The Sassologist is participating in the Risen Blog Tour. Thanks to Entangled Teen Publishing, we got to read an advanced copy of this new Young Adult vampire novel. I really like vampires; you can safely say they are my favorite fictional creatures in films and books.
That said, I’m also extremely critical towards vampire fiction. I really, really dislike Twilight, for one. Read about my favorite and least favorite vampires (on screen) here. So for me, the selling point for Risen wasn’t a huge turn on: Twilight meets The Vampire Diaries. Should you sink your teeth into Risen? I’ll tell you.
Plot things first
The story is told by Charlie, the 17-year old protagonist of Risen. She’s raised by her aunt in the middle of nowhere, when, obviously, things go Terribly Wrong. Let’s get our friends at Goodreads to help us out with explaining the plot, as usual.
My aunt has been kidnapped by vampires, and it’s up to me to save her. Only…I had no idea vampires existed. None. Nada. I’m more of a reader than a fighter, and even though I’d been wishing to escape my boring existence in the middle of nowhere, I’d give anything to have it back now if it meant my aunt was safe.
Then there’s the vampire Sebastian, who seems slightly nicer than most of the bloodsuckers I’ve run into so far. Yes, he’s the hottest being I’ve ever come across, but there’s no way I can trust him. He swears he’s helping me get answers, but there’s more to his story. Now I’m a key pawn in a raging vampire war, and I need to pick the right ally.
But my chances of surviving this war are slim at best, when the side I choose might be the one that wants me dead the most.
If I’m totally honest: going by the blurb, this isn’t a book I would’ve picked up myself. It sounds like it’s full of stereotypical tropes: boring life turns exciting; secret war between mysterious creatures; super hot vampire; savior who doesn’t want to be savior. But hey, don’t judge a book by it’s blurb, right?
Let’s start with the negatives
The first couple of chapters were… well, not good. I feared this would turn out to be a book filled to the brim with all the cliches put together. A 17-year old naive girl who doesn’t know anything about the world around her… I’m rolling my eyes here, can you tell? Luckily, the vampires came along pretty soon and so the action could start. Or so I thought. Because for reasons I still can’t fathom, vampire Sebastian decides not to kill Charlie, but to take her someplace safe. And that gives us cringeworthy quotes likes this:
I hate that he’s not the ugliest monster in the world – that my eyes are drawn to the crease above his nose when his brow furrows.
Yikes. I have to say though: it got a lot better once I got into this book. But, more on the positives later. The very predictable romance between Charlie and Sebastian was a bit much for me. Luckily, Sebastian is no Edward Cullen. He doesn’t spy on Charlie while she sleeps, he doesn’t stalk and thank God he doesn’t sparkle. Their romance sadly wasn’t the only predictable bit, as the mystery concerning Sebastian isn’t much of a mystery.
The exposition in Risen could’ve been handled a bit better. It’s mostly characters talking to each other and spitting out exposition that is clearly meant for the reader and not the other character. For instance, one character says to her brother ‘our sister, Cordelia.’ Like the brother wouldn’t know his sister’s name. There’s a lot of this throughout the entire book.
Finally, I have to share one last super sappy quote. Cole Gibsen tries so hard to make this a super positive book, despite the premise, but this just came out of a rejected Hallmark card. I swear, after this I’m getting on with the positives!
“There’s no this that can make you happy. No one thing, place, job or person can make you happy. You know what makes you happy?”
I shake my head.
He places his hand over his heart. “You. Only you can make you happy.”
What makes Risen an enjoyable read
The world building is great. It’s hard to make something new out of all existing vampire lure, but Cole Gibsen managed. There are three vampire clans in the world: the super creepy zombie-like Corpus; the cruel and cunning Instagram-models Mentis (basically how most vampires are portrayed on screen) and the hippie vampires who love all living creatures, the Anima. There’s a bit of a backstory about how these three came to be. I really wanted to read more about their connection to the Fae; this was all so interesting and original! Maybe in the sequel, there will be more Fae.
I also loved that not all questions are answered. The book is clearly a first installment of a larger series. Still, most first books will end with all questions answered and perhaps a bit of a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger for Risen wasn’t particularly big, but there’s still a lot of things that have to be handled in a sequel. There’s some mystery concerning all of the main characters. Although, as said, I found Sebastian’s mystery very predictable. Perhaps for others his story will be a huge plot twist? I’m just good at guessing twists in general.
Though it’s not a main issue in this book, feminism is present every now and then in Risen. I really like that, as that other vampire novel Twilight was the exact opposite. The Guardian wrote an interesting article many years ago about how Twilight is the franchise that killed feminism. Anyway, in Risen, terms like victim blaming and misogyny are present. And since the core audience for Risen is, I think, the younger generation of YA readers (I feel Risen is written for 14-15 year olds who are just starting with the genre), it’s great to have these terms here. This way, young girls can read more about this in other media if they feel like it, but through Risen they can still get their selves acquainted with it.
Lastly: this isn’t a huge book with 500+ pages, plus the pace is really, really high. So you’ll just race through the story as Charlie races through the plot. There are no meaningless paragraphs filled with descriptions on scenery, there’s no subplot and there are no unnecessary characters.
Read this vampire novel, yay or nay?
This book is probably for the younger YA readers out there. It’s never super heavy, and Charlie hardly has any real issues besides fighting vampires and saving her aunt. It’s more of an action novel really. If you like Twilight, you’ll like this a lot better though, because Twilight is a piece of crap on a sparkling stick. This is a bit on the level of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, which you should definitely read if you like vampire novels.
Yes, Risen has its issues: there’s too much unnecessary exposition, it’s full of stereotypical tropes and overall, it’s very, very predictable. But, Charlie and Sebastian are cool main characters and as said, the world building is excellent. I really want to know more about the history of the creatures in Risen. There are some funny bits in the novel (that drive thru scene!) and the ending makes way for a (probably) better sequel, which I would certainly read.