The Almost Girl
I received a copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Riven may only be seventeen but she is a trained soldier, a general. In Neospes, where she comes from, you either learn to fight or you die young. It’s not the friendliest world but it’s hers and it’s in trouble – the Prince, her best friend and leader, is sick and the only person who can save him is his long lost brother Caden. In order to save him Riven leaves her rank, position and world behind and goes undercover as a high school student on Earth in order to track Caden down.
I really enjoyed the first half of this novel – the half that takes place on Earth. The reader is given hints about Riven’s true mission and what her world is like but this part of the novel is mostly centered on character development. Riven is a tough customer, cool under pressure and always on her toes. There’s nothing dainty or damsel-like about her. There’s no other way to put it – she’s a badass. And she’s balanced nicely with Caden who is more friendly and easy going. Even Riven isn’t immune to his charms and eventually begins to see him as more than just a rescue mission. Though their romance seemed to develop rather quickly I was still on board with it – there’s just something about extreme situations that speed up a relationship’s clock.
In the second half of the novel, however, they leave Earth behind and this is where the book becomes a little unwieldy. The story changes its focus from Riven and Caden to Neospes itself. It’s a world full of cool technology, strange animal hybrids and family betrayal but since it is contained to only half a novel it feels underdeveloped. Riven seems able to conjure the exact gadget they need every time because of her world’s ‘advanced technology’ – almost as if she is wearing Batman’s magical utility belt. It just feels too convenient, as though Howard kept creating new gadgets to fix sticky plot points rather than examining the points themselves.
There is also an overabundance of plot twists once the characters return to Neospes. The plot which was so straightforward at the beginning of the novel quickly becomes a tangled mess of betrayal, secret agendas and miscommunication. If a few of the twists had been dropped it would have greatly improved the pacing and clarity of the novel. As it is, I’m left with only a basic understanding of what happened during the last 100 pages.
The Almost Girl has a great concept. The idea of a more advanced world existing parallel to our own is intriguing. The idea that people from that world could be walking among us even more so. And the characters that carry the story are genuine and complex. But, the second half of the novel is too rushed, too chaotic. A great concept turned into something that is hard to follow and in the end left me with more questions than answers. I’d be willing to read another Amalie Howard novel in the future, she has a great voice and fantastic imagination, but when I do it probably won’t be the sequel to this book.
This book is available in stores now.