Destiny by S.M. Spencer — A Review

DESTINY_Absent-Shadows-TrilogyDestiny by S.M. Spencer

RaeleighReads rating: 2.5 out of 5 coffee cups

“I stepped back, wiped my face, and put on a brave smile. I stood there, perfectly still, wanting to capture this moment in my memory so I could recall it over and over — to last me until I returned. This man…this vampire…this gorgeous, charming, honourable, courageous, protective being…wanted me…Lili McIntyre…and there was nothing that would keep me from him.”

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I would like to begin with what worked well for me in this novel before I get to some (hopefully) constructive criticisms.

First, I really liked the premise of this novel, and really enjoyed the first couple of chapters. They made me want to keep going. I mean, vampires AND ghosts AND crystals with power AND a turf war!? You had me at vampires, really. Then you added in some ghost flavor. I’m always a sucker for ghost flavor. These two concepts alone, vampires and ghosts together in one novel, could have been epic. So, kudos for the very imaginative novel idea. I really enjoyed the scene where Lili meets Sam. It was intriguing. Consider the suspension built. But then, somewhere along the way, you lost me. Utterly.

Not to harp on Lili, but my goodness her character seriously has some growing up to do. She’s supposed to be in college, has just avoided a marriage proposal, and is now trying to “find herself” in Australia, where her father was born (he died — that’s not a spoiler).  However, she comes across as a small, frightened child. That would have been fine if she had developed from that point, but she doesn’t. She remains this fragile, whimpering thing who must rely on her new vampire boyfriend for strength. Oh, and she wants to be a ghost whisperer. That little tidbit gets kind of thrown in there without any explanation (kind of like it just did in this blog post — it’s unsettling, right?). And I tried, so very hard, to ignore the rather dull dialogue coming from Lili.

Most of the other characters remain undeveloped as well — there’s Claire (her new gal pal who drinks a lot, is a major flirt, and makes bad decisions), Sam (her new vampire boyfriend who broods and sulks one moment and is super into her the next), Tom (Claire’s man and Sam’s friend who apparently really likes to kill things), Erranase (the vampire who turned Sam and Tom), Deb (Lili’s aunt who is gone a lot), Michael and Crystal (dhampirs — Google it if you don’t know what that is — who have no distinguishing characteristics), Elizabeth (Sam’s sister who is a ghost that died quite young and who can read people’s thoughts), and a few other fringe characters (more vampires and ghosts). One character, a ghost named Rachel, was really quite creepy. I wish more had been done with that character and I’m hoping that her story line plays out in book two because as it is she just feels like a character who came, could have been important but wasn’t, and then vanished.

Speaking of things that came, could have been important but weren’t, and then vanished, let’s talk about the climax of this novel. So, throughout, the tension is building between one group (Sam, Tom, Erranase, Michael and Crystal, and, by extension, Lili) and another group (older vamps who used to be friends with Erranase) who are trying to take over Sam’s and Tom’s territory. Turf war, anyone? That scene could have been huge! Unfortunately, once this tension comes to a head, our main character, Lili, is side stage. She can’t hear or clearly see any of the action. So neither can we. Why would you do that?! Then, rather than get a blow-by-blow full of lots of description and action, we have to hear about what happened through Elizabeth (ghost who can read minds). Needless to say this “climax” flatlined. I kept hoping that there would be more explanation later, but I never got it.

There were a few other things that really bothered me. One, crystals and diamond shapes exist in this novel’s world as powerful entities, but that is never fully explained. Somewhere around the 50% mark, they just show up, and we as readers have to accept their existence and their power. Two, the dialogue is not always believable. Especially between Lili and Sam, it often feels stilted, forced, inauthentic, and childish. Three, I hope Australian slang and colloquialisms do not bother you, but I occasionally had a hard time getting around them. Every time I bumped into one, it threw me out of the novel’s atmosphere and back into my world. That was frustrating. Four, there were other unbelievable parts aside from the dialogue. For instance, Lili and Sam could have had an instant connection, sure, but they fall in head-over-heels LOVE in a matter of weeks. Right. Also, (back to the Rachel thing) Lili digs up a gun at Rachel’s request. The police get involved, and at the end of the novel we see in a newspaper headline that there will be a trial, but Lili is heading back to California like this is a non-issue. The Australian authorities wouldn’t let her leave. She would have to be involved in some way in the proceedings of that court case. I hope that gets addressed in the next book.

I really wanted to like this novel, and I did like the first couple of chapters. In fact, I was hanging in there until about half-way through and then things fell apart. For these reasons I am only able to give 2.5 coffee cups.

Some opinions you may be interested in:

“Spencer’s first book shows her skills at dialogue and scene description.” –Joan Austin on Amazon

“I’ve always loved stories set in Australia, and this book is no exception. While this is not a genre I usually read, I found the writer’s style and plotting technique very interesting and entertaining. Claire and Sam are memorable characters, each portrayed with believable goals and motivation that will keep a reader invested in their story.” –Lynda Coker on Goodreads

Some other opinions you may find useful:

“To start with, I liked this story as a whole…I think the story itself is well written and worth a read. I think some readers, like myself, may have a hard time trying to connect with the story because of Lili though.” –Lanie on Goodreads

“I enjoyed the romance between Lili and Sam, it was sweet and believable. The secondary characters were well fleshed out, and likeable…The story built to an incident which was supposed to be climactic, but for me it kind of fizzled out to nothing. That said, this was a well written book that held my interest throughout, and I will go on to read the next two books in the series.” –Michelle on Goodreads

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