April 2020 Book of the Month - Allies by Keegan Eichelman


I always go into a book hoping to love it, and also willing to give it as much support as possible. I feel like I've been spoilt by the books I've read, and I do feel bad when something just doesn't grab me. Unfortunately, Allies is one of these.

I want to say there was much to recommend this book, but I didn't feel much  towards it. I want to say the world and the writing was at least inspiring, but I can't. You can't have everything, I suppose.

The story is Erika, a Worker, who is basically a slave bound in service to some Idle (the money class), who is kidnapped and put to work in the Palace, eventually finding her way into service of Duci, the princess who would inherit the throne if only she weren't female. Sigh. Problem is Duci is pregnant with some unidentified man's baby and is now trying to find a husband or trying to find a way to inherit the throne in her own name. Erika comes along to help her and chaos should ensue.

Unfortunately, it doesn't really. Erika does a few things like taking a truckload of money from the duke, who wants to marry Duci for the crown, and being the richest Idle should apparently get to, but taking this money means he might not be now...I think. Duci doesn’t do much but whine about how much she can't have her throne, or not tell us anything at all about this man who impregnated her and left, even though she was the heir to the kingdom. Either he was really averse to being king, or was only up for a notch on the bedpost (she loved him apparently) but we're never told. Only that some other woman was involved. Surely, being so powerful she could have made his life a certain hell for knocking her up and abandoning her? This was never explored, which is a shame.

The Workers have familiars that are bound to them, but we never really learn the root of them, or why they're there, or what the point of them is. We've no idea of the system, and why Workers are what they are, and don't (or haven't?) rise up against this unfair system.

The Idles get their bodies upgraded to metal parts when they have a lot of money (why?). The Duke apparently has more money than the Crown, as he has more of his body upgraded than Duci (or the king it seems, I'm not sure, it was never mentioned as far as I remember). It was also a surprise that the king, on finding his daughter was going to bear an illegitimate child, didn't FORCE the man in question to marry his daughter. I mean, what's the point in a crown if you don't have the power of royal persuasion?

Probably the only character that was of interest to me was Atticus. But only just. He seemed like a bit of an outcast among the Idles, a sweet old man who wanted a little adventure, and eventually gave the over-wealthy Idles their dues. Though, why he helped Duci, I'm not sure. It's not like she did anything to deserve it. Erika was nice to him, but she was a Worker, not quite the same thing. Duci hadn't done anything particularly deserving of the kingdom, and felt as self-serving at the end as she did at the start.

The one thing I thought was quite interesting was the Idles basically turning themselves into cyborgs (I think, unless it was just metal plating...?) and the reasoning could have been interesting to explore. But, as noted, this was never really advanced upon and so just became background to a less intriguing story.

None of these characters gave me any reason to like them, root for them, or ultimately care either way how the story panned out. For a novella so short, it took me days to get through. None of the characters felt like they had gone on a journey. None seemed like they really struggled. None seem like they had sacrificed a huge amount for the mediocre outcome that came about. The writing had a strange repetitive edge (the dark haired-woman did this, and then identifying the character with her name in the next sentence, and then repeat...why?) and needed a definite proofing.


Finally, and this doesn't add or retract to my review score, but requires mentioning because of the subversion. The double spacing of this manuscript as a published novella meant it pushed the length to probably 1/3 longer in print that it should have been. Anyone familiar with publishing costs should know that means it pushes the cost of book production up. This novella was under 120 pages (and should have been 75 max) and priced as a short novel, i.e. too much. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and actually hindered getting through the work because it felt like a rip-off.

There is also a reason why books are formatted as they are - paragraph gaps create a reset of the brain, readying it for a new scene or new perspective (or editing). When there are gaps between speech and paragraphs in the same scenes this means the brain is usually resetting every sentence even though it's not going anywhere else. Maybe others don't find this annoying. I do.

The most interesting aspects of the story seem to have been sidelined, and so Allies falls far short of what it might have been, and the characters left like a lame horse and wanting. I'm afraid it's not a book I could sincerely recommend, however, don't take my word for it.


Buy Allies on Amazon, or find Keegan Eichelman on Goodreads.


-JOT

Loyal Lyre
An Indie Publisher
www.loyal-lyre.uk
info@loyal-lyre.uk
Gloucestershire, UK

©Jessica O'Toole 2020