Book Review – Halflings by Heather Burch

After months of promoting Halflings by Heather Burch, I finally finished it.  It would have been a quick read, coming in at just under 300 pages, had life not gotten in the way, but I guess none of us have control over that.

What is Halflings about?  From the inside cover:

After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves Halflings.  Sworn to defend her, misfits, Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret – and the wings that come with it.

 A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger.  While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls.  As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in a scientist’s dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.

When I first discovered this novel several months ago, I was intrigued by the concept.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, not that I was a fan of ‘angel’ books.  In fact, I’d never read an angel book before, but I love Young Adult fantasy and this seemed to be right up my alley.

After reading it, I have to say I was split on my reaction to it.  Halflings has everything a Young Adult urban fantasy novel should have:  a cute, strong heroine, extra-cute hunky guys, a little romance, and a few bad guys.  What it doesn’t have, in my opinion, is a definitive plot.

The novel opens on a strong note:  Nikki is running for her life from a pack of hellhounds gnashing at her heels.  Lucky for her, the hunky Halflings come to her rescue.  But why?  The answer to that question isn’t really explained, nor is the reason why she’s being chased.  We have some hints…the mysterious Omega Corporation, genetic testing, antique weapons dealings…but as to a plot?  I couldn’t find one.  There is no beginning, middle and end to a single scenario.  Nikki doesn’t discover the answers to why she is what she is or why she was chosen.  We don’t learn why she was being chased by the hellhounds.  We learn what she is, but we don’t know how she became what she is.  There are a bunch of leads like endless wires hanging from a vast network of computers, but none of them go anywhere.  The balance between the questions raised and the questions answered is uneven.  I didn’t feel there was any sort of wrap-up, conclusion to anything.  As an author, I found this extremely unnerving.  It also may be why I’m so critical.  Sorry Heather.  🙂

Yes, there are half-human, half-angel hunks:  Mace, Raven and Vine.  Our heroine, Nikki is 17, is an artist and loves motorcycles.  Mace, Raven and Vine are Halflings, creatures caught between heaven and earth with so much to lose should they fall in love with a human.  Mace is a gentle soul who does everything right.  Raven is dark, mysterious with a touch of ‘bad boy’.  Nikki, of course, is drawn to both.  Vine…well, we don’t learn much about Vine except that he’s sort of new to this whole “Halfling” thing.  He sort of hangs around in the background and is occasionally thrown in, almost as an afterthought so the reader doesn’t forget about him.  I suspect he will hold a bigger role later, but for now, he’s just there.  There are other Halflings that are introduced, but like so many others, their characters aren’t fleshed out enough to answer any questions.  In fact, they sort of confuse things even more by creating new questions.

There are other sub-characters in the story…the teacher…the Halfling’s overseer, Will…the mysterious Damon Vessler…Nikki’s parents and Bo.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel connected with them as much as I wanted.  There is an unexplained mystery hanging around Nikki’s parents that’s not fleshed out enough.  Nikki knows something is up, but she doesn’t pursue it nor does it seem to faze her.  I felt there should have been some suspense, some tension, but Nikki’s reaction to all the red flags and the mystery surrounding her parents fizzles.  In fact, her parents’ presence seems almost arbitrary.  I also felt there was a huge hole missing at the end, like a chapter was missing or something.  The story and suspense surrounding Nikki’s parents just snapped, crackled and popped.   There should have been several OMG! moments, but there weren’t.

Then there were two deaths, both of which should have affected Nikki in profound ways.  One should have played over and over again in her mind like a movie.  It should have affected her future decisions.  She shouldn’t have been able to push it from her mind so easily.  It should have stuck with her, made her more suspicious of those around her.  Her reaction, however, seemed unattached and certainly not the way I would expect anyone, much less a teen, to react.  The other death should have left her, and us, heartbroken, trembling, tears streaming down our faces.  Once again, the emotion wasn’t there.  I felt cheated.

Nikki’s BFF, Krissy, should have played a bigger part, and the villain wasn’t villainy enough.  I suspected this individual from the beginning, but the big reveal was a letdown, kind of like stubbing your toe and saying “ouch’.  I did feel Nikki’s anger at the end, but it was short-lived.  I wanted her, the Halflings to do something, anything, to the villain, but it didn’t happen.  I was left scratching my head and thinking, ‘Is this the end?’

As for the narrative, I found it to be full of clichés and clunky descriptions that at times, weighed the storyline down.  I wanted the action of the first line to continue throughout the book.  Instead, it came in spurts, and while the spurts were exciting when they came, there weren’t enough of them to sustain the pace usually found in YA novels.

With all this said, I still enjoyed the book immensely and would recommend it.  There were some funny scenes between Nikki and the Halflings that left me chuckling and the romantic moments got my heart pulsing and wanting more.  Like Nikki, I couldn’t help being drawn to both Mace and Raven.  I can see the 15 and up female readers loving this book and craving more.  There is definitely room for expansion and the introduction of new characters to help Nikki figure out what she is and what her role is to the Halflings.  I can envision girls sympathizing with and wanting to be like Nikki.  They will also pick sides.  Does Team Mace or Team Raven have a familiar ring to it?  I personally like Raven.  Then again, I’ve always been attracted the dark, handsome ones with brooding eyes.

From my understanding, there are talks of a movie somewhere down the line and a prequel is already available through several venues.  The second novel in the series is scheduled for release in September 2012.

While Halflings has its flaws, as do most novels, they are not enough to keep this reader away from reading more in the series.  In fact, I’m looking forward to this angelic three-way romance where all players stand the chance of losing everything…including their hearts and souls.

Out of 5 stars, I give Halflings a 4.  Happy reading!