Thursday, March 24, 2016
Review: The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule
Author: Adi Rule
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: 22 March 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
I received this book from St. Martin's Griffin for review.
For eighteen years a girl with no name, a Redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey-identical except for her eyes-has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology has promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.
But when she switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens and gets attacks by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the Redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.
In Adi Rule's stunning new novel, The Hidden Twin, the girl with no name, must finally choose a name and a path for herself, drawing a line between myth and history to prove herself more than a monster if she is to save both her sister and her home. (summary from Goodreads)
Rule has created an enchanting world, full of fairytale-like quality, but it lacks an emotional connection.
Reading The Hidden Twin was a hard one. I found myself putting it down a lot. It just couldn't keep my attention long. Finally I had to sit and force myself to just get it finished. The thing is, The Hidden Twin isn't terrible, really. It's certainly not perfect, but it's not outright terrible. It's just missing something vital - that connection that keeps you hooked and wanting more. A lot happens throughout this novel and Rule keeps the pace moving, moving, moving. But for all that there's plenty of action, there's no real build up, no anticipation to the narrative. There's no suspense or tension, no emotional investment. It's a cliche analogy, but reading The Hidden Twin felt a little like listening to really fast sport commentary. You know the kind, where they seem to barely draw breath? The story was too much this happened, then this happened, then that, then this, then that, then the end. I started feeling lost. I don't mean that I didn't understand what was happening, but rather because I wasn't invested, I found myself simply not caring enough. Rule describes her fictional world well enough. I could easily picture Caldaras, and the idea of the Others, Mol, the Temple, Dal Roet and Bet-Nef were really interesting, as well as the mythology of the twins, one human and one Redwing, born to an Other and a human. This mythology that the whole of The Hidden Twin builds upon is quite awesome. If only it had developed more of an emotional punch. The Hidden Twin was unfortunately just too much telling. Nothing was ever expanded into a complex story. That ending was especially disappointing. I'm under the impression that The Hidden Twin is a standalone novel, but seriously, that ending is really wide open for more story. There's practically no closure to this novel, for me at least, and that is something I can't get past.
The lack of connection is a big issue for Rule's characters too. I felt like we never really got to know them. Things just kept happening too fast that we never delved deeper into them and their stories. The end, with it's revelations about Lin, Nara, Corvin and Zahi Zan, is proof of this. We're told their motivations finally but it's all so 'wham bam!' that it's practically meaningless. Lin is our main character, though for most of the book she's actually nameless. She's the Redwing twin and as such has spent most of her life hidden from the world. I think we're meant to take this as explanation for most of Lin's actions. She basically spends the whole book following blindly the orders of others. Lin was so flippant about everything, like she never realised the serious nature of her circumstances. Like hey, I was just captured, tortured and executed, but I didn't die, so I'm going to sneak back into the temple - and take a bath. Then I'll go off and make out with a stranger. Sure, why not? I kept waiting for Lin to come in to her own, to learn and follow her instincts - to actually have instincts! - but nope. The impression I'm left with is that Lin was not a fighter, at all. She just got plain lucky. This actually annoyed me because Lin had power, and Rule hints at some serious history, so she could have been a complex, daring character, but instead she's just meh. But hey, at least she's consistent. The same cannot be said for Jey, Lin's twin, or Zahi Zan, Lin's love interest. Talk about 180° turns in personality. I never liked either though, before or after their personality shifts. Jey was much too immature and selfish, and Zahi's relationship with Lin was such insta-love there was no chance to truly learn to care about him. I really wish Rule had developed Nara, Corvin and Fir more. They had potential to be interesting, but what they brought to the story was never expanded on and it was severely necessary that Rule did so. Everything that could have provided The Hidden Twin some genuine emotion and anticipation is simply cut too short. Even the villains of the story were mere blips. Honestly, I ended The Hidden Twin feeling like a whole half of the story was still missing.
The magic and mythology of The Hidden Twin is great, but the story suffers poor narrative, characters and emotion.