Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert Martin

Tabula Rasa is a mixed bag: a very strong lead character, an intriguing mystery, and the need to fight her way clear make for a compelling read. But there are a lot of cliches here as well, from a villain who cackles as she tells her nefarious plans at the end to other tired dialogue and cliches. Taken together, this is definitely a 3 star book; and yet, I did enjoy reading and was hooked from the beginning.

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Story: Sarah is in a remote hospital receiving treatment – which includes work on her brain to rehabilitate her from her violent tendencies. It’s taken her memories but she is told that is a good thing – she won’t know the evil she’s done. Before she can receive a final operation, a Winter storm hits the facility and shuts it down. Then commandos arrive with one goal: to kill her.  Sarah will have to use skills she knows only by instinct in order to survive the night.

Right from the beginning, this was an action packed read – the events occuring over a few days period as Sarah struggles to survive and regain her memories. We’re dropped right in with her and it’s a fast ride until the end. I really liked Sarah’s character and was rooting for her through the whole book.

Sarah is given a foil in the form of Thomas, a hacker on a mission at the ‘hospital’ on the same night the commandos come (and what seems like coincidences will become obvious convergences due to side character manipulations). He will assist her more than save her, which is a relief. The two work together with an interesting dynamic that produced some good dialogue. One could argue there was a bit of instaluv but I thought the author smartly explained that and certainly there was a lot of ‘heat of the moment’ and Stockholm Syndrome going on.

Unfortunately, this also feels very much like a first time author’s work. There are a lot of cliches throughout that frustrated and, without them, would have made this a much better work. Things fell apart at the end especially, with a rather silly 15 page confession by the villain that was cringe worthy while being eye rolling at the same time. But poor dialogue choices, lack of cohesion in events (some parts of the book just weren’t needed while other important plot points were not given enough attention), and pacing problems did hurt the reading experience.

So while this was definitely not a great novel, it was a compelling read that I enjoyed despite the flaws. I look forward to seeing what this author will do in the future.

Reviewed from an ARC.

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