ARC Review: THE ALMOST GIRL by Amalie Howard

I received this book for free from Strange Chemistry. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review: THE ALMOST GIRL by Amalie Howard
The Almost Girl

Written by: Amalie Howard
Published by: Strange Chemistry
Release date: January 7th 2014
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Source: NetGalley
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. But coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows.  Riven isn’t prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. For the first time in her life, Riven isn’t sure about her purpose, about her calling. Torn between duty and desire, she must decide whether Caden is simply a target or whether he is something more.

Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren’t always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth. Family betrayals and royal coups are only the tip of the iceberg. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?

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The Almost Girl is quite the conundrum, for me. Overall, it was the kind of book that is jam-packed with action and intensity, which was great! But some of the plot development and characterization fell a little flat.

The overall premise is fantastic. Riven is a young woman from a war-torn world in a parallel universe to ours. She’s high-ranking general in Prince Cale’s army, and a friend of the prince himself. But the Prince is sick, and he sends Riven to our universe to find his brother, Caden. Riven, being from such a different world than ours, has to cope with not only the shock of a very different world, but she has to do so while searching for Caden and trying to outrun others who are also on his trail.

Does that not sound super exciting? It is. The action and fast pacing in this book kept me totally glued to the pages. The Almost Girl is packed with so much stuff happening, that it’s mind-boggling how it could all fit… Unfortunately, I think one reason why it did all fit, is that all the action and incredibly fast pacing got in the way of a few important things.

With all the different Things Happening at every turn of the page, the plot was a little difficult to follow. Even 50% through the book, I was still unsure exactly why Riven needed to bring Caden back to her world, other than “Cale told her to”. There were mentions of Cale being sick – was Caden needed in order to succeed him, if Cale died? Did Cale just want to find him because they were brothers? Was it something more sinister? It was also very unclear how similar the two looked – this is a plot point, but one that I don’t think was dealt with very well.

All of these plot-related issues were cleared up in the end, but it was handled in such a way that I wasn’t sure whether I was missing pertinent information. It led to me feeling baffled most of the time, and these gaps in my knowledge didn’t seem like mysteries, so much as unnecessary confusion.

After Riven finds Caden, and throughout their journey to get back to Cale, Riven slowly comes to have a thing for Caden. The pacing here is slow, which is nice, but I never really understood her attraction to him. It was frequently mentioned that Caden looks very much like Cale, and at first I thought she must have been in love with Cale back in her world, and that the similarities between the two are what drew her to Caden. However, later we’re told that Riven sees Cale more like the brother she never had, so that doesn’t really make sense. But she’s adamant on keeping Caden at arm’s length, referring to him as “the target”, and trying not to get close to him, for reasons unknown (until near the end of the book).

I feel like the action also cut into the characterization of secondary characters. The book is told from Riven’s perspective, so she’s given pretty good characterization, other than the questions I had about her feelings for Cale/Caden that were plot-related. But Caden was also given some unclear characterization, as well.

At first Caden appears to be a meek, good-boy type who needs protecting. He has no problem being defended by two kick-ass ladies, which I very much appreciated. But eventually he sort of starts giving off a more tough, bad-boy vibe, which conflicted with my original impression a lot. There’s one scene where he pretty much forces Riven into a corner and kisses her, which I was really uncomfortable with. It didn’t seem like something he’d do; and it also didn’t seem like something Riven would have let happen. Not only is she capable of kicking his ass, I don’t think she’d want him to even think he could get away with forcing her to kiss him, even if she did want to kiss him back.

Additionally, there are quite a few character whom we meet later on in the book (I can’t say who, because spoilers), and these characters all felt one-dimensional and just… lacking. I think if less time had been spent on action scenes, and more time was devoted to quieter moments getting to know people, this could have been fixed.

Also, on an unrelated note – the title and cover of this book give away a major plot point that is treated as this Huge Deal at the end, which left me feeling a bit empty after the “big reveal”. This point seems obvious right from the moment you look at the cover, and then remains so throughout the book, so when the moment finally comes to reveal it, it was just… lacking, unfortunately.

 

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What strange feelings I’m left with… The Almost Girl is an incredibly fast-paced, action-packed book with more awesome fight scenes and excitement than I can shake a stick at. So if you’re looking for a quick, exciting read, you definitely might want to check this out. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat in the characterization department. And the revelations of important plot details were timed in a way that I didn’t really find satisfying; they either caused confusion, or weren’t impactful in any way. However, overall I did enjoy The Almost Girl, despite these things.

Have you read The Almost Girl? Did you enjoy it?
If you haven’t, do you think you’ll give it a try?

Let me know in the comments!

10 thoughts on “ARC Review: THE ALMOST GIRL by Amalie Howard

  1. Thank you so much for this review. I read Amalie’s other recent work and kind of hated it, so I was holding off on requesting Almost Girl to see if it suffered from the same problems. It sounds like it does and wouldn’t really be the book for me! I’m always a fan of action, but if characters don’t seem real to me then I might as well just watch a movie ;-)
    Anya recently posted: Sci-fi and Fantasy Friday {SF/F Reviews and Giveaways}

  2. Ack, I did want to request this when I first saw it but refrained because I had just read another of Amalie Howard’s books and didn’t feel like her writing was for me and seems like I was right. I really hate it when kick ass females suddenly become so weak under the presence of a guy. Oh dear, bad marketing on the part of the publisher if such a big plot reveal was actually revealed in the cover and title :\ I can see why it wouldn’t have had the same effect as you would expect. Great review!
    Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews recently posted: Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (#103)

  3. While the premise certainly sounds thrilling, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with her being a soldier who goes on a mission without really knowing why. I love heroines who question things, make their own choices. The non-stop action is very appealing, though, since things that drag rarely hold my interet these days.
    I’ll give this a chance, but I’ll keep my expectaitons in check. Fabulous review!

  4. This was one that I enjoyed a fair bit (of course, that’s not exactly a rarity when it comes to Strange Chemistry books), but I agree that the vagueness on the whole Cale/Caden connection was a touch confusing. On the other hand, though, the vague way in which it was all handled was realistic for a first-person perspective, since really, how many people narrating their own lives stop and provide exposition and backstory to clear things up for potential in-brain listeners? They just go on thinking what they think, with no explanation needed because they already know what’s going on anyway. So I can give the book points for realism, in that regard.
    Bibliotropic recently posted: Knife Sworn, by Mazarkis Williams

    • I wish I could say the same about my luck with Strange Chemistry books. They always sound SO good to me, but there always seems to be something to stop me from really loving them… which makes me sad. :(

      And while I agree about the realistic first-person vagueness, realism isn’t really the issue for me. As a reader, I don’t want to be that confused about important plot-points. It feels too much like using secrets as a device to add “tension”, when there’s no reason those secrets need to be kept. I normally only see this occur between characters, but I dislike it just as much when it’s between the narrator and the reader. It makes the eventual reveal fall flat, for me; like, okay, why weren’t we aware of this in the beginning? It would have cleared so much up! *shrugs*

  5. I’ve been curious about this one, so it’s really helpful to see your thoughts. I do enjoy action-packed, fast-paced stories, but I never want the plot to take anything away from the characterisation. There should be a good balance between the two. Plus the confusion would most likely bother me too. But still, despite the problems, I’m glad you enjoyed this overall. Lovely review!
    Sam @ Realm of Fiction recently posted: Mini-Reviews: Cracked by Eliza Crewe & Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

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