When I picked up Embrace, I have to admit to being a bit leery. From the blurb, it sounded this novel might share some commonalities with The Mortal Instruments (part-angel protectors of humanity?). To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of that. However, though there are some very minor similarities between the two, the structure, the characters, the overall world, and the mythology aren’t even close. I found it to be a story I was able to evaluate on its own merits.
Violet. I have to say that despite all the conflicting feelings her character inspires, Violet did grow on me throughout this novel. I really wasn’t so sure about her at first. As a result of Lincoln’s withholding information, she allows bitterness and anger to guide her, allows influences into her life that are dangerous and questionable, and overall makes some really, really poor decisions. She’s definitely a flawed character, but ultimately, I decided that this is what makes her somewhat likable and sympathetic… even when I just wanted to scream, “what the freak are you doing?!?!” She’s definitely a person who’s lost, and trying to make sense of a life that’s been turned upside down.
When Violet was fourteen, she finds herself the victim of an adult authority figure that she should have been able to trust. Because of this traumatic event in her past, she’s been desperately trying to get back to a level of normalcy in her life ever since, and now – knowing what she knows and knowing what she is – her life will never be anything approaching normal again. Therefore, when the boy she’s crushing on betrays her by withholding information, she’s understandably devastated to learn that the person she trusts most in the world has lied to her for years – that he’s seemingly had his own hidden agenda. Still, if anything Violet’s an extremely resilient character, and her traumatic past has given her a revamped perspective on life – she doesn’t run, and she doesn’t quit. She doesn’t hole herself up, hiding from the world that hurt her. Instead she goes out and learns how to defend herself so that she never again finds herself the victim. She’s stubborn, values honesty, appreciates directness, and is a bit on the reckless side. Though it’s a story about Grigori, angels and all the issues surrounding that, Embrace is largely focused around Vi coming to terms with herself. Her journey of self-discovery in light of recent revelations. In the process, there are a lot of mistakes made, but there’s also some great maturation that occurs in Violet’s character. I’m curious to see where Shirvington takes her character in the next book.
Lincoln. I love Lincoln. Shirvington does a fantastic job of establishing the dynamics and the closeness of his and Violet’s relationship in just a few short pages. Honestly, when you first meet him it’s easy to see why Violet is falling for him – he’s pretty much Mr. Wonderful. He truly cares about her well-being, tried to do the right thing by her, he’s honorable, despite neglecting to fill her in on several crucial details. He’s a pretty easy-going guy overall, though he can get scary intense when someone he cares about is threatened. He’s a protector through and through, but not heavy-handed; he respects Violet’s decisions even when it’s hard to do so.
Phoenix. Phoenix is dangerous, , new, forbidden, mysterious, and oh-so-enticing. Violet, still reeling from her shock and hurt, finds herself easily drawn to this intriguing stranger who refuses to leave her alone. But who is he… really?
Romance. So it’s probably apparent enough by now that this book does indeed feature its own little love triangle. I know that a lot of YA readers are ready to throw their left shoe if they have to read yet another romance about a girl stringing two guys along for the duration of a series. Personally, I don’t mind a well-done triangle, and this one certainly is… interesting. I can’t say too much without revealing too much, obviously; however, I don’t think this triangle fits the standard mold; it’s got a bit of an original twist to it.
World & Mythology. Angel books not really your “thing?” They’re not really mine either. And yet, I liked this one. The angels in this book are extremely secularized – almost like powerful beings from another plane of existence that humans have incorporated into their religions. So despite the subject matter, it’s not a very religious book. Angels still enforce moral values of “light” and “dark,” as the balance between the two must be maintained – for shadows to exist, there must also be light. Enter the Grigori, humans who have been imparted with certain angelic powers to police the angelic beings on earth. It’s a very interesting world Shirvington has imagined, with a fascinating mythology and lore at its foundation. However, I did feel that at times the explanations of the inner workings of the world were a bit too vague, the “why” of things lacking that needed an answer.
Story. In some ways, I was expecting more action in this story. The blurb made it sound more kick-butt than it actually is. Like I said, it’s mostly a story about Violet figuring out who she is now that her half-angel status has been revealed, as well as her relationships with both Lincoln and Phoenix. There is an interesting mystery running underneath and parallel to all of Violet’s personal drama, but I felt like it was very secondary to the relationship and character development that was taking place. Not that I necessarily mind that. Those of you who read my reviews know that character development is kind of the “end-all, be-all”, kiss-of-life-or-death for me when it comes to enjoying books. So I did enjoy the character aspect immensely, the intense focus upon it just wasn’t what I was expecting.
You know how there are some books that feel more like an introduction to a series than others? Sometimes first books in a series jump right into the storyline and they’re off to the races, while others really feel like they’re meticulously laying the groundwork for the rest of the series so the story can really get rolling in book two. Maybe I’m the only who feels this way. It’s possible. I’m a strange bird. But what I’m trying to get at is that though I can gauge my current feelings on this story, Embrace is one of those books where I think my overall opinion hinges on the direction of the next book.
Overall, despite some initial concerns and some readjusted expectations and even though it conflicted me greatly at times, I did find myself enjoying this book. Embrace holds a lot of originality, a different take on angels, a fresh approach to the love triangle, an interesting mythological foundation, and a compellingly flawed main character.