Constellations of Scars by Melissa Eskue Ousley is a fairytale retelling sitting uncomfortably between fantasy and thriller.
I really wanted to love that one for quite a few reasons. One, I want to support independent writers, because the industry is hard and people should be able to choose their path. In this digital age, writers should be able to make a living the way they want.
Two, I love fairy tales, particularly the one about the girl who was rewarded with the gift of having pearls fall out of her mouth when she talked. I especially liked how it turns out not to be such a great gift after all. I have played with that one myself and was impatient to see how someone else would spin it. There were some good ideas here, but sadly too many bad executions for me to enjoy this story.
In this novel, we follow Amelia. She escapes her controlling mother, who trapped her into their house for almost a decade to harvest the pearls growing out of her skin. But obviously the world is full of wonders and horrors too… escaping from one prison might not give freedom.
Truthfully, I wanted to like that book so much, that I forgave a lot as I was reading in the beginning. It came across as a little preachy in places, but then again lots of very popular series are too, like the Southern vampire mysteries series (on which True Blood the TV show was based). I was not a fan, but that’s me.
Then sadly, this book dictates a lot of the way you are supposed to feel. It came from a good place so I just shrugged it off. I can take a bit of cliche psychology. It is heavily layered on, but I put it aside as to be expected from a first book.
What truly got me was the ending. I kept thinking, goodness please don’t do that, please tell me this foreshadowing is not what I’m thinking… but it leaped in joyously and I was just appalled.
I don’t understand the choice of the writer to veer off genre completely at the 80% mark. The novel was ok before that point. Lots of the events are due to way too much chance, but I can suspend my belief. I really like fairy tales too much for my own good.
The ending, with unnecessary sensationalism, was just plain annoying, and cheapened the whole book. There were so many other ways to tie it all up into a nice little package and make the same point that the world is dangerous and to be careful. Most alternatives possible didn’t involve B movie answers. I would have been very happy with nothing more than regular life everyday answers. The ending, to me, highlighted all the problems of the book and I left me disappointed.
I usually don’t read book I dislike to the end – there is too many things I want to read, and play, and see, to waste any time with something I’m not aboard on. As is, I think the book needed another round of editing. It is not quite ready yet. It needs to cut out its over-simplified psychological profiling, trust the intelligence of its readers, increase the number of action scenes where the character traits the author wants to show can be played out, and she needs to rethink the ending to make it more meaningful to the evolution of Amelia. Then I’ll be able to recommend it, because this book has a lot of potential, some good ideas and I loved the premise. I really hope the author chooses to revisit the novel and make a second edition.
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