Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Harper by Shawna Walls

The rebirth of the harpies begins with one young man . . .

Harper Reed's post-high-school plans are up in the air. His promising football career has been cut short by an injury, the girlfriend he thought he might marry has dumped him after he confided to her that he also likes guys, and now, on his 18th birthday, he's started growing feathers.

According to the mouthy poltergeist who appears in his room, Harper's becoming a "mythic," one of thousands of creatures thought imaginary by most humans. Oh, and he's also the subject of an ancient legend and might well bring on the doom of humanity. Finding a new career path has suddenly become a much lower priority.

With the help of his ghostly guide and some new friends, including a charming mythology student, a con-artist faun, and a dragon princess, the young harpy must adapt to the changes in his body and identity while trying to discover the truth behind the dangerous curse that has given him wings.

Okay, I'm shallow. The first time I saw this cover I was all: "Mmmmmm, I'm not sure about this...." *twitch twitch* But this was pitched to me as having a bi-racial, bixesual main character, so the least I could do was read the sample. And then, ooops, I click on "buy" and spend the rest of my day devouring the book. 

I regret nothing.

This book not only delivers what it promises, a story about a paranormal coming-of-age with lots of cool characters, it also brings heaps and heaps of fun. It's like every time a reviewer exclaimed: "How does this universe work?" this book got another notch in its world-building belt. 

Which is always fun to read, you know? I mean, sure, bring on the bombastic action sequences and all, but let's have some throaway line about how we got there first, mmkay? I like how "Harper" managed to introduce a whole world of mythics, which is not only well developed, but draws you in with in-jokes and weird-normal stuff, like, for example, the fact that bureaucracy is so slow in the after-life, people lose track of time.

"Yeah. Orcs. Always annoying." 

"Of course, the real ones aren't as bad since their magic faded away. These days, they just smell terrible, swear a lot and vote Tory."

Walls, Shawna, "Harper", page 81, Kindle Edition


I like a book with a healthy sense of humor. Think of how much better some paranormal YA's would have been if the heroes and heroines stopped being so damn intense over everything - be it an emotional confrontation, a toothpick, or the main mean girl's choice of skirt - and just poked gentle fun every now and again? 

I don't even mean straight-up parody, (although there's room for that particular cheesecake, amirite?) but just... toning down the DRAMA a notch and acknowledging every now and again how silly some things are.

Obviously, it can be done, because I'm reviewing one!

Hell, I can forgive "Harper" some of its flaws (like all of the exposition in the first half) because it's so damn entertaining! 

Moving on...

Like I said, the plot is standard paranormal coming-of-age with some romance and saving the world thrown in, but the little twists along the way make it stand out. There's our bi-racial and bisexual hero, who manages to be bisexual without turning into an after-school special (his community doesn't chase him with pitchforks, his parents are accepting, and the supernatural community is all whatever rocks your boat, mate!) and bi-racial without glossing over it (there's a very nice bit where Harper gets worried about being discovered the airport because he gets racially profiled at the scanners.) There's also gay and lesbian characters, transgender characters, polyamourous characters, and all around goodness. There's also drama and betrayal and realistic conflicts, which is also nice. 

I did notice the pacing was a little off, but not so much as to make it dreadfully boring. The book makes up for any lagging with interesting characters, which is more than I can ask for.

And then we got to the ending, and I'm once again like "mmmmmm, I'm not sure about this...."

Actually, this depends on your mileage. In my case, I was a little disappointed because that particular twist wasn't foreshadowed properly, and it just felt a wee bit tacked on. At the same time, I'm glad for the ending, because it's one I would have liked to see. 

So I guess you'll have to read the book for yourselves to find out! *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* 

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