Backlist Review: Redemption by Veronique Launier

Sunday, June 21, 2015
Title: Redemption
Author: Veronique Launier
Genre: young-adult, supernatural
Series: Hearts of Stone #1
Pages: 360 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected September 8 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

Guillaume: For five hundred years I've existed as a gargoyle. Perched atop an old Montreal church, I've watched idly as humanity wanders by. With the witch Marguerite gone, there is no one left to protect, nothing to care about. I never planned to feel again. But then a girl released me from my stone restraints, allowing me to return as a seventeen-year-old human boy. I must find out all I can about this girl's power . . .

Aude: Getting attacked twice in as many days is strange in itself, but even stranger is the intriguing guy I keep running into. There's something so familiar about him, like a primal drum rhythm from my dreams. But spending time together only raises more questions--about my heritage, a native Mohawk prophecy . . . and an unearthly magic threatening our city...

This was yet another young-adult supernatural tale that started off quite strongly - with several unique elements - and then faltered midway, ending with disappointment and relief that it was over. Much like how I felt reading The Demon Catchers of Milan, Launier's Redemption is a novel that starts off so well and then manages to squander all that potential in favor of the same old same old things seen so often in the in the YA/PNR genre: a stalkerish love interest, a focus on wishy washy romance angles and storylines, a slow-moving plot, and a main character who became so needy I couldn't stand her by the end. For a novel that started out with a bang and unique concepts, it went out with a cliched whimper. I'd rate the first 60ish pages higher than the rest - possibly a 3 or a 3.5, but this novel went downhill fast and a 2/5 rating is the fairest I can be, when looking back at this occasionally fun but ultimately unmemorable novel. By the end, I felt no enthusiasm reading Redemption - it was more like a chore that I had to finish rather than one I wanted to.

My problems with the novel started to rear their head before I was a third of the way through the 360-page book. Things that were working for this novel: unique paranormal beings (Gargoyles! The only other books I've read with them as a fixture are Karen Duvall's Knight's Curse series!),  an unexplored and fresh mythology (Mohawk Native American legends and themes), and a fun, atmospheric location (Montreal!) to go with. Things that were NOT working: the dual narrative that switches too much, the loads of exposition, and the clunky, and often quite cheesy, dialogue between all the characters, romantic or otherwise. The alternating first-person POVs changed so often - occasionally after two or three pages, or even on the same page, that it made for a lot of head-jumping and frustration. It does help a little that the dual narratives sound nothing alike - modern and feisty Aude reads quite differently than the stone-hearted Guillaume, but it's too much too often.

The author can create atmosphere, but her ability is limited elsewhere. The story at the heart of Redemption is nothing new, and the flashbacks interposed are hardly smooth - they're awkward, and jarring to the already-stuttering flow of the narrative, and do little to add to the overall plot of the novel. They came off as either exposition, filler, too short to have any impact, or are just plain annoying. I wanted to care about Aude, Guillaume, his "brothers", the bandmates - but I just couldn't relate to any of them, nor root for them as they fight their way through some truly obvious foreshadowing and clunky dialogue. The flat presentation of the characters, the hackneyed writing and plot, the multitude of convenient plot devices, the lack of subtlety or nuance in any form -- all served to distance me more and more from the novel itself and become more and more critical as the pages slowly kept turning.

Ultimately, Redemption came off as pretty formulaic for all its early promise of originality; cliched, and predictable. A few good ideas, a few funny lines lost in all the cheese, were not enough to keep me a fan of this novel. The series will continue, and I assume will garner its own particular brand of fans, but I am not and will not be one of them. 

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