Friday, 4 December 2015

Shadows at Sunset by Tonya Royston

Title: Shadows at Sunset
Author: Tonya Royston
Series: Sunset Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, Romance, Mystical, ????
Source: ARC for honest Review
Pages: 304 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars

Available at:

Blurb: (via Goodreads)
She never thought her ability to communicate with wild animals was anything more than a unique gift. But this gift is tied to a long history of secrets that threaten to shatter her one chance at true love…

Laken Sumner isn’t your average teenager. Ever since she realized that wild animals could hear her thoughts, she’s spent more time in the woods with them than with other children. Even her wolf is a better friend to her than most people. She trusts him—so much so that she follows him out into the wilderness in the middle of the night to find a lost little boy. But the boy’s disappearance is only the beginning.

The one bright spot in her life is Noah Lawson, the handsome new town deputy. Charming and mature, he almost seems too good to be true. Then she meets Xander Payne, the new boy at school, who seems to know something about her. But how could that be possible?

As strange things begin to happen in her sleepy New England town, Laken wonders if Xander has something to do with it. Or is it just a coincidence that danger targets her soon after he arrives? 

My Review:

I have never felt more conflicted about a book before. I actually liked this book, I liked the characters the premise, but there also a lot of things that needed work. So bare with me as I try and work this out.

Let's start with the fact that this is not a series, it's a serial. For those who don't know the difference, a series is one large plot that encompasses the entire series, with subplots for each novel that act as a driving force for that overarching plot. Now, that's a rough definition, it varies a bit with longer series that exceed 4 novels, but at the end of each novel, something is resolved, even if there is a cliff hanger at the end. A serial is made up of several parts that when put together make one long novel (a great example of this is the Beastly Tales by MJ Haag). Serials don’t have to resolve anything, they can stop at any point in the larger story. At the end of this novel there was no resolution, there was no explanation to the events of the novel thus far, it just suddenly ends... So it's a serial. This was slightly frustrating to me because I was anticipating a novel and I found myself extremely frustrated that there was no explaining going on. I'm still not sure if this is a werewolf book, or what the mystical element to the novel is. If I had one major problem with this part of the serial, it's that I gained nothing from the book other than learning who the characters were. I don't even know what the conflict is yet. This was a major problem for me.

My other issue was that I strongly felt that the novel needed to go through some kind of beta reader or editor. While I found no grammatical issues, the writing was over descriptive and the dialogue was forced in a lot of areas, especially in the beginning. There was a lot more telling than there was showing, and I felt that the author needed to have a little more confidence in the reader being able to paint images on their own without descriptions and explanations being shoved down their throat. It was hard to get into the book, and if I weren’t reading this book in exchange for a review, I would have just put it down. I'm glad I didn't, I'm glad I pushed through it, because there is actually a story in there that has so much potential.

The only thing this novel did was really introduced the characters and beginning of the rising action of the story. Even here I was a little disappointed because even though she used the whole book for this purpose (304 pages people), a lot of the characters are really static. The only developed character is the main character Laken, Xavier was slightly more developed than the rest too. The reason this happened is because the author kept cutting off scenes! She would introduce a scene, like when Noah comes over to the Summer’s house for dinner for the first time, and she starts the scene, introduces some cute dialogue, then ends it after a cute moment. You don’t actually get to see what happens at dinner, and that would have been a great moment to get to know not only Noah more, but Laken’s parents more as well. This is just one example, but this was a common pattern all throughout the novel.

Okay, I know I have criticism for all of the major points of a novel (Plot, writing, character development), but hear me out. There was so much potential for this book. Despite everything that was lacking in this book… and a lot is lacking… I still kind of liked it! Keep in mind that I am under no obligation to say this. I received this book for an honest review, and I have never held back when I have read a book for an author that was terrible, but this book wasn’t terrible. Do I think that this book needed to go through some kind of secondary reader before being published? Yes. Does it need tons of work? Yes. But under all of that there is a story worth telling. I got to scratch the surface of that in the first part of the serial, but there is much more hiding under there. If you are willing to take a chance and read this book, try to see what I see, then I suggest you go for it. Maybe wait until the second part (is out in February though so you can connect the two and you can maybe discover what the plot of this novel is really about. Also, Twenty-five cents for every printed and ebook copy sold will be donated to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. So, you know, another reason to chance it!

So my final thoughts? This book wasn’t ready to be published, but with some alteration, it could be something really amazing. It has such a cool premise, who doesn’t love a girl who can communicate with animals? But everything around that premise needs some serious work.

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