What would you do if your reality suddenly became frighteningly similar to your daydreams? Two brothers as old as time itself. One righteous, one wicked. One dead, one alive. A hidden, supernatural world where fantastical beings and true love aren’t just found in storybooks, and creatures from nightmares stalk you while you’re awake. A devastating loss thrusts present day teenager, Arabella Grace, headfirst into a society that protects all of humanity. She finds out that things aren’t all they seem, and that history has been secretly re-written by a magical organization that she’s unexpectedly found herself in the middle of. Arabella is now a Clock Keeper. Destined to guard one of the four Clocks that keep time in motion and mankind from falling into darkness once more.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy (though I would describe it more as Middle Grade/Fanfiction
Print Length: 430 pages
Publication Date: January 19, 2019
*** (MOSTLY) SPOILER FREE REVIEW ***
This book felt like a fanfiction to me, aimed at younger readers (ages 15 and younger). It’s a story by a young but very promising author.
Considering this is a self-published novel, I was surprised to find very little grammar errors. The ideas, plot twists and overall storyline sounded awesome, and I loved the level of detail the author put into it. But the execution of the story felt rushed and some plots (like the reveal of the villain) or character stories (like Cade and Rosie’s) could’ve benefited with a bit more in depth writing.
Some scenes seemed too convenient (like Arabella finding a picture in a room where she’s never been before and there wasn’t any indication she would ever step foot in there). Other scenes were dragged on to heighten the dramatization (like Cade finding out about a certain, similar tattoo but failing to mention this to his best friend Arabella).
I liked the way the author described things. She did this with such devotion that it was very easy to see the item before you. She also uses beautiful sentences at times, like:
“[…] once the fire fled from her flesh and the white stopped clouding her eyes […]
The cover was made by the author herself. Based on this cover, I wouldn’t have bought this book solely because it doesn’t fit the genre and having the synopsis on the front cover isn’t really appealing either. Nevertheless, I do know the author has had a new cover made (back in May of this year) which looks so much better, but this one is yet to be added to the book online.
This book has quite a bit of repetition, sometimes even in de same paragraph, which definitely slows down the readability.
She was afraid of heights, she was afraid of The Warlock, she was afraid of not being good enough, she was afraid of being weak, she was scared. (p. 289).
The prologue, although intense and intriguing, proved unnecessary and was also repeated later on in the story as Arabella learns about her ancestry.
The few info dumps I found could’ve been improved if the author had used the Show versus Tell method. Telling who Arabella’s friends are and what they did together is always better when showing this in specific scenes. Also, writing towards the first lesson Arabella’s going to take to learn more about her ancestry and then jumping to a week later (and looking back) is a sure way to drive the action down. Though it must be said that this author shows she’s improving this skill later on in the novel, so I am sure that she will knock that out of the park with her following books.
Something that stood out to me is the author’s tendency to add information after the fact. Like, stating that Arabella sometimes affectionately called Rosada Rosie – which hadn’t happened up until then.
At one point, there’s tension added by Cade confronting Arabella by asking why she wasn’t at Diana’s going away party. Nothing leading up to that confrontation said anything about Diana or that she would be going away. This makes the confrontation fall flat on its face.
Unnecessary drama was created by a character thinking: I’m pretty sure your best friend wants me dead, is poisoning me […] and yet, nothing from the story up until that point even remotely points to such actions. This makes the character unbelievable and irrational.
There’s also an excessive use of filler words, cluttering up the story. What stood out especially were the dialogue tags. Rather than indicating who is speaking for every single dialogue tag, a better way is to utilize character movements or expression. In most cases dialogue tags weren’t necessary at all.
When formatting a novel, it’s important to look at readability. This author used bold text and bold italicized text, which isn’t common, nor perceived as readable. Amateur writers emphasize words with CAPITAL LETTERS, underlining, bold, or larger letters. Professional writers instead use italics to emphasize words (or, if the text is already italics, the emphasized word is not in italics). Same goes for texts that were sent between characters.
When writing action scenes, it’s important to stay in the moment. This is something the author seemed to struggle with. Right in the middle of a rescue mission, a character is looking back, reminiscing about the person they’re trying to save. Instantly, you pull the reader out of the story and the action simmers down. Given the fact that we already established the importance of this person to the rescuer, it doesn’t make sense to add it here.
I chuckled a few times when I read the dramatic way of describing certain items or scenes. I mean, a “soul-sucking, cold brass door knob” or “hanging on for dear life” in a hug between people who just saw each other a few hours ago? Even though, as an editor, I would point these out to change, I did recognize a lot of these from my own teen writing years.
