Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Review: Haven by A.R. Ivanovich

"Haven" has been on my to-read list for a long while now, and I'm so glad to have finally gotten around to reading it! Admittedly, I'd expected the book to be a full-blown fantasy novel, the type where they have names that are hard to pronounce and horses and magic and so on, so when I read that there were sandwiches and ferris wheels, I was a little caught off guard. Nonetheless, Ms. Ivanovich takes her readers on a wild, crazy journey in a steampunk world.

From missing socks to missing people, nothing could remain hidden from seventeen year-old Katelyn Kestrel for long, but after locating a forbidden passage out of her isolated country, Haven, she discovers for the first time that there are some things that should never be found. When she helps Rune, a fatally wounded soldier, reach the safety of his home, Katelyn finds herself captured as a spy and placed under the custody of the handsome Lord Dylan Axton. Soon enough, she learns that the outside world is rife with war and controlled by people with extraordinary powers, people who are willing to exploit and kill others--including Katelyn herself--to rise to power. Her only hope is to return to Haven, but can she survive long enough to find her home?

One of the key elements in "Haven" is its setting of a rural steampunk world. Having never been previously exposed to steampunk in books, it took me quite a while to really understand what the world was like. They had mechanized carriages drawn by horses and night vision goggles and swords, and I was just trying to imagine what the heck this world was like... But now it makes sense now that I know that this eclectic, bizarre amalgamation of the old and the new is something called 'steampunk'. All of that being said, I was thoroughly impressed by the world building in the novel. Despite the seeming anachronisms that confused me at first, Ms. Ivanovich has skillfully and subtly woven together a unique world that sucks you in and engages your imagination.

Katelyn was a strong heroine who was enjoyable to follow throughout the book. She definitely wasn't one of those snivelly, "oh no what do I do" characters, and when she did reach an emotional breaking point, she still managed to struggle through and face her problems. I also think that there's great potential for the development of her character, as well as for some wit and humour! Katelyn to me seems like a smart alecky girl, but I felt like she wasn't as bright and engaging as she could've been, especially in the first few chapters when she was dealing with her crummy jerk of an ex-boyfriend.

Which now brings me to the little love triangle going on between Katelyn, Rune and Dylan. I am extremely happy to say that Ms. Ivanovich did a wonderful job of avoiding a cliched, sappy love story between the three characters. Instead, the subtle tensions between the two were hardly noticeable, leaving the main focus on what was actually going on in the story. I quite like the relationship between Katelyn and Rune, though the whole kissing thing was a bit too sudden for my tastes, especially after they hadn't exactly spent that much time together. As for Dylan, he was a pretty complex, interesting character to get to know, especially in relation to Katelyn. He was insidiously smooth and charming in the beginning, and even towards the end I don't know whether I can put my finger on his true feelings. It'll be interesting to see how things turn out in the next book.

The plot itself was extremely engaging, and I liked how it's already building itself up for the events in the sequel. It never got boring throughout the novel, and the pace was fairly quick as well. One thing that could've helped even more would be to cut down a little on descriptions or thought processes. While it was great to be in Katelyn's head so thoroughly, I found myself skimming over a lot of the wordy descriptions to get to the next event.

Overall, "Haven" is a wonderful book with a certainly unique steampunk setting. The characters are fairly engaging and likable, while the plot is fast-paced and thrilling. I'd definitely recommend it to any fantasy-lovers out there, and I look forward to the sequel!

Rating: 4/5

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