(Just a bit of housekeeping. Apparently, when an author sends you a .pdf with their cover that means you're supposed to use it in your review. Oops. Thank you to Lianne Miller for pointing that out. If you're an author who I reviewed before this and would like to see a .pdf of your cover on your review, please send me one and I'll update your review.)
Can someone please call Stephanie Meyer and tell her to read a book? It is a book in which a young girl is caught in between a vampire and a werewolf. It is a book about a girl whose life is quite frankly jacked up. It is a story about a girl, in this case named Eliza, has decisions to make that aren't always easy. It's a book about a girl who faces challenges by looking them straight in the face without flinching or turning into a whiny little bitch. In short, Lianne Millers Artifice is a book about a character in some ways similar to Bella from Twilight and it DOESN'T SUCK. I think Ms. Meyers could learn a bit about characterization and keeping an audience that doesn't consist solely of teenage girls entertained by reading this. Really, all Artifice is missing when compared to the Twilight Saga is millions of dollars worth of marketing. I mean that. Err, well maybe that and three sequels. But there was a preview of a sequel to Artifice in the back of this book, so Miller is catching up. And it's not like I got much out of the sequels anyway, since I gave up on the Meyer written drek after one hundred and forty pages. I hear my then twelve year old niece enjoyed it though.
Artifice is about a girl named Eliza Ross. At the beginning of the book, she doesn't really have much of a memory or much of a life. She is a young college student who no one will talk to. She goes to class and back to her apartment. She regularly calls the police about a stalker that the can't find any sign of. About the time she gets locked into a psychiatric hospital, things start to get interesting. When her medical tests all come up weird and they decide that she is imagining her stalker things go off the rails and that's where the story really begins to heat up.
Before I get too far into the story, I want to point something out about the cover. It's beautiful but it's also a bit misleading. I spent five seconds looking at the picture and decided this was a paranormal romance. The story has elements of both the paranormal and romance genres present, but it is not by any means an actual paranormal romance. It has other elements that are just as prevalent and doesn't follow the typical romance formula that I've seen too many times in other places.
Artifice mixes genres quite effectively. We've got a bit of the paranormal and romance genres as mentioned above but there is also a good deal of mystery mixed in. Eliza doesn't know who or what she is. She has no idea how old she is or where she came from originally. There are others in the book who do and we are clued in early but in many ways we don't know much more than she does. The end of the book leaves Eliza and the reader both still wondering about her personal history. Hints about but much is left to the imagination. I find I like it that way as the mystery helps pull us along in the story and helps build interest in other aspects of the story.
Miller manages to do something few other authors have attempted and even fewer have pulled off, at least without multiple books to do it in. The books early villains are Eliza's allies at the end. Her most hated antagonist ends up being someone very important to her. It's a slow process to be sure, but Miller makes us want to like them and she manages to get us to do it. If it takes a Big Bad to make it happen then so be it. This is fantasy fiction and all great fantasy fiction has a great villain who is equal in skill and cunning to the heroes. Shashenka is not only that, but he also has access to more resources than our heroes and it shows. As the master of several covens of vampires he has greater numbers on his side as well. He's not the largest of the cast physically but he is far more powerful than mere size would indicate.
Eliza herself is impressive. This is a woman who doesn't have it all. She lacks in knowledge of self and, when we first meet her, is far from rich. She has a stalker and ends up in ever worsening situations. The bottom line, though, is that Eliza never gives up. She doesn't look to everyone else to fix her problems for her. In a situation where she could curl up into a ball and give up and feel sorry for herself but she doesn't. She fights and fights hard. I found myself liking this girl early in the book and liked her even more by the end. I may not agree with everything she does but I understand why she does and why she must. Her ability to fight is mentioned (and at one point she achieves the ultimate in modern-day bad-ass appearance by wielding a katana) but it's not shown much. Her willingness to sacrifice herself to protect her friends is impressive as well.
I really only have one complaint about the book and I hesitate to mention it but I feel like I have to. I try to keep my comments strictly about character and story and not so much to stylistic type things. The authors are review are published and I'm not (except as a blog writer I guess) and I tend to leave that end of things alone because I take it for granted that they can do it well or I would never have heard of them. This book has one stylistic thing that drove me up a wall until I got used to it and it will probably push some potential readers away, so I have to mention it in respect to fairness.
Artifice is written in the present tense. I found that hard to deal with at first. I got used to it after about two hundred pages but at first I found myself rewriting passages in my head to put them into past tense because that's what I'm used to. Once I got used to it I really enjoyed the book but it did cause some cognitive dissonance at first. Honestly, I'm not really sure if I got used to it or if I just got so wrapped up in the story that I forgot about redoing parts of it, but either way the story overrode the style for me. I know that things won't work that way for everyone though.
Bottom Line: 4.25 out of 5 fangs. It would definitely be higher if not for the present tense issue.
Self published, 2015
Artifice is available for purchase at the following link: