Twiceborn by Marina Finlayson.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

I must admit that Twiceborn is a very entertaining book. It has everything I love about a good urban fantasy story: a strong (and fleshed out) protagonist, an interesting take on the subject of paranormals leaving among us and a well-paced story.

Kate O’Connor has lost everything when her son died in an accident six months ago. Now she just does some courier jobs for a friend, because he needs help and because frankly, it beats sitting at the house all day. She suspects that some of the packages she carries around might exactly be legal, but can’t muster enough strength to be bothered or even mildly curious about it. Like everything since the death of her son, it seems unimportant… Until one of the jobs goes south, and she finds herself with a gap in her memories and a werewolf in her kitchen bound and determined on killing her.

I liked Kate. She is a very down to earth, no-nonsense kind of girl. And the depiction of her grief was well done and believable, and, more importantly, not overdone. Her reactions in the face of everything that happens to her are also realistic and logical, which is a great plus. And she is not a damsel in distress in constant need of saving, like some of the heroines in  urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Even when confronted by a werewolf in her own kitchen, Katie goes for the knife first and waits to have a hysterical fit after the werewolf is dealt with.  And she also shows her willingness to fight for her life and freedom (and for the safety of her friends) several more times during the book.

I won’t go into details about the plot, because I want this review to be as spoiler free as possible, but I will just say that Kate has to deal with some serious issues and is in danger of losing her own self, and she handles the situation admirably.

The book is also well written. I would never have guessed that it was the author’s debut novel at all, because the quality of the material and presentation is top notch.

So by now you must be wondering why I only gave this book 3.5 stars? Well, even though I liked it, I had several issues with it that bugged me enough to spoil the overall enjoyment.

The first and the biggest issue for me is Ben, or more precisely, the romance between him and Kate. It felt forced, and more importantly it added nothing to the story itself. It felt like the author added this romantic relationship almost as an afterthought after the book was already written.

I think the main reason why this relationship didn’t work for me is the character of Ben himself. He is not fleshed out or unique enough for me to care about. From the moment he first appears in the story until the last page, he is just a walking talking stereotype. He is immediately described as hot, gorgeous, nice and caring. The author might as well have put a big sign over his head saying “love interest” and moved on, because we never get to explore his character any deeper.

Also, for someone who is still grieving about the loss of her child, and who admits not being even slightly interested in any sort of romantic relationship, Kate jumps into bed with him way to easily. I understand doing it once because of the adrenaline rush, the narrow escape and the realization of having been so close to death. But nothing in their relationship prior to that point hints at anything deeper, and certainly not that passion that seems to come out of nowhere. In my opinion, this whole romantic relationship could have been cut out of the book without any damage to the story.

My second problem is some inconsistencies within the worldbuilding. We are told that the heralds are under the Dragon Queen’s protection and thus neutral and untouchable, yet everybody and their mother seems to be able to kidnap / harm / slap them around without any retribution. Seriously?

Also, if all heralds were a magical amulet that protects them from psychic influences, but also proves that they are genuine, shouldn’t it be easy to determine whether the amulet is authentic or fake? Yet we hear the argument that the heralds are not who they say they are and that they anyone could counterfeit that amulet several time in the book. That makes no sense. Either you have an order of heralds who are easily identifiable, neutral and protected, or you have a bunch of wannabes that pretend to be heralds, but then who would trust them?

And the last problem is directly tied to the previous one. If the amulet is supposed not only to identify, but also to protect the herald, shouldn’t it be difficult, even impossible to take off or tamper with? Yet Leandra does just that to Kate at the beginning of the book…

But even despite those gripes I have with the story, I think I will definitely pick up the next book in the series to see who this story evolves. After all, not all the villains have been dealt with, and there are plenty of loose ends left to explore.

My verdict – if you want a well-written and fast paced story with a strong heroine, definitely pick up Twiceborn. And the fact that it’s set in Sydney Australia instead of another city in the USA is an added bonus.

PS. I have been given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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