What do you do when you’re asked to review a book that seems to have the same storyline as your own series?
Some years ago, we were living in Chicago during the Hub’s sabbatical year. Now, I was born in Chicago and have lived there several times off and on during my life. I love it. But I also know the city has dangerous places and scary people, and if you can’t avoid them you lock windows and doors and try to get through as fast as possible. So when I was driving through one of those places in my soccer-mom-van, baby asleep in her carseat behind me, I was focussed on just getting out of there.
It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was already setting in long shadows when I looked in my rear mirror and saw a huge bearded man whose leather vest showed arms covered in tattoos. He rode a giant motorcycle, and he was yelling something at me. I didn’t hesitate. Foot on the gas, the van shot forward as I wrestled it around and through the potholes. But the faster I went, the closer he came, yelling all the way. I was almost in tears, muttering words I *hoped* the scary-verbal child in the backseat wouldn’t be able to repeat. Then, like a miracle, I shot through a light just as it turned red. My pursuer was trapped by cross-traffic. In relief, I puttered up the street just as I realized that the train barriers ahead were flashing and lowering. I had to stop.
I watched in my window as the motorcycle came toward me, swerving until he was next to me. He leaned over and rapped on my window. Maybe I could talk him out of whatever he was planning? Surely, with people around… Meekly, I unrolled the window halfway.
“Lady.” He smiled at me. “You lost this when you hit that pothole back there.” He held up my hubcap. (My obscenely-expensive new hubcap, since the original set had been stolen the week we moved to Chicago.) “Have a good one!” He handed over the hubcap, waved to the baby, and roared off.
Of course, this was my story. But with a different narrator, the same setting and characters could have told a completely different story. I know many writers who refuse to read books in their own genre for fear of coming across similar storylines and having to wonder what might creep into their own work.
When I started reading Astrid Tallaksen’s Freefall series, I realized that it has the same backstory, characters, and even props as my Null City series. As I followed the twists through the first two volumes, and started to read Book 3, I was scared. Very scared. You can see what I thought of Book 1 and Book 2. Now it was time for the final reveal—Book 3.Would I love it? Hate it? Were her books funnier/scarier/better than mine?
Or did the same material, in the gifted hands of a different author, add up to a completely different tale?
Obviously, I loved the series. But more than that, I’m relieved. The mythical outline of the backstory might have similarities, but that’s it. Characters, setting, story arc, and resolution? Hers were dark, tragic, exciting, and best of all—completely different.
I was thinking of those point of view differences as I looked at media coverage of the incredibly divisive campaigns in the US presidential race. I’m reminded of how we may think we’re telling the same story, but the one the world sees is completely different.
World on Fire by Astrid V. Tallaksen
The world is on fire, and only Sara can save it.After her son is taken from her by The Host, and she loses the love of her life, Sara is trying to sort out what little she has left. Heaven thinks she’s dead for the moment, but as soon as they discover she’s alive, they’ll be coming for her. With Lu, a Prince of Hell by her side, Hell has temporarily marked her name off their hit list. Should they find out she’s a champion for humans, the demons won’t think fondly of her. If only those were her only problems. The world is getting bad, and fast. Sara has to reach her son or he’ll destroy the earth by bringing about the Apocalypse. The problem is, Danny’s no longer Danny. Brainwashed by Heaven, he believes he has to atone for his existence as the child of an angel and a demon. To bring a halt to the end of the world, Sara is gathering an army. One by one the pieces fall into place as a ragtag band of rebels comes together under the Angel of Death’s guidance. She has to stop Heaven from eradicating the human race, and Hell from enslaving it. The fight for free will has never been so dire.
- Title: World on Fire (Book 3, Freefall series)
- Author: Astrid V. Tallaksen
- Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
- Publisher: Amazon
- Date of Publication: January 29, 2016
- Number of pages: 247
REVIEW: 5 out of 5 stars
I’m just going to say it. If you haven’t read the first two books in this terrific series, you should probably stop right here. There is just too much that has gone into making Sara into the only person who can save the world.
And I can’t tell you what that is without revealing spoilers. Lots of spoilers. So let’s just try this. What if you were a mom, looking forward to raising your adorable son along with his father, the love of your life? The only problem is that none of you are actually those things. In fact, the truth about what you are is literally destroying the world. And you, instead of driving to soccer practice, have to stop the apocalypse, rescue everyone, and oh yeah… explain things to God. No really…the Big Guy Himself. Only, He’s actually… crap. I can’t tell you that.
But I can tell you that Astrid Tallaksen has reached back through all three books in this remarkable series to pull threads together that she’s woven so carefully into the narrative. Nobody is safe, nothing is sacred, and the good guys are never the ones you’d expect. That means the setting is dark, the character development is constant and the plot twists are constantly unexpected.
There are some things that troubled me. It seemed that some of the locations and apocalyptic stuff were a bit gratuitous, and just served to remind us that the world was going to (literally) hell. Some of the resolution seemed slightly pat. But overwhelming these concerns is the final battle Sara has tried to avoid ever since an earlier vision predicted her facing the one person she should love above all others.
So there you have it, with all the boxes ticked. Setting, character development, plot, and pacing all brilliant. I would give World on Fire five stars and congratulate Astrid Tallaksen on the excellent resolution to a terrifically entertaining series.
**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Author Astrid V. Tallaksen grew up with a heart for stories of creatures and places outside of this world. Her love of reading quickly became a love of writing. She spent several years creating content and helping writers to improve their craft on the online world of Althanas, a creative writing workshop in the guise of a roleplaying forum. A self-avowed nerd, Astrid loves science fiction, comic books, and eighties fantasy movies in the vein of The Princess Bride and Labyrinth. Her geekiness extends to annual volunteer work at the massive sci-fi convention known as Dragon*con every year in Atlanta, Georgia. In the odd times that she’s not immersed in geekdom or writing, Astrid loves to sing karaoke, crochet, and spend time with her family and pets.