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I received this book free from NetGalley on condition of a fair and honest review. NetGalley seems to be an interesting website so will be requesting more books from there in the future. Todays review is for Awakening, by Catrina Burgess. Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:


In Awakening, the first installment in the Dark Rituals series, a former healer turns to the Death Arts to seek revenge.

Seventeen-year-old Colina was born a healer. But after a horrific event forces her to leave her clan, she becomes desperate to learn the dark magic of the death dealers, mages who draw their power from the spirits of the dead. Colina was taught to fear and hate death dealers, but becoming one of them is the only way for her to get the revenge she seeks—and the only way for her to survive.

Colina asks a young death dealer named Luke to help her, but he’s reluctant to train her in the Death Arts. Little does she know convincing him to teach her will be the easiest part of her journey. To become a death dealer, Colina will need to undergo three dark rituals, each more terrifying than the last. At the same time, she’ll have to deal with her growing feelings for her mentor. Too bad the first ritual involves him strangling her to death.

As Colina undergoes the trials, she discovers an untapped darkness within herself. If she survives the horrific rituals and gains dark power, what will she become?

The premise of this book was interesting. Girl is in need to help to learn some Dark Arts magic in order to get revenge for the murder of her entire family. She was a Healer, now she wants to lean these “Death Arts” in order to become more powerful and awesome and to kill the people who wronged her. That’s what drew me into requesting this novel.

The thing is I really wanted to like this, but it was clear from the get go that it wasn’t going to gel with me. The writing style was clunky, the characters weren’t relatable, and why wasn’t “death arts” just called dark arts, which is how I read it through the entire book.

Let’s start with Colina, our heroine. Family tragedy occurs – fine – seeks help after apparently being on the run for a few weeks [I think. It’s not entirely clear]. She decides that learning the death arts is the solution to all her problems. Except she knows nothing about death arts, and what it entails.

Luke, our protagonist first accepts, then refuses, then accepts, then refuses…. through a fair amount of the book. In fact, it’s not until his sister is kidnapped that they decide to go through with teaching Colina the magic she desires. Except that it usually takes a year to teach and go through the rituals in calling the dead. So naturally, they’re going to complete them in about three days straight.

Darla, Lukes’ little sister. Described has having hair “that sweeps the floor” or something similar. [Why…?]. She also starts of quite nice, but with the events of the book she changes quite drastically, but I didn’t feel it was all that believable.

That’s pretty much the lowdown on the characters. The evil ones were pretty one dimensional evil characters, with little reverence to the over all plot despite their brutal attack on the family.

What got to me was, as I was reading though, that there was so much emphasis on the rituals, that they were tough and that they would take so long to get through, and that a typical apprenticeship would last a year because it was that brutal to learn. The rituals? One where she would have to “die,” and then bitch about the fact that she had to die, even though she know that she would have to do it. Add in the typical ceremonial creepy cemetery scene, and the transformation into super goth for all of 5 minutes just made for choppy writing.

One of the things that I kept thinking about when I was reading this book was that infamously famous Harry Potter Fanfiction “My Immortal.” It just didn’t gel, and I just kept thinking about “goffik” and all that.

Overall this left me frustrated at the story, at the writing, and made me angry at points as well. I would be unlikely to pick up the next book in the series.