Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

My Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

I wasn't sure what I was going to think of this book. There was a lot of talk about it before it released -- some good, some bad. I've seen some people compare this to Twilight and that really had me digging my heels in pretty hard. I am not a fan.

But I really must say, I disagree with this. While Carrier of the Mark does share some coincidental features with Twilight, it is different in many ways that count. But you're not here for an essay on the differences in these two titles. Your hear to find out just why I found Carrier of the Mark so utterly fabulous and engrossing that I stayed up all night to finish it. And that I have nail marks in some of the pages from clutching the book so tightly. Yeah, it's that kind of read. Now let me tell you why...

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)

Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs.

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

Carrier of the Mark moves fast. I don't mean that in a negative "Help! I didn't understand what the heck was happening!" way, either. I mean it in a 'this book was totally riveting and I was glued to it' way. Leigh Fallon does an absolutely fabulous job of grounding the reader into Megan's life and establishing her as a vividly detailed character with a normal life before she lets the more weird and wild parts of her world building come into full fruition.

She does not, however, do this at the cost of pacing, suspense, tension or mystery. Even while the reader is sharing Megan's first days in her new town it is clear that strange things are going on. They just don't take cenrter stage until a bit of normal is layered down first so that we have something to care about. I liked watching Megan make friends with Caitlin and Jennifer, and the little details about their lives that we got throughout the tale were good, too. 

The world building for Carrier of the Mark impressed me -- and when it comes to the magic system that Fallon chose, I can be very guarded and finicky. I loved how she blended it with Celtic mythology to make something totally fresh and original. I also think she did a great job at introducing it a bit at a time and making the gradual introduction important to the plot and actually an active part of the plot, as opposed to a case of talking heads, from start to finish. 

Since this is the first in a set of books I am not going to be too hard on Carrier of the Mark for not having a clearly defined villain who persists throughout the book. Yes, yes... I realize that Megan is in danger at various points, but the organization that causes trouble in this book needs a much more clearly defined and actively present figure soon in order for the situations the characters are facing to carry enough clout. But that's a 'future' issue and for the design of this novel it would have been difficult to pull off.

The last thing I want to praise here is the ending. I won't tell you what it is. All that I will say is that Leigh succeeded in ending the book with a zillion questions popping in the back of my head, and yet a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart for these two characters and the love that they share. This is what I call a 'controlled cliffhanger'. Leigh has hooks set in for a sequel that should stand up just fine, but she didn't resort to any cheap tricks or irritating ending devices that made me want to throw my copy of the book. Thank you! 

The Characters:

I like Megan. She seems like a capable heroine. Some people might bemoan that she cries a little too much, but since emotion tends to be a trigger for her powers that makes sense. Plus, I think I'd cry too if I was faced with some of the circumstances she endures. Regardless of the tears, I found her plucky and very active in the things that were happening to her. She was not afraid to make choices, regardless of what others might think of them -- yet at the same time, she did not feel completely secure in how their feelings would make her feel, leaving a gentleness and compassion in her character that I found endearing. 

Adam is awesome. I thought that he was smart, funny, charming, considerate, protective ... And yet anything where I might have normally been going "Okay! That's weird!" he generally has a very good reason for. I liked the fact that Adam was considerate of Megan's father and that he felt that her friendships outside of their relationship were important. I also like the fact that Adam realized that Megan's future was every bit as important as her relationship with him. I can't get too much into that without getting spoiler-y on you. But if you read the book, I'm sure you'll see what I mean.

Aine and Rian were both awesome and I think that they were every bit as interesting as Megan and Adam in their own ways. Who will Aine end up with? Will she find love or will she yield to whatever is decided for her? And poor Rian... He really needs to find someone special, in my opinion. I found him every bit as compelling as Adam. My heart broke hearing about Fionn's past too. I think that the way that he watches out for all of them is very sweet. 

The Romance:

If you read a few pages of this book and decide to give up, it's likely that you will think that Carrier of the Mark suffers from insta-love that has no real clarification or consequences. I want to tell you who are afraid of this: keep reading. I won't say anything else, but there is more to it then first meets the eye.

Besides, the romance between Adam and Megan is very sweet and is definitely one of my favorites that I have read in a while. I could feel a genuine bond between these two characters and I really cared about what was happening between them. 

I also like the fact that Leigh seems to know when to have her paranormal / fantasy element intrude into the relationship and when to have it shift into the background; it made what was happening between these two feel more real. And the fact that the romance, as a plot, wasn't about whether they love each other .. but rather, something much larger, more serious and compelling potentially coming between them, was welcome and interesting. (Can't tell you what, who, why... anything. You'll need to trust me and read the book.) 

In General:

Carrier of the Mark felt very right to me. The plot, pacing, characters, mythology... Everything felt dead on and real. I didn't find myself going "You've got to be kidding me. That was stupid!" When Megan made a mistake it was either out of niavete or else she agonized over whether she was doing the 'right' thing. Her dad was actually a decently attentive parent who cares about her. Adam, despite a 'chilly' opening, actually has good reasons for it and is a warm, caring boyfriend. (I have a new fictional crush. Lovely.) I could go on and on about all the things I like about this book, but that would take a long time and I'm tired. (Did I mention I haven't gone to bed yet?)

Buy this book. Seriously... If you like magic and romance and a kick ass heroine about to discover who she really is, this is an absolutely fabulous pick and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Third Recipient Of...

What did I Love?

  • A richly detailed and original mythology
  • A heroine who was brave yet vulnerable 
  • A hero who had powers, not power trips.
  • Well developed supporting characters that I cared about just as much as the main couple.
  • An ending that set up a sequel without cheating me out of a real ending. (Can you tell I hate that?)


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