Writing in an overly dramatized way isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when it comes to the plot there were a few things that gave the story a juvenile and unrealistic feel. For instance, Cade’s discovery of a certain tattoo. Seeing this was so similar to Arabella’s, who’s Cade’s best friend, it didn’t seem logical to me that he (or the other individual) wouldn’t act on this information, at the very least mention this to her.
Or the build up towards the reveal of the villain of the story and then have that person disappear completely from the story until the end of the book. The villain’s character came across as weak, which was inconsistent with how the others talked about this person. A villain’s actions needs to be in sync with the way they’re talked about. If people fear them, give the reader scenes that show how they’re justified in fearing them.
The romance in the story was cute, and written in a way you’d expect in a fanfiction. Not everything made sense to me, and certain influences weren’t made clear until the reveal, which – given the point of view – I think should’ve been clear from the start. I recognized the need to keep secrets from your readers, when writing towards a plot twist. It takes a lot of practice to do this the right way and this book doesn’t yet have that down to a T. Though I feel this doesn’t matter that much when you consider the targeted audience; they would eat this up without a blink of eye. Older readers, like myself, will see these plot twists coming from a mile away. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something to consider when picking up this book.
The author adds information that could be considered useless information. Like the fact that Thomas had always been more of a scholarly type, like her grandfather. Without more information about her grandfather, adding the comparison is useless.
Or stating who Arabella’s favorite president is, without letting the reader know why. Or introducing Arabella’s two Pomeranians in the first chapter, and then we never hear from them again.
When writing a novel, every bit of information you feed to your reader has to make sense. It has to serve a purpose. If the story doesn’t change with or without the information, the general rule is you should just delete the information all together.
I chuckled a few times, when I read about someone nodding secretively, their back stinging in silence and someone screaming their name like a prayer. I couldn’t help but wonder in amusement about how someone does that.
And some sentences, I had to read several times.
She felt like she was doing good just for the fact that she remembered enough from walking there and driving home to know how to get to Ailith’s house while trying to keep everything straight in her head.
This is an example of a sentence, that proves the importance of reading your work out loud. You’ll hear immediately that it doesn’t make sense and you can then edit it accordingly.
There were several inconsistencies in the story, for instance the fact that Arabella had a choice about being a Clock Keeper, yet this was after she already had her tattoo done. Also, this tattoo magically appears when someone turns 16, so why pay for one, if it appears anyway?
Also, it was said that if Arabella refuses her powers or fails the Trails, Ailith states it will go to her (until Arabella’s sister is old enough). And yet, later on in the story, it is said that Ember gets to safeguard her Clock if she fails the Trails.
Arabella enters her grandparents’ house, which hadn’t been lived in for about 3 to 4 weeks ,and found it to be so dusty that Her eyes watered, carving a trail through the dust that must have collected there from when she was inside the cursed house.
Dust doesn’t work like that. It just lies there. Unless something fell, pushing the dust into the air, her face can’t have been smutched with it. Also, the amount of dust spoken of is way too much for just 3 to 4 weeks.
Google the facts
On two separate occasions, the author writes about Arabella physically ‘shattering her own eardrums’. To shatter your own eardrums by screaming, you’d need a sound of 150 decibel. The highest scream ever measured was at 129 decibel.
If you’re referencing to certain events in the past, like in this story the author references that Denver won the Superbowl in 2014, you have to make 100% sure you’re giving the right information. A Google search proved this was actually the Seattle Seahawks.
Same goes for mentioning that cats can heal themselves through purring, which isn’t true. They purr to manage pain and sooth themselves, but they can’t heal themselves through it. It’s a way to comfort themselves.
Yes, this is a story of fiction and yes, this means that everything you read isn’t real, and yet, if you use real events or animals the ‘fiction-excuse’ isn’t applicable. Unless you create a world where it’s obviously not the world like we, the readers, know, you need to stick to the facts and check them before using them in your story.
Point of view
The story’s been written in 3rd person omniscient (the writer’s voice is all-knowing) and most scenes are written from Arabella’s point of view. In this case, the author does a pretty good job maintaining the point of view and adding a bit of tension here and there.
Some writing is borderline caricature, like the way Mrs Tallas is described as a “detention nazi”, and later she’s a “witch”. Personally, I would refrain from words like nazi, considering the point of view being 3rd person omniscient, because it makes the writer’s voice feel juvenile and that’s not very fitting to an all-knowing voice.
