Tuesday 26 February 2019

Review of Looking for Dei by David A. Willson

I received a copy of Looking for Dei by David A. Willson as part of a blog tour promoting the book.

Fifteen-year-old Nara Dall has never liked secrets. Yet it seems that her life is filled with them, from the ugly scar on her back to the strange powers she possesses. Her adoptive father refuses to say anything about her origins. And when Nara is invited to the town’s announcement ceremony, which tests youths for magical gifts, he forbids her from revealing her powers.

The poor village of Dimmitt has not announced a gifted youth for decades. But when Nara discovers that the town priest has been keeping secrets of his own, she draws upon her hidden magic to correct the injustice. Her rash decision sets her on a path of danger, discovery, and a quest for the divine. But will the truth she reveals set her people free? Or unlock a curse that could spell her doom?

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | B&N | TBD

With so much fantasy and magic elements woven into modern fiction, it can be difficult to find total originality. Telling a unique story from a brand new perspective is nearly impossible these days, so your best option is to take an amalgamation of your best or favourite elements to tell an interesting story. I think that’s what Looking for Dei attempted to do.

Though the title of the book might suggest a stronger religious or deity-driven story arc, I found that the search for Dei came in and out of focus throughout the story. By that, I mean the religious aspect of the plot was fairly absent for a portion of the journey. For a protagonist with a foreshadowed god-like prophecy, I found that Nara was a rather complacent heroine. Her actions don’t kickstart the plot, nor does she have a major hand in the main conflict of the story. She is established to have amazing abilities but with a few exceptions, we only see her use those abilities so that others can fight on her behalf. I would call her a Deus Ex Machina if she took more direct action in her own story.

If we were given more time inside his head, I would dare to call Mykel, the unwitting companion on Nara’s journey, the protagonist because he is more active in his own journey and is given a lot of hero markers: a destiny, a life-altering event, a training montage, a will-they-won’t-they romance, an enemy with multiple face-offs garnering a need for revenge. Mykel had some interesting moments that I wish were given more time and weight. Instead, we were treated to a sickening amount of exposition.

If I could sum up my frustration with this book in one sentence it’s that the balance between exposition/backstory and action was off. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread pages over again because I would get so bored reading about a character’s history that didn’t need to be laid out all at once. Say nothing of the information’s necessity, it felt like backstory was being dumped on the page for the sake of context for one conversation. It made the action scenes (whether physical or verbal sparring) feel short and cut off by comparison.

There were characters I would have loved to see explored more. Kayna, I felt had more to say or more of an impact – especially in the final moments. I was told of her ambitions and desires but I didn’t see it in practice or in thought as much as I could have.

I use my Random Notes While Reading to take you on a little thought journey of reading this book.
  • Well this is terrifyingly creepy
  • I like the use of an alternate time keeping acronym that isn’t so far from reality as to be confusing
  • Chronic pain depicted in fiction usually leads to destiny (edit: and is never brought up again)
  • Exposition fairy is paying a visit
  • Why wasn’t she tested earlier?
  • Wait. Did he tell her the truth? Amazing!
  • It seems so silly to lie so vehemently when you’ll be caught tomorrow
  • How has no one else figured it out?
  • Oh, lying priests is how
  • I feel disconnected from the author
  • There was a lot of information in the beginning and I clearly missed something
  • Please get to the point faster
  • You’re like the only teenage protagonist who didn’t do that
  • See what happens when you foster a child’s gifts: they become psychopaths. Wait…
  • So much backstory!
  • Oh so much as happened since then
  • I love a good psychopath
  • Symbolism!
  • Someone should tell him
  • Why are they stopping?!
  • Anne’s story has such a different energy from the previous exposition
  • The explanation is killing the tension
  • Damn, she has a conscience
  • Magical Montage
  • Aw, he’s HER guardian
  • I like the establishment of magical objects used to display the girls’ powers
  • Ooh good word
  • I didn’t see the shift but I know it happened
  • Not always
  • How cliché
  • Nice symbolism
  • Creepy. That’s just creepy
  • I kind of love it. I want more of him
  • Holy sh*t. Why didn’t we see THAT!
  • Am I just a sadist?
  • Oh boy!
  • Gods, now I get invested?
  • I’m not sure how I feel about the woman giving her power so the man can fight for her or because of her
  • Oh sh*t!
  • I’m not feeling the chaos battle
  • How useless
As the book progressed and backstory gave way to more action, I became more invested in the story and the characters but by then it was too late for me to really care about their victories and defeats. However, my desire to learn more about these characters and their journey leads me to believe that the story Looking for Dei is trying to tell is one worth reading. I was more disappointed in the execution than I was in the plot itself which is not meant as any consolation. Looking for Dei left me wanting more.

David A. Willson has worked as a restauranteur, peace officer, and now, author. Taught by his mother to read at a young age, he spent his childhood exploring magic, spaceships, and other dimensions. In his writing, he strives to bring those worlds to his readers.

Much of his material is inspired by the "Great Land" of Alaska, which he has called home for over 30 years. He lives there with his wife, five children, and 2 dogs. He is passionate about technology, faith, and fiction--not necessarily in that order.

Looking for Dei is Willson's debut novel, set in a land where many more adventures will take place. Stay up to date with his ongoing efforts through the Looking for Dei Facebook page or visiting the website at davidawillson.com.

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