Author: Kim White
Genre: paranormal, fantasy
Published: April 9th, 2012
Publisher: Story Machine Studio
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Source: NetGalley - I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
"In The White Oak, the first book in the Imperfect Darkness series, Cora Alexander falls through a sinkhole and enters the underworld still alive. Her living presence threatens the tyrannical rule of Minos and the infernal judges who have hijacked the afterlife and rebuilt it, trapping human souls in a mechanical, computer-controlled city that lies at the core of the earth. To survive, Cora must rely on her untrustworthy guide, Minotaur, an artificial intelligence built by Minos. She is helped by a mysterious voice, and by Sybil, underworld librarian and author of each person's book of life. Sybil's collection holds the key to humankind's intertwined life stories. When Cora's own book is destroyed, Sybil gives her a magical golden pen and sends her to the underworld city to write her own destiny. Along the way, Cora finds the ghost of her dead brother, Lucas, a genius programmer who alone is capable of finding the chink in Minos's armor. But will he be able to get Cora out alive, or will they both succumb to the seemingly inescapable underworld trap?" - Goodreads.com
I'm not usually one for super technical fantasy stories. I like fantasy but I'm not usually attracted to the "sci" part of sci-fi. However, I had heard such great things about this book that I decided to give it a try and at first I really liked it. About 1/4th of the way in, though, it lost me. With that beautiful cover and the plot's mythological theme I really wanted to love this book, but it was just a little too strange and the plot seemed to be so convoluted at some points that I felt like giving up. The main character is Cora. She falls into a sinkhole at her abusive father's funeral and ends up in the underworld. We find out that she has something to do with a prophecy (which is never really expounded upon enough) and she becomes something of a fugitive. All the while there are ghosts, mechanical beings, and a shifty AI named Minotaur as well as a terrifying and confusing underworld society (seriously, if it is really anything remotely like this, I need to find a way to live forever). Cora must make her way through this awful place and find her twin brother while trying to dodge obstacles put in her way by those who fear the prophecy. So with that out of the way, lets get down to business.
I really liked the first part of the book. It really starts off with a bang (or, you know an underground cave collapse, something like that). The action at the beginning is really great and it feels like the story takes shape very quickly. Once Cora makes it to the underworld things start to fizzle a little but there are still a couple of characters that are pretty cool who are introduced here. Chief among these is Minotaur. He is an AI that can change into anyone. Because of he programming he pretty much knows everything about everyone and is a very believable doppelganger. While being entertaining, he also adds some depth to the story. He has a deep loyalty to his maker, Minos, whom he calls Father, but the affection is not returned and this really makes him a sympathetic character in a way even though he doesn't really have emotion. Unfortunately that's pretty much where the positives ended for me.
I seriously don't know where to start. I had so many problems with this book. Lets just jump right in with the main character and her brother. Cora, to me, was boring. She was fairly emotionless (when she lands in the underworld she isn't surprised by anything, doesn't she find all of this a little strange?), and I didn't feel like I got to know her at all. In addition, her relationship with her twin brother is completely lacking in connectivity. You get the feeling that they are supposed to be super close, but when they are together they just kind of fall flat. In fact at one point in the story they are discussing Cora escaping from the underworld so she can, you know, live and Lucas is all "don't leave me here" it's just kind of lame. I just couldn't care for them at all and when I don't care about the characters I don't care about the story. Aside from the characters I had real problems with the plot itself. Basically there wasn't really a defined story line. It seems like the author wanted to play around with mythology but didn't really explore it fully. There were so many different things going on at once that it was easy to get lost and by the end of the book I was so confused that I didn't even really care that the whole book was, for all intents and purposes, an intro to the next book. I was just glad it was over. As far as the mythological aspect goes, it was completely overshadowed by a jumble of other genres and way too much detail on things that didn't really add to the story (there is a whole page that basically describes Lucas coding a video game, no thanks). And the ending...I can't even really call it a cliffhanger, it was more of a is-my-kindle-malfunctioning-where-is-the-rest-of-the-story ending. Basically, I just didn't care for this one. There is going to be a series but I really don't think I'll be reading it. Let me know if you've read this what you thought. I would love to have some more opinions, maybe I'm just missing something, or maybe this one is over my head.