Joint Review – The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans

Cover for The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans

Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Publish Date: Out Now (December 24, 2012)
How we got this book: eARC from NetGalley

My name is Hedi Peacock and I have a secret. I’m not human, and I have the pointy Fae ears and Were inner-bitch to prove it. As fairy tales go, my childhood was damn near perfect, all fur and magic until a werewolf killed my father and the Fae executed my mother. I’ve never forgiven either side. Especially Robson Trowbridge. He was a part-time werewolf, a full-time bastard, and the first and only boy I ever loved. That is, until he became the prime suspect in my father’s death…

Today I’m a half-breed barista working at a fancy coffee house, living with my loopy Aunt Lou and a temperamental amulet named Merry, and wondering where in the world I’m going in life. A pretty normal existence, considering. But when a pack of Weres decides to kidnap my aunt and force me to steal another amulet, the only one who can help me is the last person I ever thought I’d turn to: Robson Trowbridge. And he’s as annoyingly beautiful as I remember. That’s the trouble with fate: Sometimes it barks. Other times it bites. And the rest of the time it just breaks your heart. Again…

*blurb from Goodreads

MiscJoy: I’m stubborn. If certain things aren’t happening for me early in the story, I’m a metaphorical foot-stomper about having to continue on. I drag my feet. I put the book down. I eye-roll. I stare at the book (or as is the case more often than not these days, my Kindle) wishing that it would just go away. I know, not the most mature reaction (it is just a book afterall), but true nonetheless. Why didn’t I just walk-away from this book, then? Because I just couldn’t let go of the feeling that there was a good story to be discovered. And I’ll never forget that I almost did quit too soon on a book that has since gone on to become my favorite UF series. So, now, unless something truly awful or offensive is happening, I want to give the work the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to quit it too soon and possibly miss something. I’m always hoping that the author will find a groove and that the book will improve, especially when dealing with a newly-published author.

In this case, I have Has to thank for encouraging me onward. Once I made it to the 22% mark, I noticed a subtle shift in the writing and story direction and by the time I made it to the 35% mark, I felt I could finally begin to settle in.

Has: I felt the same way with this book too; the pacing and the infodumping really made it a bit of a slog to get through in the first half of the book for me. However despite these issues, I really liked Hedi’s character and her inner snark and the world-building even though there were huge chunks of it being explained which affected the pace and action. Although the plot was interesting, it definitely took time to get into the story and I was glad I persevered. I do think this book suffered from First Book Syndrome especially with the complex world-building, which features parallel and dream worlds and werewolf and fae cultures. I just wished the infodumping could have been introduced much more seamlessly because it just felt that it was added awkwardly and at times went on in weird and off-topic tangents that disrupted the flow of the story.

But at the halfway point, I think the story found its groove and the plot felt much more cohesive and the pace flowed much more smoother.

MiscJoy: Yes, I think the style of writing contributed to that infodump format and inconsistent pacing. The writing style relied heavily on Hedi’s inner dialogue as the main means for delivering the story. This contributed to a narrative that felt self-indulgent at times and often strayed into navel-gazing or flashing back into the past at odd times. Because we were experiencing the majority of the story from inside of Hedi’s head, I often felt removed from the action of a scene. Additionally, it seemed to take a long time for events to happen within a scene because the narrative would shift from the present situation into some past recollection or infodump. However, this did seem to improve over the course of the story as the plot came into focus and the characters began to interact with each other more.

Evans has the ability to create fully-fleshed characters with their own pasts, traumas, and flaws that made them feel real and accessible. Hedi definitely had some snark, but she also had a lot of growing up to do and insecurities to overcome. Her self-disparaging remarks became a bit tedious to read at times, however I thought I saw a glint of change towards the end. And as we all have things we need to work on within ourselves, I can certainly appreciate when an author creates a character that needs to go through that same growth process. I feel like we’re still just getting to know Robson. He conducted himself in an honorable way throughout the story despite his rogue status. And it was interesting to watch Hedi’s perspective of him change as he became a real person to her vs her childhood fantasy. I really liked how he saw things as they were (not as we might like them to be) and helped Hedi to do the same.

Has: I found Hedi’s character pretty refreshing, she wasn’t kick ass or beautiful with a harem of love interests lusting after her which is a common trope in Urban Fantasy and I liked the fact that she was so self-deprecating and even unlikeable at times because it made her more real. She was relatable and she had a tough time growing up as an outcast to both the fae and the werewolves because of her mixed heritage. Even when she made some stupid mistakes, it felt close to her character and it didn’t jump into the too-stupid-to-live moments. But I did like how she would interact with the other characters, and I especially loved the scenes with Robson, who is also an outcast werewolf and has been framed in the murder of his alpha father and family.

Those scenes were fun and enjoyable, and he was a fantastic love interest because the tension and romance was built-up in a realistic way. Although there was a scene or two when the plot became a bit un-real to fit the narrative. For instance, I had to suspend my disbelief that a werewolf like Robson who had entered his old territory which was dangerous for him would be drunk and unconscious. Even though he had placed traps and warnings, that he would let his guard down in this way raised my brows whilst reading. And the fact that this allowed Hedi to enter his motel room and steal his amulet didn’t make sense nor was it realistic – although it was a fun scene which set-up the tension and made him do something dumb.

