Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: The Candidates

Today’s book review is of a fantasy school story that I picked up for “research” on last month's blog post about fantasy novels set inboarding schools. The hardcover edition had a bit of an off-putting cover—full of weird red streaks of light—but the story itself was enjoyable. Now for the review!

Title: The Candidates (Delcroix Academy Series, book 1)
Author: Inara Scott
Page Count: 293

Stars: 3.5 of 5

•    3.5 = enjoyable. May have minor content issues or flaws in the writing. 

Teaser: Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that’s not just because of her average grades or less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia’s mediocrity is a calculated cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just…happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt.

But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room offering her a full scholarship, Dancia’s days of hiding may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for child geniuses and diplomats’ kids—not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies. So why are they treating Dancia like she’s special?

Age level: 15+ (mid-teen)

Violence: 2 of 5
•    2 = PG-level violence that's a minor theme in the book

Romance: 3 of 5
•    3 = romance is a major theme of the story but is appropriate for most teens

Language: 1 of 5
•    1 = replacement swear words

Christian worldview: Despite the almost-demonic-looking cover, there wasn’t anything anti-Christian in the novel at all. The source of people’s special “powers” are not explained, but it’s evident that they are some sort of inborn genetic trait rather than an evil power. Furthermore, the Academy makes each student swear to use their talents and abilities only for good and not for evil. (Which, in my opinion, is a rather wishy-washy pledge, but at least they’re trying to tell the difference between right and wrong and attempting to act in the right way.)

My Personal Opinion: This was a solid story. Personally, I always enjoy reading debut novels, because there’s often a freshness and originality to the writing that’s hard to find in longstanding authors. The book was a solid start to the series—it left me wanting to read more.

There were definite weaknesses, however. The main character, Dancia, often acted in annoying ways—shoving off friendship, refusing to research her “gift,” blindly trusting one group of people and still trying to make up her mind about another. She felt wishy-washy, yet she was portrayed as a strong heroine. It also annoyed me that everyone in the novel seemed to be calling Dancia great and honest and strong, when I didn’t see any such signs! In the end, she was an average character, but not one that left me begging for more.

As for the plot, it had its slow moments, for sure. The tension in the story arose mostly because of a lack of information, a bit like a mystery. Unlike most fantasy novels, there wasn’t a single force of evil against which to struggle. Instead, the plot was more one of discovery and the ominous foreshadowing of some future evil. I was fairly satisfied with this style of storytelling—it was refreshing not to see a villain in a fantasy-type novel, for once!

So, overall, The Candidates was a fairly good read that was enjoyable but did not possess any outstanding characteristics to take it from good to great. If you’re looking for a light fantasy (or if you just enjoy reading boarding school stories), I’d say pick it up and see if you like it.

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