The Maker, the Teacher, and the Monster by Leah Cutter

I received this book through LibraryThing’s Early Review program.

I really want to like Leah Cutter’s books. All of the ones I’ve read have interesting premises and characters. But she always seems lost. Her talent absolutely lies in character establishment and description (the way she describes magic in the three books of hers I’ve read is beautiful and her ability to translate details into images is very good), but not plot.

It’s frustrating to see the plot get lost so frequently. She’s ending her books stronger, but I still desire something a little more solid from her beginnings. It’s hard to stick with a book when the beginning is so slow (a problem all her books have shared). Inconsistent pacing also contributes to this “lost plot” problem.

I like her writing. I like her characters. But her plot and pacing are killing the reading buzz for me. That being said, Cutter has improved with each book, and so long as she does that, I’m willing to give her more chances.

The only thing I HAVE to note about the book is a SERIOUS issue that I see in SciFi ALL the time and I’m getting sick of it: mind-controlled sex is rape. Period. It doesn’t matter if the partners were having regular and consensual sex before the mind-control, there is no universe in which this is not rape. And I am so damn tired of seeing rape used as a plot device or fast, lazy character development without it being acknowledge for what it is. I will give that Cutter does a damn sight better than most authors, in that she has the character state she would need therapy, but NEVER ONCE is it called a rape. If we’re going to use rape as a literary device, we sure as hell should acknowledge it. So, trigger warning on that.

Definitely read this book after reading the first one, though.

B- (improved writing, interesting development; plot and pacing inconsistent, mystical rape, rape via mind-control)

[><] & [::]

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The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom by Leah Cutter

I received this book through LibraryThing’s Early Review program.

THE CLOCKWORK FAIRY KINGDOM by Leah Cutter is the second book of hers I’ve read and I’ll admit to going in with a few hesitations due to my experience in the first book. I’m happy to report that she has improved.

The writing was better and I cared much, much more about the characters in this novel than I did the last. I found her treatment of the fairy caste system to be interesting, although I am a bit perturbed that the highest caste is described as fairer, paler than the lower castes. It’s not a big part of the story, but considering that Cutter did diversity SO WELL in the other book of hers I am hoping that we see a bit more diversity of color in the higher castes in the second book of the trilogy.

Dale and Nora are smart, well-balanced kids (both in general and well-balanced against each other). I must say, I loved that Nora saw art in destruction as much as in creation. I think that made a beautiful thematic thread in the story. And Dale, as an inherent fixer, not being able see that beauty also felt very real to me. The twins’ contrasting powers very much so were what I wanted in them.

However, just like the last book, I felt like the plot was unformed, like the author wasn’t sure where she was going until she got there. The villain wasn’t clear from the beginning. In fact, until the last few chapters, I thought the villain was Kostya. Then Chris showed up out of NOWHERE – not having been mentioned for chapters on chapters – and he seemed to be the central villain. And then it was back to Queen Adele and maybe Kostya and then Chris and then someone else! It was such a muddle. Also, much like the last book by Cutter that I read, the pacing was tentative, almost frightened, like the author wasn’t sure the reader would like it and stay with her if the pace picked up. I want to reach through the words and scream, “BE BOLD.”

I think this author could use a confidence boost – it would help her good writing be great. However, I do look forward to the next book!

Solid B (improved writing, good characters; plot still muddled and lost, tentative pacing)

[><] & [::]