Nonetheless, the dynamic they shared was fun and sexy and it also felt refreshing to me, because things don’t go smoothly for them. In fact, it was awkward and even at times funny. Their first love scene was very realistic especially in context to Hedi’s experience and I appreciated that because it wasn’t full of exploding stars or earth shaking moments. And this brought the development of the romance in unexpected ways for me but I really liked it because it wasn’t predictable and I hope this carries on the same way in the upcoming sequels.

MiscJoy: Oh, I know! That first love scene had some good chemistry working for it and was quite realistic and then The Incident happened and I was not expecting that. It surprised them both and neither really knew how to handle it. I enjoyed how their romance developed. Usually, I don’t like the insta-mate trope, but Evan’s approach to it was refreshing. Both Hedi and Robson were discovering things about themselves and each other but were unwilling to share it let alone name it – as if it was something too vulnerable to acknowledge. So although the narrative presented subtle clues of the building romantic sub-plot within the story, both characters were trying to avoid it which resulted in quite a bit of humor and touching scenes. Watching them come to terms with the implications of their feelings created a tenderness and realism to their relationship that I related to and appreciated.

I agree with Has, some of the plot elements had a weak foundation. I didn’t really understand the timing behind Robson’s sudden reappearance in her life (which seemed a bit coincidental in the context of other events) and the incident in her apartment that happens immediately following his re-emergence and how her amulet got confused with another amulet. Some of the suppositions that Hedi arrived at felt like she had jumped to conclusions based on very thin evidence and yet those presumptions later went on to become part of the plot foundation. It took awhile for me to ferret out the plot of this story and I’m still not all that clear about where the Mystwalkers fit into that as the main story arch continues to evolve. We were only given a small insight into the province of the Mystwalkers – a place called Threall. At first, I thought Threall and Mystwalkers involved a dream-consciousness dimension and it reminded me of Allison Pang’s “heart of the dreaming” concept. However, once Hedi showed up in Threall, we discover that it was there that a Mystwalker had access to souls – the essence of a person – and these souls were left vulnerable to the whims of ego, vengeance or madness as it seemed to affect Mystwalkers. It’s one thing to be able to influence a person’s subconscious and quite another to also hold the power of life or death without any sense of consequence to the Mystwalker. I admit, I’m a bit worried about how that will develop as the series progresses.

Having said that, I did enjoy the world-building and am very curious about how Merenwyn (the Fae realm) will feature into the series.

Has: I have the same feelings too, although I did love the imagery of the souls being held in the dream world and I think it mostly affected supernatural-being souls instead of human ones – although I wished this was explained a bit more in the story.

I am not a fan of the plot trope of the heroine stumbling and discovering things hamfisted and thought Hedi’s mother should have taught her more about the realm of Threall instead of a brief and hushed conversation stating it is forbidden, because it felt like Hedi is heading into one mother of all mistakes with her encounter of the psycho fae. But I hope we get to see more of this realm as well as Merenwyn (and the fate of her twin brother who was taken into that realm soon after her parents were killed) because it was described so beautifully.

Overall, THE TROUBLE WITH FATE does have flaws, especially in the beginning with the infodumping which got lost into long winded tangents that bogged down the pace. But it is a complex world, which needs to be set up and explained and the story is worth it once that is out of the way. I loved the main character of Hedi, who is not the perfect kick ass heroine, she has flaws and does make mistakes, but she is relatable and realistic and I did find her a memorable character along with her snarky observations and narration, which helped me to keep on reading despite the bogged down pace. The romance between her and Robson was also fantastic and I am eagerly waiting to see how things pan out for them in the next book, because even though it has the mated trope, it is not going to run smoothly and I got a feeling that this is going to be a fun relationship as it develops. But despite the awkward beginning, I was interested in the world-building and once I got past the halfway stage of the book, I was engrossed into the story and the characters. Even though there is nothing really unique with the tropes of the werewolf and the fae society, Hedi’s narration, and the humour and plot twists had me engaged with the book and I will definitely be checking out the next book which I hope will delve more into the fae society and how Hedi will be dealing with the werewolf pack.

I give The Trouble with Fate a C+

MiscJoy: Has referred to “first book syndrome” and I have to agree. It was interesting to see how the book progressed. The first third was hard to get into, the second third piqued my interest and by the final leg of the story, I couldn’t put it down. Clearly, Evans has the writing chops, a fabulous imagination and ability to create interesting and multi-dimensional characters; but crafting and story structure needs a bit of finesse to ensure more cohesion to the individual story elements and overall plot. A lot of books seem to sputter around the mid-way point, but this book just kept getting better. The pacing, tension and twists at the end kept me reading late into the night. Evans isn’t afraid to put her characters through some tough situations. I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

I give The Trouble with Fate a mixed rating of a B-/C+. The C+ is for the beginning of the story and the difficulties I found there. The B- is because by the end of the book, I was totally into it and for me, a C rated book means I was pretty meh about it in the end which was definitely not the case here.

2 thoughts on “Joint Review – The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans”

  1. @aurian: Me, too. I’m glad I gave it a chance though. I’m hoping the second book will tighten up the action and focus the plot a bit more – especially since this book ends on a bit of a cliff hanger. I want to know what will happen next!

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