Awakening The Dark Rituals by Catrina Burgess

Around 11% into Awakening, I knew this was not going to be the book for me. The pace is easy to follow, story fairly straightforward, but the writing very problematic. For anyone who reads many books, substandard plotting and lack of writing chops can become insurmountable obstacles to enjoying a story. But for those who don’t see the cliches, I’m sure Dark Rituals will be a fun romantic read.

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Story: Teen Colina is a former healer with an axe to grind and revenge on her mind. She seeks out handsome Luke to teach her the Death Arts – and will have to undergo horrifying rituals in order to wield the scary power of death.

For me, the roadblockers that prevented me enjoying this story are:

– Egregious Instaluv. E.g., within an hour of meeting the cute guy, he saves her, she saves him, she lusts after his half naked body, and ends up sniffing his manly scent while being annoyed at the other women lusting after her Luke. Honestly, we are given NO reason why he would be interested in her/her him other than his looks and her looks. Certainly, no personalities or characters were developed to get an insight into this miracle insta luv. It was this passage that really set it off for me, happening after meeting him 10 hours or so previous:

“He looked a bit dangerous and, well, let’s be honest – hot. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Girls on the street were turning to check him out as we walked by. I edged closer, pleased to find that today he smelled like cedar and leather. When I caught myself leaning in for another whiff, I forced myself to slow down and walk behind him.”

There was just too much silly romance and not enough plot.

– Characters were all over the place. E.g., Luke is first angry, then suspicious, then fawning, then laughing, then standoffish, then solicitous, then serious – all within about a 10 minute period of first talking to our character. It made all the characters very unbelievable since they reacted solely to immediately remarks or situations rather than having an intrinsic personality.

Here’s a good example from shortly after their first meeting: “He had looked at me before with both anger and amusement, but I wasn’t sure what emotion was not blazing from those dark eyes. They were filled with such intensity, and as he watched me his lips slowly curved up into a smile. It was the first time I had seen him really smile. I honestly don’t know what I would have done, but I didn’t get a chance to find out because as quickly as that smile had appeared, it disappeared.”

Luke, like the other characters, was either schizophrenic or poorly written. I’m suspecting the former.

– Guy saves girl who threw herself into danger stupidly. Do we really need another heroine who does stupid things that should get her killed/maimed but miraculously doesn’t? E.g., Colina goes running out into a magical battle armed with – wait for it – a baseball bat. What can she do? Nothing except get the guy hurt trying to protect her from her own stupidity. But hey, it furthers the plot since he accidentally gets her hurt so he can then fawn over her (instead of kicking her out of the house after roundly yelling at her, as he should have).

– There were a *lot* of cliches and overworn phrasing. I started wincing involuntarily while reading. “Don’t let the bedbugs bite” “I’m alive and kicking.” “Snug as a bug in a rug.” “Hang in there!” Not exactly creative writing.

– Really, really bad dialogue. E.g., his answer after just meeting her as to why he will train her in his forbidden death arts: “Because you were so desperate.” He inched toward me, “Because I saw something in your eyes that told me you needed to do this.” Great for romantics who don’t need any sort of reality in their reading but not for someone who enjoys a well written book.

All of the above take place within the first 15% of the book. I’m sure there is an enjoyable story in there – a mindless guilty pleasure for many. For me, I’ve come to demand more from the books I read and just couldn’t slot through this particular story. It was in great need of an excellent editor to go beyond the grammar issues and craft out a better story from the romantic goo and trope-ridden writing. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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