One of my favorite things about Goodreads is being able to interact with authors. Not only those whom I’ve followed for years, but authors whom I’ve just discovered or that are very newly published. Being able to see what other authors are reading, as well as my friends, has been a nice way to find new reads to check out. There’s also Bookswap and First Reads giveways to keep me well equipped with free, new books.
For instance, I came across Crimson Rose a few months ago when checking out some of the giveaways listed. The blurb was mildly interesting — basically a love story with a vampire who may or may not be evil incarnate — and so I perused the reviews a bit and found my interest being piqued. The mythology isn’t wildly new, but I’d certainly never read a book before about an ex-Nazi, vampire or otherwise. In general, everything I was reading about the book just gushed about how amazing it was. In fact, if it weren’t an outrageously priced paperback,1 I might have snatched it up as an impulse buy. So, I thought entering the giveaway was well worth it. When the giveaway ended — and I didn’t win — I went back and added the book to my to-read list, figuring I’d get to it eventually. I also added R. Malone as a friend and very quickly received a message from her asking if I’d be interested in a free digital copy of the book. And if you know me at all, you know I don’t turn away free books. So, she sent it along.
And, well, either I read a whole other book than the people who wrote those glowing reviews or they all have a problem with their brains being missing because this was not the masterpiece that it is made out to be. There’s a very promising premise, but the execution is horribly lacking. Mostly I’m shocked I finished it. With all the awesome books out there that I haven’t yet read (and those I wish to read again), I generally won’t waste time with a book that has a vast amount of issues.2
Crimson Rose is one of those tragic books for me; one that I desperately tried to enjoy far more than I did. This is no doubt at least partially due to the author’s generous gift of a free copy and only serves to make me feel that my lack of enthusiasm regarding the book is downright cruel. Not to say that it is essentially a terrible novel because it really isn’t; Malone’s crafted world manages to put a surprisingly fresh spin on a mythos that’s been explored by countless others. Her characters are, for the most part, full of wonder and spark much interest in a reader. The story itself is especially intoxicating. The downfall for me is that try as I might, I could not get beyond the editorial problems within the book and these truly hindered my personal enjoyment.
The narrative of this novel starts off maddeningly slow and once it does get off the ground it comes off as a soap opera which only served to distance me from the events transpiring. It made it very hard to take anything seriously as the plot unfolded because I felt so alienated from the story due to my own distaste for the often clichéd dialogue, cheesy situations, and completely random plot twists that put the story in a totally different direction. Except the amusing thing is that this very set of issues is what kept me reading! Like an unwilling witness to a train wreck, the more out of place things became the more I felt compelled to continue. Regardless of the fact that I felt somewhat bombarded by the author’s obnoxiously frequent issue with word usage – or more accurately over usage. Many scenes that had the potential to be poignant or dynamic felt clumsy due to the repetitive nature of the vocabulary used. Moreover, and perhaps I’m being too nitpicky, I also was disappointed in the lack of scene-setting or descriptiveness. It isn’t until very late in the book that any real explanation is given for the environment the characters are in rather than an adjective or two.
Aside from the specifics of the storytelling, the stumbling block for me was the characterization or lack thereof in some cases. Often I found myself completely bewildered by Rose as she was thrust into various situations; I found myself anticipating a severe emotional reaction where instead she would take things perfectly in stride. Her world is turned upside-down time and again, her beliefs challenged repeatedly and through it all she steadfastly remains convinced of a seemingly impossible truth that Stefan is the perfect man for her. Meanwhile, Stefan himself is a complete enigma for me. Throughout the novel he showcases his ruthless and callous attitude and by the end he is basically redeemed without any evident changes to his core being. It feels hollow and forced to me and makes it difficult to maintain any semblance of interest in Rose’s choice to be with him.
Yet, for all of its shortcomings, I can’t entirely dislike this book. Malone truly does have a talent for building a complex and engaging story and has certainly created a unique enough world to capture the interest of a paranormal/urban fantasy fan. While, I was disappointed in the execution, I found myself deeply invested in the story and truly curious to see how the events would unfold. Still, the sad fact is, I sincerely believe this book could have used some further polishing before being published.