Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Writing: 4/5 Entertainment: 5/5 World Building: 4/5
Twiceborn is everything I wish adult fantasy was. The protagonist is a believable adult, the action is exciting, every scene and interaction either moves the story forward or builds character, and the plot had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Kate O’Connor is merely going through the motions of living. Now that her son has passed away, the strangeness and mysteries of her life doesn’t bother her. She doesn’t care that people trail her as she makes deliveries for the costume shop she works for, nor that the deliveries themselves are highly suspicious. None of that seems to matter until she returns from a rush delivery job with no memory of the event and blood under her fingernails. That one lost memory catapults Kate into a war of succession between the dragon queen’s daughters, involving every mythical creature known to man, most of which now want Kate dead.
Twiceborn is a breath of fresh air in so many respects. I absolutely love contemporary fantasy, but I’ll admit that it has its fair share of clichés and worn-out plotlines. This book does a great job bringing new ideas and material to the genre, which I especially think is impressive seeing as it’s intended for an adult audience.
I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of adult fiction. It usually alternates between dime-a-dozen gritty thrillers, sex-crazy romances, a mix of the two, or some type of literary fiction. While there’s always exceptions, and I do really do enjoy literary-type fiction, I’d really like to see more adult characters deal with adult problems with all the fun, excitement and creativity of YA.
That’s where Twiceborn comes in.
Action, adventure, magic, all the stuff that makes fantasy fun, takes up a majority of the story. It’s not interested in being “adult” by being saturated by fan-service sex, shallow romance, and unnecessary over-the-top gore. While there are definitely traces of those elements, they’re downplayed and work to serve in character development and driving forward the plot. The real mature aspect of Twiceborn shines in Kate and her personal development, which makes the story “adult” in a deeper way.
The loss of her son plays a key role in Kate through the entirety of the novel. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to watch and feels real, despite the fantastic situations Kate now finds herself in. The same can be said of her dealings with her ex-husband, whom she blames for their son’s death, and trying to sort out her feelings for her friend Ben in the context of her grief. I feel like YA has been able to tackle real-world themes, struggles, and humanity in the face of the fantastic for some time now, so I was excited to see an adult fantasy do the same with ideas and themes more relatable for an older audience.
Finlayson’s world building is also pretty great. For one, I can’t say I’ve ever seen dragons play a key role in contemporary fantasy. On top of that, the way she integrates them into the modern setting is brilliant. She works with the classic dragon tropes in their haughtiness, love of luxuries, and danger, but their personalities and cunning ploys for power fit perfectly in the twenty-first century. It’s also great to see such a diverse range of fantasy creatures play key roles in the politics of this secret world, especially since Finlayson introduced a few that I’ve never seen or heard of before. The possibilities of what creatures could appear in contemporary fantasy really are endless, so I really enjoyed seeing a writer take some advantage of that.
Unfortunately, the world-building is a bit of a double-edged sword. While most of it is wonderful and creative, certain elements fall apart. It feels like there are too many rules that are set up only to be broken a few pages later. While this problem didn’t take away from the overall feel or excitement of the book, it did break my suspension of disbelief every once and a while.
Finlayson’s great writing is icing on the cake of all the good stuff. When I first noticed that the story was going to be told by two separate people I rolled my eyes. Using two first-person narrators is hard to pull off and many rarely work out, but Finlayson’s use was flawless. Thank goodness because this story really benefited from it. If she hadn’t been able to pull it off, the entire book might have fallen apart. The second part of the book blew me away in particular, so if you’re interested in writing with multiple first-person narrators, I highly recommend checking this book out.
Whether you’re a fan of YA, adult, NA, or all three, Twiceborn is a fun, creative, wild ride. It’s a rare, refreshing book in the adult fantasy genre, the world building is great, with a few bumps here and there, and the writing is brilliant. So, if you’re looking for something new or want some great YA action without sacrificing adult characters, head over to Amazon and give Twiceborn a try.