Indie Book Review: Anathema by Megg Jensen

Anathema by Megg JensenAll this discussion about self-publishing and indie authoring has revved up my curiosity engine. (This is the same engine, incidentally, that convinced me it was a good idea to try drinking unfiltered water in Mexico. Not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.) In any case, I’m asking myself questions, and I figure there are at least some of you out there who have the same questions.

What are the good self-pubbed books out there? How do I find them? How do I support the authors who write them?

To answer these questions and more, I’ll be starting a blog-post series of book reviews for self-published books. About once a month, I’ll read a self-published work (most likely YA, but I might delve into other genres as well) and then critique it on my blog.

For my first review, I’ve chosen ANATHEMA by Megg Jensen.

Honestly, I’m not even sure how I first heard about Anathema. I think it might have been through Twitter, but it could just as easily have been through other Internet-ian avenues. Which is an interesting point, actually. Is the best way to find self-published books through mentions on the web/twit/blogosphere? Mayhaps. But that is a discussion for another time. Back to Anathema!

Anathema is a high-fantasy YA novel about a girl who discovers she’s the key to the freedom of her enslaved people. She starts out as a slave herself, and when she is unexpectedly freed, she discovers some things about herself, and some of the people closest to her, that she would never in a million years have suspected. I can’t tell you all much more than that without giving too much away, but I can tell you that if you are a fantasy fan, this book does everything it should to satisfy your deepest fantasy cravings.

Characters
Reychel: Reychel is a very sweet and sympathetic protagonist. At times she is almost criminally unaware of what’s going on around her. But it actually seems to work for her character, because (a) she was sheltered from birth to the point of not being allowed to look out windows and (b) part of her character make-up is to believe the best in people always—even people who ABSOLUTELY don’t deserve it.

Mark: Mark is dashing in the role of lead love interest. I like how he has other things going on besides Reychel, and that though he reveals himself to her (I don’t mean that in a dirty way as this is not that kind of book), he has his own agenda of which we are not sure because Reychel is not sure.

Ivy: As a character, Ivy is fairly complex. Again, I’m trying not to give too much away, so let’s just say that she’s a better XYZ than ABC and I hope she comes back in the next book. (Did I mention this book marks the beginning of a series? No? Oops. Well, it does.)

Johna: Johna’s a pretty good mentor, though we don’t see much of what she teaches our intrepid heroine. At the end of the novel, Reychel moves to a different “teacher,” and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

Kandek: The antagonist, if one person can be said to be the antagonist. Also a rather complex character. There’s a revelation or two about this guy that shocked the pants off me, and I’m not sure how it will ultimately affect Reychel, though I have hopes in certain directions (which will remain unsaid for now as to avoid spoilers).

Plot/structure
As mentioned previously, this book is high fantasy. All the expected structural conceits and ploterific tropes apply. Interestingly, something noticeably missing from the story are fantastical creatures. There are only humans in this ‘verse. (Well, and horses.) Which I think works, actually, as the main conflict is between two races of people. Inserting creatures into the mix for fantasy’s sake would have been tangential and unnecessary.

Anathema did seem a tad on the short end for an epic fantasy, but it was hard to tell for sure since I read it on my Kindle. It was a fast, easy read with nothing extraneous or eye-rollingly boring, so I suppose in terms of length it was perfect. I wouldn’t have minded a little more internalization on Reychel’s part, though. I’m a sucker for reflection, perhaps too much so. But as far as twists/reversals and quest-like structure, Anathema hits it pretty much on the head.

Writing
The quality of the writing is very professional with fewer typos than I’ve seen in traditionally published books. (My not-so-inner editor is waving a Megg Jensen flag right now.) She has an especially good feel for transitions, between characters, between scenes, and between types of narrative (i.e., description, dialogue, action, etc.).

My guess is that the rest of the series will be even stronger in the writing department, as my only quibbles with the author’s writing have to do with word choices here and there seeming to be too modern for a fantasy story. Well, and that I’d like her to delve a little deeper into Reychel, take a few more risks in terms of exposing Reychel’s thoughts about things. (And believe me, there are plenty of crazy things going on that she could sink her reflectionary teeth into.)

This book is for you if…
You’re a fantasy aficionado looking for a new epic ride. There’s a lot that’s fresh about this story while still scratching all of your fantasy itches.

This book is not for you if…
1. You don’t like fantasy.
2. You prefer your fantasy on the scope of Tolkein and Jordan, with fully conjugated made-up languages and multiple species of fantastical creatures.
3. You are allergic to awesomeness.

Buy it, borrow it, or bypass it
Buy it. Definitely.

About Mary Elizabeth Summer

Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor--er, cat. TRUST ME, I'M LYING, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014.
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7 Responses to Indie Book Review: Anathema by Megg Jensen

  1. Yippee! Love this new book review element of your blog. (And honestly, not just because I can now cross my fingers and hope maybe sometime you’ll want to check out my own self-pub, coming-of-age, lit novel!) You put out a great question, as to how eager readers can best finds the cream of the self published crop. So much seems to come down to word of mouth, so it’s really terrific that you’ve kicked your curiosity into the ring. (BTW, you really didn’t drink the water, right??!!)

    Your first review is so beautiful done and ANATHEMA, a title I was completely unfamiliar with until reading about it here, is definitely a book I’m now anxious to dip into. Thank you!

    • mesummer says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks for leaving a comment. And I’m happy to check out your novel as well. (Curiosity in overdrive, and YES, I did drink the water–it was a very, very bad idea.) I hope you like Anathema as much as I did! :-)

      • As a voracious reader and author, it’s such a treasure to come across thorough and well written reviews for indies, and so I most wholeheartedly agree with Claude’s comments below. Absolutely, this new venture of yours deserves abundant traffic. Thus, I too, will work on stirring the dust by passing the good word about your blog from my little corner of the world :-)

  2. Just found your Tweet about this and checked out your blog for the first time! I really like the way you’ve done it, very thorough, balanced and honest. Congrats!
    This is the kind of reviews that elicit trust among readers – very important for indies because there is still this idea that self-publishing is pursued by those rejected by Legacy Publishers. A notion, of course, that is no longer valid now that the digital revolution is in full swing and has changed all the parameters!
    I just RT’d your site with a comment because I think it deserves traffic!

    • mesummer says:

      That is so awesome! Thank you! I agree that honest reviews are incredibly important for the indie-author revolution. Marketing for indie authors is made or broken by word of mouth, so there needs to be lots of buzz but also honest buzz. Thanks again for the RT and the awesome compliment.

  3. Pingback: Indie Book Review/Interview: Oubliette by Megg Jensen | Sticking to the story

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