Today is the release of EVE: The Awakening, the self-published debut novel by Jenna Moreci. I met Moreci through Twitter once upon an internet time and as such was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy (or ARC, for all you cool kids) to review. Normally I’d jump into a summary of the plot here, but I’m actually going to let Moreci’s press kit do some of my writing for me…because I’m lazy.
Eve is an outcast. A chimera.
After years of abuse and rejection, 19-year-old Evelyn Kingston is ready for a fresh start in a new city, where no one knows her name. The esteemed Billington University in sunny Southern California seems like the perfect place to reinvent herself—to live the life of an ordinary human.
But things at Billington aren’t as they seem. In a school filled with prodigies, socialites, and the leaders of tomorrow, Eve finds that the complex social hierarchy makes passing as a human much harder than she had anticipated. Even worse, Billington is harboring a secret of its own: Interlopers have infiltrated the university, and their sinister plans are targeted at chimeras—like Eve.
Instantly, Eve’s new life takes a drastic turn. In a time filled with chaos, is the world focusing on the wrong enemy? And when the situation at Billington shifts from hostile to dangerous, will Eve remain in the shadows, or rise up and fight?
Sound fun? Great! On to the review!
I think this is where Moreci’s writing really shines. Even the minor characters in this story are very distinct, many of them given quirks or features that make them memorable or relatable in some way, even when they have relatively little “screen time” so to speak. I found her ability to have her characters make strong impressions so quickly very impressive.
Of course, the main characters are the ones who carry the story, and I found that I really loved (or loved to hate) all of the recurring cast members. The stand outs for me were Percy, the foul mouthed and sarcastic best friend of Eve’s boyfriend, and Eve herself. I enjoyed the fact that Eve was able to be sarcastic and deliver quick barbs. In stories like these I find that authors often create “every man” sort of characters as their protagonists who are honorable, stoic, and smart, but who are often not necessarily quick-witted and are almost certainly never smart-asses. I found Eve distinct from the standard “genre hero” in this way, and I think the change is refreshing.
EVE: The Awakening’s second strength is its plot. The story, I would say, falls most prominently into the sci-fi thriller category. While it is a New Adult story that takes place on a college campus, there is still a lot of action, fighting, and suspense. The result is a pretty incredible page-turner made only more impressive by the book’s length. Clocking in at a massive 200,000 words (more than twice the length of your average thriller, which is usually about 75K words), the story manages to hold interest throughout.
As I mentioned, the novel features college-aged protagonists and so fits into the sometimes contentious “New Adult” category. I think that by-and-large Moreci does a very good job of balancing Eve’s budding romance, her college experience, and all of the action surrounding the plight of the chimeras and their fight against the alien Interlopers.
This aspect of the story reminded me a little bit of Harry Potter, and the way that those books are able to shift seamlessly between the conflict with Voldemort and the rigors of school. We see less school in EVE: The Awakening, at least in terms of the specifics of the courses, but the shift between sci-fi battles and the minutiae of college social life flows well, and the conflicts in each remain fun.
Speaking of fun, I think the humor of this story really keeps it going. As I mentioned earlier, Eve, Percy, and others can manage some amazing sarcastic comments and great put-downs, and much of the story’s humor is generated by this kind of banter. However, I felt it was worth noting that there are also some more meta humor points.
For example, there is a reference to not splitting up like people do in horror movies when the team is on one of their missions. Of course, they end up getting split up anyway. There is another great moment where Eve manages to get the primary villain to monologue while she tries to figure out a way to escape his clutches. This kind of genre and pop-culture awareness is great, providing a nod to the sort of stories that preceded EVE but doing it in a tongue-and-cheek way that acknowledges some their cheesier aspects.
This area of the book was a little hit-or-miss for me. We’ll start with the awesome: the Interlopers. I thought Moreci’s alien creations were quite cool. They’re monstrous, they fly, and they have some pretty wacky technology that makes them even more intimidating. Moreci goes into detail about the Interloper anatomy, which was also cool. I’m not sure how realistic the anatomy of the creatures is, but its analysis was delivered with authority and the specifics of it remained consistent throughout the story. Unfortunately we didn’t get to learn too much about Interloper culture, but we get some hints at it, and given that this is a planned series, I’m eager to learn more about the aliens.
The chimeras were cool, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be telekinetic? Moreci does a good job of putting together some flashy action sequences that showcase the telekinetic abilities. However, I would have liked to see more day-to-day usage of the abilities, especially after Eve and some of her other friends are outed as chimeras to the public. There were also some instances where chimera characters could have used their abilities to retrieve items during fights, but instead they try to lunge for them and pick them up. Often this does make the fight scenes more epic, but I still would’ve liked to see the telekinetic abilities integrated into what was going on a bit more.
I think the world building element that wrangled me most was the novel being set very far in the future. The story is said to take place in 2087, but there wasn’t a lot of advanced technology put on display, certainly not enough to make me think the story had to be set roughly 70 years from now. As someone who reads a lot of cyberpunk novels and studies emergent technologies, this bothered me, but your mileage on this issue may vary and maybe it won’t matter to you at all. I will say it isn’t super disruptive to the story, and I could enjoy the stronger aspects of the story (namely the characters, action, and plot) without thinking about it too much.
If you’re looking for a fun, character-driven, action story, then this is for you. It’s a solid sci-fi thriller with familiar elements that readers can latch onto (and which the writer does some great send-ups of) but also has enough original elements to make it feel fresh.
EVE: The Awakening is out today, and you can purchase it on Amazon. For more information about the book and the author, check out the press kit info below.