist.
On the SPSFC2 website, this book is placed in the sub-genre, romance. But I found it difficult (if at all) to find it under this sub-genre on other sites such as Amazon and GoodReads. I started reading it without knowing of the sub-genre since the back blurb didn't mention it either, which ended up confusing me later. Since certain criteria need to be met within the romance sub-genre, the book left me with a bit of a conundrum on how to proceed judging/reviewing. Because if it is a romance, the romance started too late. If it is not a romance … it was a romance. Make sense? Let me explain …
When I began reading, the first chapter blew me away! Exceptional writing with a little boldness and brashery properly thrown in by the protagonist, Samara. Good world-building off the start, along with a strong protagonist who held agency. I got a good feeling of who she was, what she stood for, what the complications were in her life and world, and I understood the actual world in which the story was told.
Within the first chapter, which focused on, Samara, there was an inciting incident which not only triggered her journey in this chapter, but introduced the reader to the bigger conflict of the entire story arc. Samara’s decision, and how she came to it, showed who she was. This is masterful ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’. I know who she is, what her background has led her to become and how it influences her life and decisions now, because I watched as she struggled to come to a major decision in the first chapter.
At this point, I could not wait to read more!
By around chapter 3, the road became a little rocky with speed-bumps known as info-dumps, and potholes by way of antagonists being way too powerful not to be able to completely end the entire conflict of the story. Based on examples of what these Illuminatos are capable of doing, they shouldn’t have enemies. This made me question the believability of the world created. Also, the science behind the ‘classes’ was a little sketchy. It required a lot of suspended-disbelief on my part. Genetics are not stagnant. Mutations will continue to occur. And people will cross-breed regardless of someone (especially someone they don’t respect and are fighting against) telling them not to. But I was willing to hang in there, and I think it had to do with the clean writing and easy-going simplicity of the story itself.
The great, deep, characters and smooth writing kept me interested.
That said, sometimes things seemed too basic. Nothing stood out. I wouldn’t say everything was cliche, but if felt a little ‘same-ole-same-ole’ dressed up in a not so complicated way as to make a generic plotline more interesting. Fighting for freedom from an oppressive regime. That’s fine, but some ingenuity in how it is told is needed. At times, it felt like a lot of spoon-feeding of morals and equality.
As for the plot reveals, twists and turns we all expect, especially in an action-adventure tale ….
I won’t spoil the specifics, but I could pretty much telegraph every twist and turn and reveal and future action and/or decision made in the story. I could kind of see what was coming many chapters before it actually happened. I think this has to do with the simplistic nature of the story. It seemed to be following a path I felt I’d walked a hundred times.
Although, the writing itself is very clean, it was lack lustre. And it started to feel more of a romance story about halfway through. And this is where my romance conundrum started.
Romance is fine, but it can’t take over as the primary genre halfway through a story, it changes the intended genre of the story and is a misdirection for the reader who thought they were in for an action-adventure story. Keep the romance as a sidestory and don’t let it become the primary. Unless of course it is a true romance, in which case the romance criteria needed to start way before the midway point of the book so as not to disappoint the romance readers. That said, a slow burn is fine, but the romance has to be at least hinted at. Romance readers might get bored wading through everything to get to the romance. And those wanting the action-adventure, get put-off by the sudden change of genre to romance. Pick a genre. Stick to it and be proud of it. The whole book should be filled with that genre.
Some other issues that kept me from really enjoying what could have been a good, clean, easy read of a story was; sometimes, if not most times, chapters started with descriptions at the cost of the reader knowing who was on the page and where they were.
And later, when it slipped into a rather large ‘alternate reality’ near the end, approximately page 300, it went on too long and introduced new characters too late in the story. I wanted back to the story at hand. The alternate realities started to get boring and a little long winded. Almost as if the author really wanted to write another book instead of the one they were writing. And it became a little syrupy with the lovey-dovey, which counteracted all the action the earlier book promised. This is where balance was needed. For those romance readers waiting for this, it was too late in the game. And for those thinking this was an action book, it came out at the point where the story’s action should be taking off, so it leaves them feeling unsatisfied.
Then, out of the blue, the story turned into a redemption story for the antagonist- which in and of itself is it’s own internal-genre and should have made itself known from the beginning.
As for the ending, it felt like a big set-up for another book. I didn’t feel satisfied in anyway. No one got what they wanted, whay they needed, and ultimately, nothing had really changed. Samara learned about herself, but nothing came of this as it is set to happen in the second book. This left me feeling a bit dissatisfied.
And ...sorry, not sorry, and this may be my opinion only, but unfortunately the story had a ‘saviour from above’ feel to it. It took an upper-class person to save the so-called oppressed. The upper-class saviour knew better and was teaching the lesser class. If this book was to be about the oppressed fighting back, than it should have been the oppressed who fought back. Not the oppressed led by an upper-class person.