Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Strange Chemistry's tour for The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard. This YA science fiction novel is action-filled with plenty of gadgets and an army of robotic zombie hybrids wrecking havoc for our hero and her friends. As part of the tour, Howard is hosting a huge giveaway to win some other great YA titles. Enter the giveaway at the end of this post, but first my review of The Almost Girl.
The Almost Girl
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.
Releases January 7, 2014
YA / Science Fiction / Action
Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. Coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.
Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows. Riven isn’t prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. For the first time in her life, Riven isn’t sure about her purpose, about her calling. Torn between duty and desire, she must decide whether Caden is simply a target or whether he is something more.
Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren’t always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth. Family betrayals and royal coups are only the tip of the iceberg. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?
This book is packed to the gills with action, fighting, science fiction tropes, fighting, zombie robots, fighting, running and did I mention fighting? There is a lot of fighting in The Almost Girl, considering the leading lady is a teenage ninja prodigy super soldier from a parallel world that used to lead an army of zombie robots created by her mad scientist father.
Like I said, this book is packed. Howard has so many great ideas and gizmos and historical background to build her world around that everything feels as though there really could be another world accessible through string-theory level physics travel that is a disaster, chaos-filled version of our own. The author doesn’t lack for details, explaining and re-explaining almost every aspect of her created world, which sometimes assists in adding dimension to her world while at other times detracts from the story itself.
The Almost Girl follows Riven, a child of Neospes (the parallel world) who has been trained from birth to be an emotionless super soldier while her father explored bio-engineering that led to the creation of robotic zombie-esque soldiers that she was given the reigns to control at 14 years old. The opening chapters really reinforce this idea that Riven is a warrior on a mission rather than a normal girl. The prologue is badass with a 14-year-old Riven proving how deserving of the super ninja soldier label as she escapes from the zombie robot horde she used to oversee to escape to the other world.
This awesomeness continues for about half of the book until the girl who regularly describes herself as cold, emotionless and a fighter through and through starts quickly devolving into a teenage girl who cries every other chapter while still claiming that she doesn’t feel human emotions. I was taken aback at how quickly her lifetime of training could be undone by a boy she didn’t know making sad puppy eyes at her. For a girl who is best at everything – the best fighter, the fastest runner, the stealthiest spy, the badassest of the badass – it felt out of character for Riven to so quickly turn into a lovesick girl who chooses the most inopportune times to make out with a guy when imminent danger was all around them.
The underlying story of The Almost Girl is almost like a high-tech faerie tale with missing princes and evil uncles, missing parents and a big ball-like party setting the scene for the final confrontation. Howard has created so many awesome ideas that she sometimes gets in her own way by putting in a little too much science fiction that it starts crowding itself. Riven is fascinating subject, despite being one that likes to over expound on most subjects and the occasional stumble into lovesick teenager land. The action scenes are highly visual and well-paced with a fair amount of Riven self-bragging inside her own head.
Two things really started making my brain itch by the end of this book. The first being the regular reminder that people don’t live very long lives in Neospes. I get that there was an android war that decimated the planet and now everyone lives in domed cities where the population is highly segregated by trade and financial standing, and zombie robot soldiers police the streets. There, however, is no indication of regular violence within Neospes or explanation of why people seem to die young. Street fights? Gang wars? All the violence seemed to occur behind the curtain in the political chess game the royals were having, which doesn’t explain why Riven kept saying her soldier colleagues drop like flies and she wouldn’t know anyone after being away for three years because they were probably all dead.
The other brain itchy thing was Riven’s need to explain everything and state the obvious. Things that were easy to pick up based on the plot and context clues, she explained flat out. At other times, secondary characters would say something, only for Riven’s inner monologue to repeat what they said in other words, explaining things that needed no explanation. I’m hoping that between the ARC version I read and the final version being published tomorrow, some of the repeated references to her father’s bioengineering and how he engineered all the tech that she ever puts her hands on.
This is the first of two books, though it could easily standalone if you’re okay with bittersweet endings. Outside of the occasional moment of Riven moodswings, The Almost Girl is packed with action, the complexities of family in the middle of a war and so many science fiction ideas that you won’t ever get bored. Howard is a highly visual writer, though occasionally visits the land of too much exposition, but she creates a fast-paced and creative journey filled with adventure and excitement.
Thank you to Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.
As part of the blog tour, Amalie is hosting a contest to win this collection of great YA reads, including two of her other books, Waterfell and Bloodspell. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.
About the Author:
A rising star among young adult writers, Amalie Howard developed a loyal following after releasing her debut book, “Bloodspell,” in 2011. Now, she is returning with five new books that are sure to excite her devoted fans and catch the attention of new readers.
A bookworm from the beginning, Howard grew up on a small island in the Caribbean with her nose buried in books. When she was just 13 years old, her poem “The Candle” was published in a University of Warwick journal, marking a sign of great things to come. Howard immersed herself into other cultures, globetrotting through 22 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. After moving to the United States, she earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and French from Colby College in Maine. She also holds a certificate in French literature from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, France. Traveling around the world, Howard has lent talents as a research assistant, marketing representative, freelance writer, teen speaker, blogger and global sales executive.
Howard is a recipient of a Royal Commonwealth Society award, an international youth writing competition. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Howard’s first book, “Bloodspell” (June 2011, Langdon Street Press) earned rave reviews and was named a Seventeen Magazine Summer Beach Read. Readers will hear more from Howard as she releases a pair of two-book series, “Waterfell” (November 2013, Harlequin TEEN) and “The Almost Girl” (January 2014, Strange Chemistry), as well as “Alpha Goddess” (March 2014, Skyhorse/Sky Pony Press) over the next two years.
Howard lives in New York with her husband, three children and one willful feline that she is convinced may have been a witch’s cat in a past life.