Finding Pandora by E. Rachael Hardcastle is a hard one to explain.
What I can tell you is that it’s a fantasy novel with all sorts of mystical creatures, like vampires and angels. The problem is that the novel starts by throwing you directly into a world you know nothing about. There is no world building or exposition, something that is pretty vital when you’re writing fantasy. It’s your creation, but you need to be able to communicate it effectively to the people reading your work. Instead, with this particular book, you seem to be expected to know exactly what kind of creatures are in this novel and what your attitude to them should be. There’s reference to ‘Earth’ and ‘Humans’, but little to no details into what actually happened to them, or how our species seems to have landed on another planet.
I still don’t really understand how the world works. When your reader is confused by your world they’re also going to be completely removed from it. There’s no escapism. I spent the majority of the book trying to work out what on earth was going on.
Another problem came with the plot. It often felt, while reading, that my copy was missing paragraphs. One moment our main character would be standing talking to someone, and then suddenly there’s a knife on her throat and we’re in the middle of negotiations. The plot jumps around a lot, and not in an excited, fast-paced way. Instead the effect is the reader left wondering how things have suddenly changed so abruptly, and scrabbling to keep up.
That’s not to say I disliked every part of the novel. Hardcastle is actually a good writer. Her narrative style flows (even if I didn’t understand what was happening) and the dialogue was good. It didn’t feel stilted or fake. There were descriptions of landscapes in this book that I actually thought were really beautiful.
The problem here is, no matter how good the writing is, I still finished the book confused. I got the general gist in the end, but it was a long road. I wish there had been more extensive world building and attempts to help the reader understand… well, anything.
With regards to characters, I felt very removed from them because I never fully understood the world they live in. Some are supernatural beings, but I didn’t know what being supernatural actually meant in the context of this world. My favourite character was Dion (who’s a vampire) mostly because we were given the most detail about her – she doesn’t drink human blood, she can’t step into the sun, humans are terrified of her. I know her best out of all the characters, which was what was appealing about her.
The world building and plot need a lot of work done to them, but there is no denying that the author can write. Once the problems with it are fixed, the book may be able to stand up next to its fantasy counterparts. At the moment though, it falls flat.
by E. Rachael Hardcastle
Welcome to Haeylo, where Supes rule the city, humans are an endangered species and Pandora is as curious as ever.
Arriette Monroe never expected to be thrust into the heart of supernatural chaos, nor did she deem herself worthy of four very special gifts. But now she’s got friends to rescue, Vampyrs to fight and impossible expectations to meet.
Although Arriette thinks she’s walking pandemonium, The Recruit think she’s their saviour. And they’re willing to prove it…