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Sunday, December 16, 2018

[Mrs. Y Reviews] Tears of Heaven by R.A McCandless

Book Cover via Amazon.com
For anyone paying attention to my joys and loves, I love sea-related stories, and I really enjoy warrior stories. Something about fighting has me thinking of tales like these with fondness. If anything, a decent warrior story or even a sea fighting story is the comfort food of my book collection. I was tickled pink to see a story that mixed a decent sea fare with fighting in a modern sense. Time to get yourself some iron guys, and I don’t mean vitamins, I mean metal. We are going to dive off the stern for a review of “Tears of Heaven” By R.A McCandless. 

Opinion
R.A McCandless for those who do not know is on Twitter and I follow him. I was happy to know he followed me back, and one lovely day he asked me to review his book and was very kind, and he sent me a free copy of it to read. He did say he wanted an honest review, and like all my reviews, this is one. It is a joy to provide my impressions of the books from soup to nuts. I also want to go on record to say this is a great book to start with reading his work.


Second disclosure, I am familiar with elements of R.A’s lore in this book because I have played a lot of Diablo, 1, 2 and 3. If you are not a video game fan, you probably will be familiar with it in literature as well. For me, mostly because of video games, I have a basic understanding of the types of Nephilim lore especially when I wanted to know more about the Diablo franchise, and I'm familiar with certain aspects regarding angels and demons lore. That being said, I'm happy with R.A’s version and how the lore is put together for his take on Nephilim. It's very well detailed and structured and I think it has something to stand on.

Let’s jump into this review. “Tears of Heaven” Is a book that takes us on two journeys at once of the same person. One is in the past, one is in the present and both of them are woven together in a way that you need the exposition of one to understand the other. The imagery that is described is terrible and beautiful, and I found myself drawn to the sea terms and to the darker pieces of what he calls “rogues”. I loved that I could mentally think about the ships in that perspective and sailing, but at the same time smell what the burning must have been like with my mind’s eye (or nose in this case because the smell isn’t eyes).

The action sequences are wonderful. Bullets work like normal bullets. The fights are well done, and the fact that beings who are hurt feel pain is a nice treat. Sometimes in writing, we see this thing where “They ignored the pain” and it feels like a deflated kind of thing. In this book, even if the protagonist wanted to ignore it, there were places it was impossible to avoid. I loved that element of it. Pain control can be will be based, but I can say from my own experience if it is bad enough your brain has to check out. I think that should be commended. Things that are supposed to be seductive, are well spelled out and not on the edge of inappropriate or too much. Things that are meant to be terrifying and scary, they are written well.

Let's talk about the main protagonist because this is partial critique and partial praise mixed into one. Our protagonist is believable but there are some issues. Focusing on the positives she’s very strong-willed and an interesting, she has flaws and she has some serious benefits. We go back and forth through time and her mental shifts, joys, and sorrows as we follow her life as she both is beginning her journey and toward the end of it in relation to the book.

The simultaneousness of it is an interesting take. I've seen this done on a lot of different books, but it is a bit abrupt here. You get this kind of whiplash thing after a while, because of the jumping back and forth. Some may consider that a critique, but I find that for this story it works well. By doing this technique it adds a layer of dynamic tension naturally. Mostly because it takes and balances what might be the edge of a few things that I can critique.

Transitioning into critiques as I said above, the main character is balanced, but there are some issues with the amount of power. It is entirely due to the species or humanoid type she is because she’s very detailed. But it is a borderline Mary Sue type, because with a tragic backstory, incredible body, incredible abilities, and is no-nonsense she fights because she must. She’s somewhat stereotypical for a type of character in a situation like this, in that she’s so “tough and strong” that she lost her natural nurture vs. nature and ignores innocents that may die through logic principals she’s established into herself.

Now, before you think I hate what happened to her, I want to clarify a few things, because I did not hate this protagonist at all. Everything about her power sets is balanced and explained. In literature similar to this kind, it’s very common to have very powerful characters like her. And while there are issues she goes through like crushing pain, or betrayal, or one of the most tear-jerking scenes of misery and loss I’ve read in some time, the critique remains it’s a tad formulaic for this type of protagonist.  So while I am pointing this out as a mix of critique and positive, I found it works for this story well. For me personally, it’s just right. 

Let’s get into another critique, and it’s a story structure. The pacing on the story gets a bit muddied because it’s a mix of past and present. It’s enough to make a note of, but it’s difficult to explain until you read it. Some chapters are very long because sometimes there needs to be a lot going on for both the past section and the present. Other chapters are more restrained and easier going. This leads to tension and pacing waxing and waning. There were some incredibly tense moments going on for both sides of the story, but there were some dry spots because of the release. There was some drag when it came to pacing, just as much as jumping.

With that said though, I would like to give a shout out or kudos to the editor or, whomever it was that stylized the chapter breaks. They are pretty, and I have a deep love and respect for chapter delineations that are given love and good treatment.  They have a quote that unifies and fits the theme to each chapter, the fonts are nice on the eyes, the margins are clean, and it’s been polished. I want to even go so much further to say, the line spacing throughout the entire book is lovely. Some seriously good work was put into lines, spacing, justification, and chapters so that it looked beautiful. Bravo. I think I’m probably one of the few book reviewers who comment on stuff like this, but I love it.

Additionally, this tells a full beginning, middle and ending to both of the main plot and subplot. The subplot is a detail that blends smoothly into the main. It is a part origin story, and part plot forwarding device. I enjoy transitions like this, where you can learn about the past as it goes. But again, I do have my critiques on the chapters. Specifically, this type of storytelling is concluded beautifully for both things. We also have a rich and rewarding hero story, there are real stakes to the conflict and the conflict is resolved well. It ends in such a way that isn’t just “buy my next book for the conclusion” but rather, this story could be a one-off or a series and I’m fine with either.

 I’d like to go into something I found that is both positive and lovely about this story. I LOVED the pulls of emotion from parts of this story. There are some very dark areas in this tale, but it’s threaded with a uniformed emotional response to all the characters. Though this book fully centers on the protagonist, the secondary characters have their own personalities and pull. I enjoyed that there was no copy-paste template type secondary characters.

There also a rather lovely “got you” moment in this book in the form of a twist and what I enjoyed about the situation is that it did not happen in the latter act of the book. It came in an enjoyable place, and it added a fluidity to the story which added to the rhythm of the story, and the book became more realistic.  What I specifically mean by that, when characters face certain situations they can fight of fly, and by adding these pulls and threads, the reader knows that something is going to happen that is worth sticking around for.


Score

In doing the math on this, I’m going to give “Tears of Heaven” a very solid 89/100 which is a four-star review for Goodreads and Amazon. If you love a strong protagonist who is no-nonsense, and you enjoy Nephilim plots, this is the story for you! I’d like to thank R.A McCandless for sending me this book, I know I’ll read it again. This was lovely. And thank you to all of you who read my review! Have a wonderful day.

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