A Review of Awakening, by Catrina Burgess

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In Awakening, the first installment in the Dark Rituals series, a former healer turns to the Death Arts to seek revenge.

Seventeen-year-old Colina was born a healer. But after a horrific event forces her to leave her clan, she becomes desperate to learn the dark magic of the death dealers, mages who draw their power from the spirits of the dead. Colina was taught to fear and hate death dealers, but becoming one of them is the only way for her to get the revenge she seeks—and the only way for her to survive.

Colina asks a young death dealer named Luke to help her, but he’s reluctant to train her in the Death Arts. Little does she know convincing him to teach her will be the easiest part of her journey. To become a death dealer, Colina will need to undergo three dark rituals, each more terrifying than the last. At the same time, she’ll have to deal with her growing feelings for her mentor. Too bad the first ritual involves him strangling her to death.

As Colina undergoes the trials, she discovers an untapped darkness within herself. If she survives the horrific rituals and gains dark power, what will she become?

Catrina Burgess’ Dark Rituals series originally appeared on Wattpad with over three million reads. Awakening is the first book of four and was named Wattpad’s Best Suspense Story of 2014.

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Rating: 3/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: unique, inventive world; complex characters/motivations; magic, demons, ghosts, zombies—a smorgisboard of paranormal; action-packed plot; at times flat descriptions/prose

Huge thanks go out to netgalley, Full Fathom Five, and Catrina Burgess for sending me a galley of this read! (this in no way changed how I rated or will review this book.)

Okay, so…the cover for this book is a bit weird. There’s a LOT going on in the picture—dark, foreboding swirlies of color, a girl with her back to the reader and a light in her palm, clawed hands reaching from the mists/shadows… It’s a lot to take in, and I’m not sure it does this read justice, but I have to admit it was one of the first things that caught my eye about the book—so I guess it did it’s job in the end.

Now, you might be looking at my star rating and thinking, “wow…that’s a bit low, isn’t it?” You might take one look and think, “huh. I don’t think that reads for me.” Please, PLEASE, don’t! Just because this book wasn’t really MY cup of tea, doesn’t mean it wasn’t good or worth your time! You might just find you love the read; most of the reviews I’ve seen on it so far, in fact, have all been raves. Now, let’s get into the review, yes?

There’s a LOT going on in this book. I’m not sure if that worked for me or hindered me—at times, it felt like our main character, Colina, was being pulled in so many different directions even SHE wasn’t sure what was happening. In a way, I think this made it difficult to see HER outside of her actions/motivations. She was so intent on finding revenge, so focused on forging her own path down the dark road she chose, I think she lost a lot of things along the way. Like integrity. Like humanity. While I appreciated her focus and drive, while I liked her as a character…I feel like she lacked something important overall.

Luke, on the other hand, seemed to pick up the slack in the places she fell short…but also fell flat at the same time. The sort of basically insta-love didn’t help to mold or shape him as a character; Colina was so inward-focused, we didn’t even really get to see him from HER perspective, because she never took the time to get to know him. They just… They didn’t really connect, despite their connection, if you know what I mean? Their relationship didn’t work for me, to be honest. I didn’t really care about them as a couple.

I DID love the world, and find the story intriguing. But again, I feel like there was SO MUCH happening—Colina was the first of her kind to want out of one magic and into another; Colina was the first person ever to do THIS, the first person ever to achieve THAT, the first person ever to do anything because apparently in this world everybody sticks to the status quo. Yes, I just quoted High School Musical—and now the song is stuck in my head. But really, I’m not joking about this—apparently in this world, nobody ever does anything just because they WANT to. Nobody ever makes mistakes, or chooses to forge their own paths, or… pretty much anything else.

I wish we were given more of the world. I wish we were given better looks into and at our characters. I wish Catrina Burgess had slowed down enough to actually EXPLAIN what was happening, instead of glossing over everything and pushing for the climax. While I really loved the inventive spin Catrina Burgess put on magic, spells, ghosts and the like, I feel like the story was wrapped in a camoflauge ribbon—it was hard to keep track, especially with her emotions flip-flopping all over the place. I found the characters intriguing…but sort of one-dimensional. There WAS some character growth—but that growth was thrown away in a very rash, stupid decision.

So yes. I enjoyed this read, but it isn’t one of my favorites. I want to know what happens next—but I’m not sure I’ll be continuing with the series. Overall, I found this book interesting and complex; I just wish it wasn’t QUITE so filled with things, and focused more on the important bits—character growth, world building, descriptive and imaginative prose. I’d recommend to lovers of magical realism, fantasy, and paranormal settings.

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