The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Challenge 9 – “A book by a female author.”

thereplacement

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

From reading the blurb, I had a pretty well-conceived idea of how this was going to go. As with several similar books there was going to be the well-known underlying structure:
1. a human and non-human world co-exist side by side
2. a human character discovers the non-human world (by accident/coming of age/having a relative or friend taken into said realm)
3. the human character, usually accompanied by a non-human, enters an adventure in the world, battling other non-humans and retrieving what was taken (if, indeed, there was something taken.)

I, as much as the next person, am fine with these novels. Whilst they build from the same basic framework, there’s always a USP, and you can have a whole line of these novels, built from this basis, and still have an incredible read after incredible read. It’s what you do with the basis that counts. Yovanoff twists the framework in The Reckoning, breaking preconceived ideas, and whilst this is neither better or worse than following the framework, it is definitely refreshing.

Yovanoff’s worlds, which are well crafted, are much more merged than in many other novels, and hence much of the action takes place in the known, human world. This does mean that the real nature of the non-human realm is still a little hazy at the end of the book – does it just exist in Gentry? why are they there in the first place? where did they come from? – but also allows the full plethora of characters to reach their full potential. Characters which are well-crafted, beautifully described and (thankfully) consistent. None is deemed more important than another (unless they truly are background characters, like the school teachers or insignificant classmates, only there to make the school environment realistic) – meaning we feel just as deeply connected to Roswell or Emma as we do to Mackie. That being said, some of the middle-ground characters feel a little neglected – Drew and Danny have a key role in the story, and yet I feel we don’t know quite enough about them to make them feel real to us.

The only little qualm I felt with the book (that probably relegates it to the bottom of the 4* group so far this year) is the apparent indecisiveness over it’s one-off or series position. The world and characters are described in detail at the beginning, with a few concealed hints as to the plot soon-to-kick-off, but it does take a little while for the meat of the story to really begin. This start is perfect – if the novel is the beginning of a series. The Replacement, however, doesn’t seem to be, meaning a large proportion of the book is spent setting the scene for a disproportionate amount of action and plot. Yovanoff does, however, manage to keep the reader hooked through the innovative crafting of descriptive phrases, and achieving a good balance between quality and quantity.

The ending of this novel is the real gem, and I can find little complaint in it. It doesn’t drag, nor is it abrupt. It ties off all the loose ends whilst letting the reader conclude the novel for themselves. It appreciates all the characters and the back-plots. In truth, it is well-fitted for the novel, and I find it difficult to think of how Yovanoff could have improved it. If only all novels ended in such an appropriate and though-out way.

Recommended for fans of:

  • The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
  • The Ragwitch by Garth Nix
  • Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
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