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Sunday, September 18, 2011

“Awakenings” by Edward Lazellari (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Awakenings” HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Watch the Book Trailer HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Edward Lazellari graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Art with a degree in illustration, narrative art, and sequential storytelling and also has a BA in English literature from Rutgers University, with a focus on Creative Writing. He has previously worked as an illustrator and graphic artist, doing projects for Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, and Jim Henson Productions. His short story, “The Date,” won Playboy Magazine’s prestigious college fiction contest in 1999. Awakenings is his first novel.

PLOT SUMMARY: Cal MacDonnell is a happily married New York City cop with a loving family. Seth Raincrest is a washed-up photographer who has alienated even his closest friends. The two have nothing in common—except that they both suffer from retrograde amnesia. It’s as if they just appeared out of thin air thirteen years ago, and nothing has been able to restore their memories. Now their forgotten past has caught up to them with a vengeance.

Cal's and Seth’s lives are turned upside down as they are stalked by otherworldly beings who know about the men's past lives. But these creatures aren't here to help; they're intent on killing anyone who gets in their way. In the balance hangs the life of a child who might someday restore a broken empire to peace and prosperity. With no clue why they're being hunted, Cal and Seth must accept the aid of a strange and beautiful woman who has promised to unlock their secrets. The two must stay alive long enough to protect their loved ones, recover their true selves—and save two worlds from tyranny and destruction.

FORMAT/INFO: Awakenings is 352 pages long divided over a Prologue, twenty-one chapters, and an Epilogue. Narration is in third-person omniscient and features Cal MacDonnell,  Seth Raincrest, and Daniel Hauer as the major POV characters, while minor POVs include Catherine “Cat” MacDonnell, Colby Dretch, Lelani and Dorn. Awakenings is largely self-contained and comes to a reasonable conclusion, but it is the first book in the Warriors of Aandor series and leaves a few threads to be explored in the sequel.

August 30, 2011 marked the North American Hardcover publication of Awakenings via Tor Books. The cover art is provided by Chris McGrath.
ANALYSIS: If not for Robert, I might have missed out on Edward Lazellari’s debut novel, Awakenings. After all, the synopsis only provides a small picture of what Awakenings is all about, so reading the book was a surprising joy.

Starting out, Awakenings introduces readers to the book’s cast of characters which includes Colby Dretch, a detective who has been having problems with the local law enforcement; Dorn who hires Colby for a seemingly simple task; New York policeman Cal MacDonnell and his wife Cat; Seth Raincrest, a smut photographer who is having a hard time keeping hold of his friends; and Daniel Hauer, a thirteen-year-old kid who comes from an abusive home, but wants to do right by his family & friends and to make something good out of his life.

Once the character introductions are over, the author quickly engages the reader with a mystery-driven plot involving Cal MacDonnell, Seth Raincrest and beings that do not seem to be of this world. A separate plotline follows Daniel Hauer as he goes through school and his private life, trying to be a good person but finding trouble at every turn. From here, unexpected plot twists, tantalizing clues about what’s happening, and the tribulations of the characters will keep readers hooked all the way to a reasonable conclusion that is smoothly executed, but leaves many threads left dangling for the sequel.

Of the novel’s two main storylines, I was most enamored by Daniel’s thread, which is heart-breakingly tragic and was the emotional core of the book. The other thread is more action-packed while providing background information and laying the groundwork for future sequels, but it largely pales in comparison to the riveting emotional context of Daniel’s story.

Characterization as a whole is very rewarding with various personas—a New York cop, a teenager from an abusive home, an anti-social photographer, etc.—admirably brought to life by the author and put into situations where their normal lives have been yanked out from under them. The sense of vertigo each character experiences when receiving shocking new information about their identities and so forth was particularly impressive. Meanwhile, Edward Lazellari’s prose is quite skillful, especially for a debut, which makes an already strong tale even better.

Awakenings does suffer from a few drawbacks however. This includes plot threads that take a while to converge, a mish-mash of genres that may disappoint readers who are expecting a certain kind of novel, predictable plot developments that can cause a lessening of tension, and an unfulfilling finale.

CONCLUSION: As a whole, I enjoyed reading Edward Lazellari’s debut. Awakenings features a nice mix of genres that will certainly surprise readers, especially those who go in with no preconceived expectations. Admittedly, the novel is a little rough around the edges, but Edward Lazellari’s talent is obvious and I definitely want to see what happens next...


Number One Novels said...

This is a great review. I already can't wait to read Awakenings, and now it's been moved up on my TBR pile.

I know you've already read the novel, but if any of your fans are fiending for it now, check out the giveaway at Number One Novels this week.

Mihir said...

Hi Rebecca

Thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for the info about the giveaway.



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