A few weeks ago, the author, David A. Willson, approached me and asked if he provided a free copy, would I review his book, LOOKING FOR DEI, in exchange for an honest review. The premise of the book sounded great, so I accepted his request. What follows is my review for LOOKING FOR DEI.
Fifteen-year-old Nara Dall has never liked secrets. Yet it seems that her life has been filled with them, from the ugly scar on her back to the strange powers she possesses. Her mysterious father refuses to say anything about her origins, and soon, she and her best friend must attend the announcement ceremony, in which youths are tested for a magical gift.
A gifted youth has not been announced in the poor village of Dimmitt for decades. When Nara uncovers the reason, she uses her own powers to make things right. The decision sets her on a path of danger, discovery, and a search for the divine. In the process, she learns the truth about herself and uncovers the biggest secret of all: the power of broken people.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked the story itself. I liked the message it tried to get across. I liked the religious aspects and the use of ruins and magic and the connections with the divine. My biggest issue is with the writing.
It’s not bad, but it was very hard to follow at times and I couldn’t get into the characters because of it.
The story opens with a beautiful scene of a 2-year old child playing in the field of an orphanage. The picture was very clear in my mind of her running and chasing butterflies, but something happens to the little girl (who we later learn is Nara) that is life-altering…and I didn’t get the sense of urgency, the terror, or the reason for what happened.
The story jumps into the future by 15 years to our leading lady, Nara, who seems at times to be like she’s 14, not seventeen. We don’t learn until sometime later why the events happened to her when she was 2-years old, and the explanation seemed to fall a bit flat because the plot itself was a bit convoluted. Nara’s reaction to the truth was almost nonexistent. I know if I found out what she found out, I would be livid. I would be demanding. I got a moment of surprise, but she seemed so accepting. It didn’t feel ‘right’.
This leads me to a second issue I had with the writing style. The book is written in several POVs, which I don’t mind, but there were times within chapters when I was supposed to be in Nara’s or Mykel’s POV, but then I head-hopped into someone else’s POV. It was jarring. As a reader, I tried to overlook it, but as an author, it drove me batty. The editor in me was very strong while reading this book. There were also cliches and info dumps where we learn so much stuff about the characters all at once. A few of these are okay, but sometimes it felt as I was being told everything instead of discovering it for myself. Also, sometimes I was left hanging after the introduction of characters, especially Gwyn. She arrives in Chapter 7, and I loved the mysteriousness about her. She comes across as this kick-butt warrior (think a female Aragorn/Strider) kind of girl…and then she disappears in Chapter 11 only to reappear briefly toward the ending of Chapter 14, and still, nothing happens. She’s an ‘observer’ type of character. I was hoping to get some action, some plot building going, some interaction between her and Nara and Mykel and Bybo, but there was nothing. Instead, the author moves on to another chapter and introduces us to another character, Nikolas. I felt so bad for him. My heart tugged at the way his father treated him, but in the course of a couple of pages, he grew up and he became the Minister. It was almost as if I didn’t have time to process it all. Of course, they all have a way of tying things up in the end, but initially, it was difficult at times to get through.
Toward the end of the book, the plot thickened and grew. The stakes became high and the reading grew a bit more intense. Overall, it had a satisfying ending, and Nara comes into her own and shows she is the heroine of this tale.
I will say the author has a way of making the story seem realistic. During the entire read, I knew where I was. I could see the realm, the castles, the lakes, the forests. I could feel the pain of the characters. I could smell the air. I could feel breezes on my face. I could feel the ground beneath my feet and experience the horrors no person should ever go through. That is a wonderful accomplishment in itself. The story was also a fairly quick read. I could have done so in one sitting if I’d had one day to do so, but I finished in two. There were plenty of twists and turns, and I think many teens would find this to be an enjoyable read.
I give it 3 stars. As I said, I liked the story but felt the writing could be tightened up a bit to make for a more intense, cohesive read.