The Spectra United

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Spectra Unearthed. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Spectra United was written by Christie Valentine Powell and first published in 2016. It forms the second part of the The Spectra: Keita’s Wings series and follows on directly from where The Spectra Unearthed (2015) left off. The third instalment of the series – The Spectra Uprooted – was released earlier this month. The novels don’t really stand alone, so I would strongly advise reading them in sequence if you want to have any idea as to what is going on.

Keita Sage and her friends managed to emerge triumphant from their first encounter with Donovan but the war is far from over. Although they have wrestled back the Nomelands from the Stygian’s evil rule, the other Spectra kingdoms remain under his control. Although Keita wants nothing more than to liberate her home, the Spritelands, she knows that she cannot hope to do this alone.

Unable to return to her people, she settles for helping her younger sister Avie to restore peace in distant Lectranis. However, in order to unite the people, they soon realise that they will need to restore Lectranis’s true heir. There is only one problem. The deceased Lectran King had several children and no one knows who was chosen to rule after his death.

With only the vaguest idea of where to search for the missing princes and princesses, Keita and her friends set out across the war-torn land to deliver messages to each of them, begging them to return to the capital. However, the party soon finds itself divided. Left alone with her best friend Sienna and Brian, the boy that she was once betrothed to, Keita must deal with her distaste towards the strange Lectran culture. If she can’t save Lectranis, she has no hope in saving her own home.

I’ll begin by warning you that this is going to be another somewhat negative review. And I really am sorry about that. I don’t really like giving negative reviews, especially to indie writers, but I just could not get into this story at all. However, I would just like to note that the other reviews that this novel has received on Goodreads have been overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps there is something that I’m missing here and my issues with this series are purely personal – I don’t claim to be an expert. If you’re in anyway curious about the premise of this story, please do check it out for yourself. I’d be very curious to know what you think.

With that out the way, let’s talk about The Spectra United. To begin with the positive, I will say that this book did show some improvements over its prequel. One of the biggest issues that I had with The Spectra Unearthed was its lack of focus. The story seemed to be missing a clear goal, with characters just kind of meandering until the plot hit them. The Spectra United was far faster to find its feet and Keita’s mission, while simple, does at least lend motivation to her actions.

However, I didn’t think the novel really did a good job of using the things that had been set up by the previous story. Although the Nomelands were liberated in The Spectra Unearthed, this didn’t seem to effect anything. The Stygians make no effort to win it back, and the Nomes do not assist Keita and her friends in their new mission at all.

In fact, the Stygians are oddly absent from this story. In The Spectra Unearthed, they were the big evil. The entire novel was based around the fact that they were ruthless and cruel. Yet this time, I don’t think we see a single Stygian on page. Even the main villain, Donovan, is only briefly mentioned despite Keita’s climatic showdown with him last time. Because of this, the concept of linking powers and combining the power of a full “spectrum” of magic to combat the multi-skilled villains also does not feature at all. This felt a little weak to me, as I would normally expect a sequel to build upon existing concepts rather than entirely brush them aside.

In terms of structure, the novel started well but I did find myself quickly losing interest. While Keita did start out with a goal in mind, the plot soon started to slip off course as characters just wandered from town to town. While there was the occasional skirmish to help speed things along, there weren’t really any big dramatic scenes to capture the reader’s attention and all problems seemed to be resolved very quickly.

For example, at one point the cast get marooned on an island of flesh-eating pigs. But, not to worry, they learn almost immediately that the pigs won’t approach the treeline. Also, Brian can psychically contact his brother to pick them up in a fresh boat so they are only trapped for one night. So, ultimately, what seemed like a massive threat was dispelled in a mere matter of pages.

I also didn’t really think the story’s twist was all that effective. I don’t want to spoil it here, but I just felt that it came entirely out of left field. This is an entirely personal thing but I think that a good twist is one that you can only see coming in hindsight. It should be something that makes you look back over the story and think “wow, I really can’t believe that I didn’t see that coming”. The twist in The Spectra United is far from that. It just doesn’t really make sense as it renders a lot of the story’s early exposition to be entirely pointless.

In terms of characterisation, the story unfortunately also struggles. It really didn’t feel as though any of the cast had changed a lot since their first adventure. In fact, a couple of them seemed to have taken a step backwards. Carli and Zuri do not feature much in this story but, when they do, they came across as being a bit cold-hearted. Despite the fact that both of them have lost family to the Stygians, they show next to no empathy for Brian when his brother may have also come to harm. Not cool, girls.

Even Keita, who was a bit of a saint last time, now is frequently snappy with people. Because of her bad attitude, I generally felt a bit indifferent towards her in this story. This wasn’t helped by her oddly racist attitude. Despite the fact that her mother was a Lectran, she has a tendency to look down her nose at them. Everything they do seems to exasperate her, especially when she compares their attitudes to those of her homeland.

However, I was pleased to see that the issue that I had with Keita’s magic was addressed this time around. Last time, Keita came across as being nigh on unstoppable. Despite the fact that she claimed that her powers were weak, she was basically unbeatable and seemed to be able to do almost anything. While this is still true this time around, at least some of the enemies that she faces are also Sprites. Due to the fact that they possess the same abilities, this means that they at least present some degree of challenge for her.

Anyhow, I think I’ve made my point. Perhaps there is simply something that I am missing here, but The Spectra United just wasn’t the novel with me. It had some severe issues with pacing, plot and characterisation that caused me to quickly lose interest. However, it has received some glowing reviews from other sites and so if you’re in any way curious, I would suggest giving it a try.

The Spectra United can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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