Saying things like ‘Now back to the show’ or adding (this seemed to happen a lot), makes it clear that another (unfamiliar) person is telling this story and we as the reader aren’t able to experience the story. You want them to submerge in your story, as if it’s all real and happening right then and there.
Arabella Grace is the main character, and I thought it was cute how much she resembled the author. The same last name, same place of residence and dogs for pets. It’s exactly the same way I wrote my first novel – write what you know, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Gabriel (I don’t believe I’ve read his last name… but I could be wrong) is her love interest. He still has a Walkman and tapes – I love that.
Arabella’s friends are: Diana- the classic, quiet, good girl… with a crazy side. Claire, who didn’t try to hide her crazy, but was as sweet as they come. Cadence, Arabella’s best friend and soon to be pilot. Zuriel, Claire’s boyfriend and like an older brother to Arabella. Zuriel’s twin brother, Luke, was a big clown and video game nerd… and, she was pretty sure he was wearing his shirt inside out. That was her group,
Then we have (Dec)Ember, the girl whose a Clock Keeper, just like Arabella, though this feisty girl is quite the mocking type and not always a joy to read about.
Ailith is Ember’s grandmother and the one who teaches Arabella about their ancestry. Her lessons are full of information and I loved the fact how the author thought about all the small details.
Mika Reyes is the instructor for the Trails. With her green skin, fuchsia hair, and ability to transform herself into all kinds of different shapes and colors, I immediately wanted to learn more about her. She sounds so intriguing!
We meet Mika’s daughter, Rosada, whose soon becoming one of Arabella’s closest friends, yet we don’t learn her name until 7 pages after their first introduction.
And last, but not least, we have Harrison, the boy Arabella was infatuated with the moment she laid eyes on him.
While reading this story, Arabella learns more about her ancestry and takes lessons to prepare for the Trials. This concept fascinated me and I’m very glad that the author took the time to go through the actual Trials before the story was over.
What I missed was getting more into the use of Arabella’s gifts, especially the fact that she has wings. In certain scenes, like the second Trial she had to go through, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t use her wings. She didn’t even try it. I would’ve loved to see the author dive more into that.
I did expect a bigger reveal / fight at the end of this book, but that didn’t happen. I also was surprised to learn that the book ended on such a cliffhanger. Part of me feels that this wasn’t the right ending for this book. Without wanting to give anything away, I think the ending should have been stronger after a certain couple was saved. What happened after that, was a set up for a second story, which – given all the questions that hadn’t been answered yet – is only to be expected.
The last several pages had my full attention. Part of it being because I wanted to see where this was going to end, and part of it because the last pages were well written and in the moment, something the author struggled with earlier in the book.
Part of a series?
As stated earlier, this book leaves quite a few questions unanswered. This book is the first (and only) book published in the Clock Keepers Chronicles series. Since this first book was published in January of 2019, it’s unclear when (and if) a second book is going to be published. The title for the second book (Forged in Flames) was revealed back in August 2019, but I couldn’t find any more information since then.
I’m hoping soon though, because even though you might not expect it from the review I’ve written so far, I am intrigued to learn more about the Clock Keepers and the Book Keepers. I mean, are they situated only in the US, or are they all over the world?
I want to read about earlier times and how they learned how their powers worked, and what their weaknesses are. Perhaps a story about how one Clock Keeper didn’t find their soulmate *gasp* and what happened next. The world created in this book has so many possibilities, it excites (and dizzies) me!
So, is this book by Marie Grace enough for me to continue reading her stories?
I’d definitely want to read more, just to see how she’ll improve over time. We have to consider one very important fact: Marie Grace is a young author. On her author’s bio it says, she was only 16 when she published this book which was in 2019. So, I believe it’s important to take into account the age and experience, because for a teenager to have published such a detailed novel – even though it did have several issues – is a huge accomplishment.
She has definitely impressed me and I am rooting for her to continue writing because it will only get better. After all, coming up with an idea like this one in your teens hold big promises for the books she’s yet to write. The next J.K. Rowling perhaps? I’m eager to find out!
Petra is a published Indie author. She’s been writing all her life, but only dared to publish a book when she started writing the Somnia Series. She’s a motivational coach for (Fantasy) writers, offers all kinds of services on her own Dutch platform www.fantasyschrijfcoaching.nl, and uses her author’s website to help other writers achieve their writing goals. She loves using her platform to promote other Indie Authors who have the courage and determination to make their books worth your (reading) time.