The Stalk

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4 Stars

This was fun to read. I genuinely enjoyed it from the first page to the end. The action was timed right the plot unveiled at a reasonable pace. There wasn’t too much wrong with this at all.

My first real issue was the ‘bean’ stuff. In an attempt to make this some sort of fairy-tale retelling beans were incorporated but nothing much about the ‘beans’ is talked about. Like what is the purpose of a bean? What does a bean other than a light signal on a locker actually look like? Why couldn’t a summons just come, in a high-tech world, within a digital message sent directly to some sort of handheld device? Since this story deviates so far from most versions letting it stand on its own might’ve worked. Honestly, if the lead wasn’t named Jack stalks are a common plant item. There isn’t enough here to make me think Jack and the beanstalk. Still, that’s minor but as that was a big selling point for me even getting this story I was expecting a sci-fi retelling that actually made me think about the original. This story was strong enough to survive without the connection so it was a minor letdown as I came in expecting more of a retelling.

The twist about the living metal was fun. The villain in this book was all sorts of awesome. I loved it. It was what I was expecting but also wasn’t and it’s nice to be surprised sometimes. The side characters in this story were well written. One in particular, Ace, was fun fun fun. My only issue with her was her attitude when we first meet her didn’t match who she turned out to be. Her disdain for the meeting was directly associated with the person who would be interviewing her and not anyone in the room and even after you know this, I honestly didn’t piece together this point till I was done, it’s still hard to wrap around how she’s actually a nice person and people like her yet when all the characters are together it was like she wanted nothing to do with them. It just didn’t fit. Otherwise, I loved her.

The teeny, and I mean really-extra-stupid-teeny bit of romance was handled well. Until the end when the ever-popular ‘we would have to get to know each other’ line was dropped. It felt forced like she couldn’t fantasise comfortably about a man without it. Almost as if she were policing her own fantasies according to social norms. In this future advanced society, this type of thinking wasn’t something I expected and since it was practically on the last page, having the payoff of random side glances and touches be capped with this thought sort of ruined it a bit. Took the fun out of an exciting situation.

And my last bit of annoyance was the mental struggle with destroying the enemy versus the psychological pull Jack had to do the enemy’s will. It was well written but every time she thought about saving the enemy I groaned a bit. Somehow it didn’t fit well with the struggle against the enemy’s power to pull Jack to her doom. That part made sense and I could get invested in it. It was understandable that this was how the enemy won people over and ultimately destroyed them. Adding on to that the constant idea of not defeating the enemy took away from an otherwise brilliant psychological struggle between the hero and her enemy.

All in all, this book was great. I’ve read three books in this series and this one is by far the best one I’ve read. I couldn’t wait to get back to reading it and it only took two bus rides to and from work and one lunch hour to do so. Short, well written, expertly paced. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun sci-fi suspense adventure. The only thing, as far as retellings go, I find these books deviate pretty far and are definitely strong enough to stand on their own without attempting to be retellings. They are original enough to not need that caveat but as far as marketing goes it made me buy the book so clearly it’s working out for the author. It definitely worked on me.

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