Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: The Watchers series by Veronica Wolff

When Annelise left for college, it meant good riddance to her abusive father and stepmother—until a bureaucratic screw-up left her without a diploma, flat broke, and facing an uncertain future Then she met Ronan—tall, dark, and way too seductive for her own good. He promised Annelise a new life, if she had the courage to chance the unknown. One look at him and she certainly had the desire. Sure enough, accepting rides from strangers does yield surprises.

Whisked away to a mysterious island in the North Sea, Annelise is pitted against other female recruits in tests of skill, smarts, and strength. To win is to become a member of the Watchers, an elite and unique partnership—with vampires—that dispatches its teams on the most dangerous missions imaginable. It’s not exactly what Annelise had in mind for a new beginning but it’s livelier than the alternative. Because on the Isle of Night, to lose the challenge doesn’t just mean dishonor. It means death.

Let the games begin.

The Watchers doesn’t seem like anything new, but I crave tall, dark and handsome vampires. Don’t get me wrong, I love young adult novels, but sometimes they can be too… sweet. While this is a young adult series, there doesn’t seem to be anything “sweet” about it. Please let me be right!

So, when’s the next one coming out?

I devoured these books. I thought I’d only have time to read the first, Isle of Night, but I ended up reading the whole series back-to-back. I’d say my undying love stems from three things:

A) Drew, the main character: No matter what was thrown at her, Drew fought on. I would’ve been dead by the end of book one. Actually, I probably would’ve croaked a lot earlier than that. But Drew was more than an uncaring, ninja-assassin. She had a heart. The balance of strong and gentle is what made her a truly amazing character.

B) The vampire boys, Carden and Alcántara: Carden was just plain-rugged sexiness. He was hypnotic from the first sentence he spoke in Vampire’s Kiss. The reason behind my interest in Alcántara is slightly… less clear. Alcántara wasn’t a good guy. He was the antagonist, and Drew hated him with a passion. He wasn’t presented as a love interest in the slightest. Yet, there were times in the series where Drew thought he wasn’t that bad. I’m intrigued and want to know more…

C) The violence: There were a few moments where I thought I was reading soft torture porn. Drew gets smacked around a lot in this. While the constant beatings got a bit tiresome, the violence I loved was the kind I can always find in Game of Thrones: the violence of sudden deaths in a gritty, realistic world. Sure, there are vampires. Sure, Drew does some crazy shit and doesn’t get caught. But people died. People I liked. Why did they have to die???

There was never a dull moment in The Watchers series. Some vampire novels focus too hard on the romance, which, in my opinion, can bog them down. The Watchers had romance, even a semi-existent love triangle, but the romance was mixed in with the action and intrigue. In retrospect, that all makes sense. Drew was on an island where she could get ravaged by vampires or Draugs (zombie vampire who didn’t survive the transformation) at any moment. If she spent chapters fantasizing about boys, it would’ve taken away from the story.

I hope a conclusion to the series will be released. The last installment, The Keep, introduced the “vampire queen”, who’s a game changer when you consider vampires can only be male. She’s the true Big Bad. I can feel it. Not Alcántara, who I hope will join Drew in rebellion against the queen’s ways. The revolution adds an interesting layer to The Watchers. I hope to get to see it play out.

Yes, there are a thousand other YA vampire novels out there (Thanks, again, Twilight). And, at points, The Watchers seemed like a love child of The Hunger Games and Vampire Academy. But I was captivated the entire time. The. Entire. Time. I’ve already started dreaming a kick-ass vampire version of myself into the storyline (my little mental fan-fiction is a sure sign of love). The only downside I can see is the lack of an ending. NAL Trade cancelled the series after the fourth book. Wolff plans to self-publish the conclusion to the series, but, as of today, only a novella has been released and there isn’t any news of a full length fifth novel. Despite that, The Watchers was amazingly good fun. It brought sex and danger back into the world of vampires. I’m giving it four out of five stars!

Next week I’ll be reviewing… Red Rising by Pierce Brown