As my LibraryThing Secret Santa books haven’t arrived in time for Christmas, I’ve decided to make my final review of the year a Christian Fantasy novel as it felt like it was still in keeping with the spirit of the season.
Spirit Vision was written by Morgan Straughan Comnick and first published in 2013. It is a paranormal romance novel that focuses on a teenage girl as she tries to help two lost souls ascend to heaven. The book forms the first part of the Spirit Vision series and is followed by New Beginnings (2014).
Starry Moon has always seen things that she can’t explain but has never realised that this ability was unique to her. However, when a dead body is found at her school she soon comes to learn how special she is. The victim’s ghost – a young woman by the name of Maren Rowe – soon appears before Starry and reveals to her that she is God’s Warrior and it is her duty to help lost souls pass on to the afterlife.
Both Maren and her best friend, Umbra, have become trapped on the mortal plane due to the fact that they have unfinished business. Both of them were murdered but were unable to see who their killer was. Using their ghostly powers, they have been tracking the faceless assassin but when they identify them, they will need Starry. Only her Spirit Warrior powers can purify a murderer, ridding them of the evil spirit that possesses them and giving them a chance to return to their normal life.
However, it won’t be easy. The murderer is powerful and Starry has yet to discover the full extent of her abilities. If she fails, she’ll die and Maren and Umbra will be doomed to never see Heaven. To make matters worse, Starry soon also begins to develop feelings for Umbra. Will she be able to save his soul, even if it means that she’ll never see him again?
I’d hoped that the last review of 2015 would be a positive one but unfortunately, that isn’t going to be the case. I was attracted to this novel by its beautiful cover and the promise of its synopsis but unfortunately it wasn’t for me at all. However, I do note that the novel seems to have gained mostly positive reviews on Goodreads and so accept the fact that maybe I’m missing something. Yet this blog reflects my personal opinions so unfortunately I must express them honestly.
My largest issue with Spirit Vision was the quality of its prose. The novel felt much more like an early draft than a polished novel and certainly felt as though it needed tighter editing. The general idea behind the story is incredibly simple – Starry has a mission to find and exorcise a killer before he strikes again – but it became very confusing in execution. While there were occasionally elements of the plot that made me curious, such as the sinister Angriff Squad, Maren’s home on the moon and Umbra’s creation as the “ultimate being” (note: none of these are spoilers as all are revealed within the first few chapters), they just really felt tagged on to the story as they did not add anything to it at all.
Important pieces of world-building, such as the nature and limitations of Starry’s powers, were left entirely unexplained. All I can really tell you is that she was given special powers by God which include the ability to sense evil (Lucifer’s?) presence. Beyond this, I really couldn’t tell you exactly how her gift functions. Until the reveal of a certain character’s backstory during the climax, I was also really confused as to just what the “murderer” actually was. It’s never even explained why they abandoned Maren’s body at the school when her death occurred on the Moon. While the climax does clear up a little of this mystery, I felt some explanation should have come earlier. I was never sure if the murderer had some kind of motive or was just some malevolent entity, like the evil spirit in The Frighteners.
I’m pretty sure that the novel was actually about twice the length that Amazon claimed. The story was often derailed for chapters at a time by plot threads that did not tie into the main plot in any way. Matt’s relationship with Chloe, adventures with a gnome who lives in Umbra’s subconscious, a lot of the stuff involving Credence – all they really did was detract from the main story line and mean that the characters seemed to forget that they were supposed to be tracking down a dangerous killer. Even when they think they have identified the culprit, it still takes them a good hundred and fifty pages to actually confront them.
The quality of the writing is also not great. While it’s not the most incoherent novel that I’ve had to review, it does make grammatical mistakes on almost every page. These range from mixed metaphors (probably the worst one that I noticed was when Starry described someone as looking sickly “like an exquisite green apple”), repetition (people frequently cock their heads “like a cute puppy” and Umbra is always described as being “appealing”) and sentences that were just poorly constructed to the degree where they started to lose their meaning.
The story was also clearly influenced by manga, particularly magical girl series. There are frequent nods towards specific series, as well as some more general hints like:
“”EH!?” Umbra yelped. I blinked, surprised at him. Maren looked just as confused, I guess because Umbra made the Japanese noise for shock.”
While this isn’t always a bad thing (you might have noticed that both Nick and myself are huge manga fans) it was a little jarring in this story. You could especially see it in Comnick’s fixation on people’s eyes. There are numerous descriptions of people’s eyes changing colour, growing dull or filling with sparkles and smoke. These are ways of depicting emotion in comic books but they just don’t transfer well to a literary medium. People’s eyes may gleam but they don’t fill with stars. People would surely ask questions if they did.
Then there were the characters. Let’s start with the protagonist. Starry was the very model of a good Christian. She’s kind, forgiving and utterly selfless. Unfortunately, that made her rather uninteresting. She’s a complete goodie two-shoes who never puts a toe out of line and bursts into tears if she ever thinks that she’s hurt someone’s feelings. While it did make a change from some of the angst-driven heroines of novels that I’ve read lately, I just found her to be exceedingly dull. She’s just too perfect. She never looks like failing and succeeds at everything that she does. Even in gym class, which she professes to be terrible at, she manages to perform somersaults and front-flips. I also felt that her voice often sounded too young. She was supposed to be fourteen but I would have probably placed her to be around eleven.
The other main character of the story was the love interest, Umbra. While Starry was sweetness and light, Umbra was utterly loathsome. His mood swings were massively inconsistent throughout the story, occasionally acting sweetly but usually being abusive to Starry. He was the kind of character who would wake her up just to tell her that she should be sleeping. The thing that annoyed me the most in the story was the fact that Starry still fell in love with him. I love strong, independent female characters, not the sort that willing enter into relationships with people who will verbally abuse them, just because they look “appealing”.
Beyond these, there is little by way of characterisation. The cast of the story was huge but the supporting cast really just dissolved into a list of names as they were difficult to tell apart. The teachers all had odd names, usually taking the form of nouns (Mr Tin, Mr Wave, Mrs Shell, Mr Sea), and there were so many named students that I struggled to remember who was actually part of Starry’s friendship group. Occasionally, Starry would exposit things about them (like how Allen was very rich) but these facts were largely unimportant. Even Starry’s closest friends were strangely blind to the weird happenings. At one point, they all witness Starry levitating but no one even questions it.
All in all, you might be able to tell that this isn’t the novel for me. It’s definitely not something I’d recommend to others as it was just long and a bit forgettable. Perhaps with a bit of polish something could have been salvaged but I just found it to be long and confusing, and I couldn’t get behind the shallow cast. Perhaps I’ll look at its sequel in a future review to see if things improve but I’m certainly in no hurry to do so.
Spirit Vision can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk