Bound

Bound

Bound was first published in 2012 and was Sarah Bryant’s first young adult novel. It is a paranormal romance story which focuses on a teenage girl who flees to Scotland in order to escape from the terrible spectres that have haunted her since childhood. The story is the first instalment of trilogy and is followed by Riven (2012) and Morningstar (2014).

Sophie Creedon has never had a normal life. Since she was a child, she’s been able to see ghostly Revenants which haunt her everywhere she goes. Although she tries to ignore them, her odd behaviour has alienated her from others and even caused her parents to send her to therapy. In a last ditch attempt to escape the spirits, she accepts a job offer in the remote Scottish town of Ardnasheen and heads off to spend her gap year as far away from civilisation as she can get.

Yet the town is far stranger than she could ever have imagined. The folks who live there are deeply superstitious and her lodgings turn out to be in Madainneag – the Gothic residence of local laird Lucas Belial. Her first encounter with the laid also ends badly. He seems to recognise her instantly but is oddly hostile, insisting that she leave the town at once.

Sophie finds kinship with local barmaid Ailsa and the charming Sam Eblis but even in the remote Highlands, the Revenants still manage to find her. After an encounter in the woods, Sophie is left convinced that Sam is able to see the spectres as well. Her suspicions lead to her digging into the past of her new friends and in doing so she discovers a shocking secret that links Sam, Lucas and herself…

What I am about to say will spoil the entire story. “But Kim, are you insane? That goes against your reviewing ethos!” I hear you cry. Not so. In fact, this novel has already done the spoiling for you quite effectively. Just take a look at the cover. The tagline gleefully announces What happens when an angel falls? Do you know when this is actually revealed in the novel? Page 221. Yeah. That’s some great cover design there…

To be fair, Bound is not a terribly subtle novel to begin with. It is a novel seeped in religious symbolism and early exposition points out the Madainnag is Gaelic for Morningstar in an incredibly heavy-handed way. The novel builds the mystery around Lucas and Sam’s origins with all the finesse of the “what could Edward Cullen possibly be?” stage of Twilight. Yet the angels probably are the most interesting thing in this story. For all of the things I disliked about Bound, at least it did try to do something original with this concept. Bryant tries to separate the nature of angels from Christian lore in order to make them her own, presenting them as a wingless warrior race rather than celestial beings of pure light and giving them some vague ties to the Síth of Scottish mythology. Yet the problem was, as much as I really wanted to like these beings, Bryant’s world building just wasn’t strong enough.

When Lucas’s backstory is finally revealed, everything just feels so paper thin. In part, this is due to the way the story unfolds. We’re never shown anything – we’re told. Lucas makes mention to how he originally resided in Heaven but we’re never told what this is like. We’re told that angels were mankind’s guardians but in the absence of true Creator, we’re not told why. We’re told that angels are powerful and watchful, yet Michael can never seem to arrive on time when Sophie’s in trouble so I got the impression that they weren’t actually as fantastic as they thought they were. Bryant’s angels could have been original but instead, they’re just forgettable.

The story was also pretty generic. In my last review, I talked about how Elinsen’s Awoken gained much of its humour from its use of paranormal romance clichés. Bound was actually shockingly similar but the problem was, Bound is intended to be deadly serious. I’ve now reviewed forty-three novels of this sort and I can honestly say that there is nothing unique about this novel. While it’s far from being the worst that I’ve looked at (for those keeping tabs, Hush, Hush and Evermore share this honour), it also completely failed to stand out from the crowd.

The pacing of the story was also very uneven. At 403 pages, Bound isn’t horribly long for a young adult novel but it certainly felt it. The first three quarters of the story were incredibly slow moving. While it offered opportunity for an interesting mystery to develop, particularly with regards to the true nature of the Revenants, the eventual conclusion was predictable and I saw it coming long before the protagonist did. The story also relied very heavily on plot convenience. Ultimately, most of the revelations came at the hands of an ancient prophecy scroll that has gone undiscovered for centuries. Naturally, both copies just happen to be in Ardnasheen.

In terms of characterisation, the core cast were also pretty generic. Sophie is a cookie-cutter heroine. If you’ve read any paranormal romances before, you can probably guess the type. She’s shy, bookish and a little prudish. Naturally, she believes herself to be plain and uninteresting but at the same time she has mysterious powers and is desired by every man that she meets. If you think that this sounds like the description of 95% of all romantic leads, you’d be right. Her only real saving grace was her sarcasm. I have to admit that her retorts did sometimes make me smile.

While the story mercifully does not contain a true love triangle, Sophie is hounded by two local pretty boys. Sam is the beautiful, charismatic bad boy. Lucas is the repentant, brooding Edward Cullen type. While Sophie does do a pretty good job of resisting both of them at first, rebuffing Ailsa’s obsession with forcing her out of dates because she has legitimately just met the two men, it does not last long. As soon as she learns Lucas’s secret, all this is thrown out of the window and it becomes a tale of star-crossed lovers doomed to an eternity apart. I’m positive that this will appeal to certain readers but personally, I’m a little tired of overtly melodramatic stories of this type.

All in all, I personally didn’t rate Bound very highly. While fans of paranormal romance stories might get some enjoyment out of it, I found it to be just too unadventurous. The story and characters were ones that I’d seen dozens of times before and it simply didn’t do anything to make itself stand out. While I do have a copy of Riven to look at in a future review, I’m not really in a hurry to any time soon.

Bound can be purchased as an eBook from Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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