v.j. chambers: breathless

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Reading Round 12 at the e-Fiction Book Club intrigued me immensely, to the point that I decided to read the story myself.

It didn’t take long.

This is what I would call a popcorn read – the kind of light-hearted, fun writing that quickly becomes a guilty pleasure.

Breathless follows the typical YA fantasy plot: small town unremarkable do-gooder girl meets mysterious, haunted boy, they fall in love, face death and danger along the way, and end up happy.

What makes Breathless stand out is that it is not, in fact, fantasy. There are no moping werewolves or brooding, sparkly vampires; this is a story set very much in present times, where the forces of evil are religious fanatics rather than demons. To make a (cheesy) comparison, think of it as Twilight meets the Da Vinci Code.

Breathless definitely has a lot of suspense, which I love, and which helps offset the more clichéd aspects of all romance stories. The plot is addictive, the reveal is timed just right, and – I won’t give you any particular spoilers – the resolution is unexpected.

Several comments, however.

While the story is in first person, and thus we get to see inside Azazel (the main character)’s head, I felt the characterization was a little weak. Azazel is immediately bowled over when the mysterious Jason appears in her life, to the extent that her fascination with him his hard to believe, especially considering she isn’t starved for attention as she has a long-term boyfriend.

Of course, that could be explained by her just being easily emotional, but when other, more traumatic events occur, I got little sense of grief or emotion; everything was eclipsed by her love for Jason (and his love for her).

Also – perhaps this is a silly complaint – but as much as Azazel’s name fits in with the plot, I found it an awkward name, one that leapt out at me from the screen every time it appeared, jarring me from the narrative.

All other characters could have been fleshed out further. Even Jason, a secondary main character, is left incomplete; a detailed portrait of a boy, but without life or soul. There was little sense of people’s motivations, meaning that it seemed Azazel is in a world of aggressive cardboard cut-outs.

The tone itself is informal, as befits the genre and the main character, so no complaints there.

The writing is very dialogue-heavy; I think the story could benefit from more description. The writing also falls into the telling instead of showing pitfall, as well as that of superfluous dialogue tags (” ‘God!’ I exclaimed.”)

Stylistically, I wasn’t convinced by the email/chat excerpts at the beginning of each chapter – but that is more a personal dislike than anything else.

I’ve mentioned the plot before, and how much I enjoyed it, but I must say the resolution was rushed, which disappointed me; it felt a little like a deus ex with how easily things are resolved.

Lastly, the website itself is fine; it’s easy to navigate, and has a pretty, evocative banner along the top. The video trailer is intriguing, and is actually what got me reading in the first place!

In sum: if you like romance, YA lit, and suspense (and can turn off your inner editor), then this is the story for you. It is a quick, easy, entertaining read, and I am definitely thinking of purchasing the sequel.

Intrigued? Read it online here.

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
This entry was posted in Reviews, Romance, Webfiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to v.j. chambers: breathless

  1. Merrilee says:

    Great review Anna!

  2. V J Chambers says:

    Yay, thanks, Anna!

    I did want to say that I took a look at Above Ground when it was on the Web Fiction Guide. You’ve got a very intriguing world going on there, but life intruded and I never did get up-to-date. So it means a lot that you had the time to get all the way to the end of Breathless. Thanks for this review!!

    I do agree with a lot of your points as well. I am crazy, crazy dialogue heavy, a habit I never quite lost from writing plays, I think. I’m much better than I used to be. (You think this is bad, you should see the first novel I wrote. Gads! Talking heads like crazy!!)

    I also agree that J&A read a bit like cardboard cut-outs in this first book. I think they evolve throughout the trilogy into realer, fuller people, but that’s not really an excuse–or at least, not a good one.

    Several people have commented that it doesn’t make sense for Azazel to be so head over heels in love with Jason. Which is true. It’s supposed to be creepy, since it’s quite possible they’re like the root of all evil, and maybe they’re drawn together by some kind of weird evil force precisely to destroy the world. But again, maybe that’s not a good excuse either.

    Thanks again for this review and for reading my little book. Best of luck with Above Ground (which I vow to return to, especially since you were so kind to my story)!!!

    • I didn’t realize you’d had a peek at Above Ground; thanks for your kind comments. :)

      You used to write plays? That’s pretty cool! It’d explain the dialogue-ness as well. I forgot to mention it, but I did enjoy your dialogue, I just felt it could have been broken up a little bit more with some description. Then again, description is also my weak point. It’s much more fun to just stick to the talking side!

      Re: characterization, I could sense that they were developing throughout the book, which is why I’m hoping to get a peek at the sequel when I next have a break. I think it’s often the case that writers themselves don’t know their characters that well until they’ve been writing about them a long time, and even then you can be surprised by new developments.

      As for Azazel falling head over heels with Jason… I think I would have accepted it just fine if she had questioned it a bit more, perhaps stopped every now and then to think “this doesn’t make any sense” – or if there had been some stronger allusion to it being a magical tie. I totally enjoy improbable romances like theirs; I just like there to be a little more explanation behind it.

      Anyway! I’ll stop rambling now. :P And thank you for writing a great story – I read it all in one gulp (and stayed up ’til 2am and was tired at work the next day, gosh.).

      • V J Chambers says:

        “I think I would have accepted it just fine if she had questioned it a bit more, perhaps stopped every now and then to think “this doesn’t make any sense” – or if there had been some stronger allusion to it being a magical tie.”

        Now that you say that, I absolutely agree. *smacks forehead*

        I did want to say that if you don’t feel you can fork over the cash for Trembling, I am planning on rebooting the entire series sometime in January. So, it will probably be available for free at some point in the future. I know MCM was planning on doing something similar with The Vector, and I’ll be interested to see how it works out for him.

        Thanks again.

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