Title: Sound of Sirens [Tales of Skylge 1]
Author: Jen Minkman
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: 3 Stars (3.5)
On the island of Skylge, electricity is only for the Currents – the rich ruling class who once came from across the sea and brought the holy fire of St. Brandan to Skylge. Ever since, the light in the Brandaris Tower has protected the islanders. Heeding the Siren’s call will drown your body and steal your soul, but the sacred light in the Tower will chase the merfolk away.
When Skylger girl Enna welcomes her brother back from a long sea voyage, he gives her a special present from the mainland – an electronic record only playable on a Current device. The problem is that Royce Bolton, Current heartthrob and the town’s most gifted pianist, wants it too. After she stubbornly refuses to sell the LP featuring his favorite artist, he suggests sharing the record by secretly meeting up in his private summer house. Taken aback yet thrilled, Enna agrees – and discovers that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Current society and the history of Skylge. Why do the Sirens tempt the islanders to give themselves up to the sea? And where does the Currents’ monopoly on electricity really come from?
While struggling with these questions, Enna begins to fall for Royce, risking everything to be with a guy who is clearly wrong for her. She will learn that the sound of Sirens isn’t the most treacherous thing out there to haunt her dreams.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I’ll admit it, when I first opened Sound of Sirens by Jen Minkman, I didn’t like it. In fact, after the first chapter, I very nearly put it down. Unfortunately, the story is written in present tense, and I don’t need to remind the people that regularly read my reviews that I loathe present tense. It feels awkward and unnatural to me and makes it hard to sink into the story. Worse yet, the tense was wrong at certain parts, leading to oddly phrased sentences like:
“That’s the first time I hear of them. Who are they?”
As I say, this tross has been my faithful visitor for months on end, and I’ve never given it food.
There are times when past tense MUST be used even in a book written in present tense… and unfortunately, the editors didn’t catch it. Actually, the editors didn’t catch quite a lot. The book was littered with spelling and punctuation errors, and it slowed down the pace to nearly a crawl at times when phrases that really should have been one sentence ended up as 3 or four smaller fragment sentences. I really had to push through the first two chapters of the book. Like I said, I nearly put it down.
The world building was rich and detailed, but I didn’t feel it came with enough explanation. Strange words and phrases (including the new alternate meaning of Currents—with a capital C) were introduced throughout the story with little explanation or context. By the end of the story I’d figured out maybe 60% of what was going on, but I didn’t –really- understand any of it. It was confusing, and I really wish the author had done a little more hand-holding. It became hard for me to decide if this world was completely fantasy or routed in reality (with very real people and places thrown into the mix like Nicola Tesla, the German language, etc), and unfortunately, I wasn’t given the genre’s when I was handed the ARC, nor could I find a list of genres on Goodreads. I have no idea what the intention of the author was… I can only make a guess afterwards… and at times that made the story hard to grasp.
Sometimes the story seemed to be a bit contradictory, such as when Enna narrates that her father could barely make anything but tea anymore, and then she promptly suggests he cook them all pancakes. Sometimes scenes were glossed over and time jumped without a clear break in the narrative… like when Enna suddenly began talking about a small net she’d had placed around her neck, even though she’d been talking about breakfast with her father just a few sentences before. The story was written awkwardly. The pace and flow seemed slow and broken, the editing was lacking, and the world building didn’t seem cohesive. I stopped at one point and even penned a note into the book’s pages that I wish the author had given the characters a bit of an island lilt or dialect to help pull the world building together. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and these aspects of the story never really got better as the narrative went on.
Luckily, by 25% in, the story began to pick up. Don’t get me wrong, the story had a lot of problems, but it was at this point that it actually became interesting. The plot was intriguing, the characters were easy to love, and with the exception of Enna’s predisposition towards melancholy (don’t even get me started on how that played into the ending. I was severely disappointed.), I thought Enna was a decent main character. When push came to shove, I enjoyed the story. It held my interest, and by the end I would have happily picked up the next in the series if for no other reason, than to see where Enna’s path would lead.
Overall? I liked the book. Would I read it again? Maybe—if a decent editor gave it a once over first. Would I recommend it? Here’s the thing: if you have a problem with technical errors and slow-paced books… you aren’t going to like this. There’s a lot of that in this book. However, if you can push past the technical side and get to the story, you’ll find a bit of a gem. I think given a decent editor, this book could have been great. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make it for me. In the end, the book was a “Meh.” The story and plot are good, the characters are wonderful… but the technical aspect of the book was so poor that it dragged down the overall score. I recommend you give it a try… but I can only hope the second book in the series is better edited. This one’s a bit of a mixed bag.