Okay, let me get one thing straight: I have nothing against paranormal romance books. I think they can be done well. I don’t have an example off the top of my head just yet, but I think it’s possible. That said, is Rise by Luis Almonte yet another one of those paranormal romance books littering the YA shelves in bookstores?
Well, it’s not just a paranormal romance story.
Which is, you know, a huge relief to me. I thought that when Kaleb stepped into the picture it would all go downhill from there, but we do still get to see something else other than uguu uguu batting-eyelashes bug-eyed gross romance times.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rise, the first book in the Trifecta series, is about Alexia Wick, the middle daughter of the High Priest and Priestess of the Alerium coven, one of the three covens of the witch community. These witches are kept secret from people without powers, and generally go to school and hang out and just chill with non-witches, almost like normal people.
Except that young witches need to go through the Annual Trials. Think SATs, except with magic and witchcraft and a high possiblity of living through a traumatic (but not actually real) scene. It should be a pretty straightforward thing, except Alexia meets Edward Cullen–I mean, Kaleb, and her life goes downhill from there.
Positives: the witching world and all the cool spells and battle scenes
The times when I was most invested in the book were the times whenever Alexia was training with her mentor, Darren, and Alexia just being cool in general.
I really like the witching world that Luis Almonte created. There are three covens in the US: Alerium, Malerium, and Xelerium, each dealing with their own field of magic. Alerium is focused on light magic, as far as I recall, although Alexia seems to be in a league of her own, regularly breaking things because of her inability to control her offensive magic, and also mushing spells together through following her intuition. Also because why the heck not.
Aside from the witching world, there’s also the Vampire world, who have their own politics to deal with. I won’t go into further detail about that since there would be spoilers abound, but it’s pretty interesting to see that there are different supernatural forces at play in the story.
The action scenes are also exciting. I really like the concept of The Annual Trials, where teen witches-in-training get their chance to graduate into full-fledged witches. The parade and ceremonies are imaginatively described, with flashy effects and rituals that only witches could do. The actual tests are full of action and tense moments, and I was glued to them.
Of former friends and current best friends
I also like Alexia’s relationship with Arianne and Jesi. Arianne is her former-best-friend who’s beautiful and popular, and who ditched her for new friends.
I found the whole ditching-your-friend thing very reminiscent of high school and something I identify with, which is why I liked it a lot. It’s harsh but real, and it’s also a complicated thing between Arianne and Alexia because although they no longer hang out together anymore, there’s still an obvious bond between them that is brought to light occasionally, especially in times when the other person is worried or in pain. I like that it’s not a clean-cut “I’m your enemy now” kind of relationship, because relationships are complicated in that way sometimes.
Jesi, meanwhile, is the non-magical friend who stands by her after she’s ditched. I assume she’s going to take the role of “ordinary person caught in supernatural world” in the future books. She’s loyal to Alexia and tries her best to be there for her, and is one of Alexia’s true friends and ugggh I just love girl bonding so much, I think books really need a lot more of those.
Alexia’s relationship with her siblings is cute, too. I like her bickering with Sam and Ryan, Ryan’s protectiveness of her, and their closeness as a whole.
Cons: Really, what is it with vampires falling for teen girls?
The times when I was least interested in the book were the times when Alexia and Kaleb appeared together in the same page.
Seriously, the romance is gag-inducing. Alexia and Kaleb do the whole insta-love cliche thing. And actually, when Kaleb first appeared I cringed, because he’s the stereotypical cool, handsome, brooding guy with SecretsTM. And who girls find hot except he Only! Has! Eyes! For! The! Leading! Girl!
And he’s a vampire because of course he is. I’m not even sure if it’s a spoiler because it’s super obvious from the first few appearances of his so I won’t mark it as one. Now, really, what’s with hundred-year-old vampires going to high school indefinitely? Like, you’d think in one of those 100 years of them being around they’d think “Hey, why don’t we like, stop pretending we’re teens and go do something for the good of the world, like write a book or volunteer or whatever?”
Instead they decide to put themselves into an endless loop of studying subjects they probably already mastered, perving on teenage girls, and navigating the testy waters of high school social life.
And what’s with 100 year-old vampires falling for underaged teens? Isn’t this illegal in several countries? I’m pretty sure this is paedophilia. Why is this romantic in any sense of the word?
Also, take a look at this gem:
I… what? How exactly does one lose oneself in another person’s gaze while in the act of kissing? Do people kiss with their eyes open and staring at each other? Have I been doing it wrong all this time? Or is this just how supernatural people kiss? I am so confused.
The dialogues can become excruciatingly boring
I have a confession to make: Sometimes I skip sections of books, especially those really long, drawn-out, ten-page descriptions about mountains and trees and crap. But I don’t usually skip dialogues.
I was super tempted to do it here, though. Yes, I know that dialogues need to push the story forward, but a lot of them are info-dumps under the guise of dialogues. What’s hilarious is that even the characters in the book acknowledge them: There’s a scene where Arianne complains that all this talk is boring, which Alexia acknowledges in her thoughts. It was so unintentionally hilarious to me, almost like the book was becoming self-aware.
The story suffers from the Black Dude Dies First syndrome
Not literally, because there aren’t even any black people in this book. LOL. There are a few people of color, though, and guess what? Two of them die first.
Besides, the Black Dude Dies First trope is less of blacks dying and more of killing off the token minorities first, with “first” being the keyword here. I don’t mind minorities dying, especially in an “Anyone Can Die” kind of story. But the first important death here was of one of the token minorities, and the second important death was also of a character of color. And there aren’t even a lot of POC characters in the first place.
The white people, of course, are all safe and sound (for now, at least).
Why is this important to point out as a negative? Aside from it being a cliche, for me it says that it’s a-ok to kill minorities off because it’s not as if they’re getting a huge role anyway. Their stories are less important to be told than that of shiny, white people. There’s also this essay on the Huffington Post by a brilliant girl (who wrote it when she was 15!) explaining why this is a problem. Although she talks about movies, this can also be applied to books just as easily.
The ebook’s formatting is super weird
I downloaded the mobi version because I use a Kindle to read my e-books, and there were a lot of formatting errors in mine, mostly paragraph breaks. For example, the dialogues of two characters would be in just one paragraph. Of course, I thought it was intentional at first, but then I came across errors where the same dialogue gets a new paragraph in the middle of the dialogue. I was like “????”
I’m considering book formatting a big enough problem to insert into the review because formatting can make or break scenes. I found myself getting distracted often when I was reading dialogues. I’d think one person was speaking all throughout when actually it was two different people, or blinking in confusion when a new paragraph started in the middle of a person’s dialogue.
Rise: Great Concept, Creepy Romance and Weird Formatting Issues
In summary, Rise is an enjoyable enough read if you can stomach the cliche love-at-first-sight, girl-meets-vampire romance. Although it has its issues, such as minorities getting killed off early and formatting issues, I still loved the world of the witches and their covens. The action scenes are heart-stopping, exiting, and honestly the highlights of the book.
Would I read the second book? Rise’s ending made me curious enough to see how it goes, although it won’t be part of my I NEED TO READ THE SEQUEL ASAP OR I WILL FEEL INCOMPLETE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE bookshelf. Still, it’s good enough for an author’s first book, and I look forward to more of Luis Almonte’s works.
(Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
My Rating: (2.5 / 5)
What do you think of paranormal romance books? Would you buy this book based on my review? Let me know in the comments!
(Reaction gifs taken from giphy.com)