Having enjoyed S.M. McCoy’s Divine Series, (click the links to read my thoughts about those: Blood Crescent, Blood Rebirth, and Blood Queen), I was excited to see what her next series, The Acatalec Series, would bring. From its first entry, Kingdom of Acatalec, the answer is wonderful things. Wonderful things like a futuristic world, an infusion of science fiction and fantasy, aliens, magic, the seedy underbelly of illegal drone racing, a thrilling plot, a slow burn romance, engaging prose and wonderful characters.
As soon as I started reading Kingdom of Acatalec, I was immediately reminded of why I enjoy McCoy’s writing so much. The first person narration put me right in Tyler, the book’s protagonist’s head, imbuing the story with wit and charm that put a smile on my face. Regardless of the story being told, McCoy has a true talent for writing protagonists in the first person. These characters grab the reader’s attention, and the spark they bring beckons you to read further. Tyler, left in a wheelchair following a childhood accident, doesn’t let this define her, nor does the author let it define who she is: it is an aspect of the character that is revealed as one of the many facets of a beautifully realised character.
Tyler is a feisty character, and this comes through in the prose. Through her lens, the world of the novel shines brightly, brought to vivid life. The reader is given an intimate portrait of the character and of how she sees herself. But from Tyler’s perspective, we also see the other characters occupying the book’s world, and the world itself, one full of futuristic technology and, as Tyler and the reader learn, one full of mysterious aliens with otherworldly powers. McCoy writes this prose in an easily digestible style that is easy to follow, while being thoroughly engaging. Tyler’s perspective is an absolute joy, thanks to the character herself, and the various witticisms interspersed through the writing.
Through its 328 pages in paperback (equating to an estimated 283 pages in your favourite eReader, or if you’d prefer to listen to the audiobook, 10 hours and 21 minutes), Kingdom of Acatalec moves at a steady, deliberate pace. McCoy unveils the world slowly, introducing the reader to Tyler’s world and the various characters who inhabit it, and setting the scene for the story. The narration guides the reader through this, and rather than leaving the reader waiting for the story to ramp up, it provides a journey that is delightful to follow.
This pace allows the story to build mystery, and while the blurb tells you that various characters in the book are actually aliens, and the story will involve kidnapping and murder, the fun is in the journey and how these elements are revealed. Even with the knowledge afforded to me by the blurb, the story’s twists and turns were satisfying. The author has crafted a wonderful adventure where you feel the importance of the stakes. The tone of the story is joyful, bringing a sense of whimsical fun to it; yet, when the story moves in more serious directions, the reader feels the impact of it, right down to its bittersweet ending.
As Kingdom of Acatalec’s sole point of view character, Tyler is undoubtedly the star of the show. In reading the novel, this is undoubtedly her story. As highly entertaining as she is in her own right, she is surrounded by a supporting cast of characters who delight throughout. Tyler’s boss and object of her desire, Mr. Azel, or Cable as the reader learns later (“Cable Azel,” what a great name!) is a mysterious presence whose importance to the world is explored throughout the course of the book (and, I would expect, further as the series progresses). Kelly, Tyler’s best friend, is a constant source of fun and a great foil for the protagonist. Jessi is Tyler’s nemesis and a character the reader will love to hate. Even characters with less prominence are thoroughly entertaining, and Tyler’s thoughts about them add another dimension to their descriptions.
Throughout the novel, the dialogue works incredibly well. Quite often, authors will excel at dialogue or prose, while the other aspect suffers. Here, the dialogue sparkles with the same wit and charm as the prose, and delights in equal measure. The characters all have their distinct voices, and each of these is a delight to read. Regardless of whether you love the character or love to hate them (Jessi, I’m looking at you), the dialogue is thoroughly engaging as the characters bounce off one another.
If you’ve read my reviews of McCoy’s Divine series (if not, go check out those links at the beginning of this review), you’ll see that at various points throughout the series, I thought they could use another pass at proofreading and editing. In Kingdom of Acatalec (with the exception of one typo where Jessi’s name is spelled “Jesse”), the book is cleanly edited, ensuring the reading experience is smooth.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, although it doesn’t say so on the cover (but its Amazon listing makes it abundantly clear in the title), this is the first part of McCoy’s Acatalec Series. Its cliffhanger ending promises more to come, so if you’re against these types of endings, be warned. The book does feel like a complete experience, though: the ending doesn’t make it feel like you’re reading part of a story; instead, it’s a promise of more to come.
I am a fan of McCoy’s writing, having thoroughly enjoyed her Divine Series. Kingdom of Acatalec is her greatest achievement yet; filled with wonderful characters, an enjoyable plot and equally enjoyable dialogue and prose. The science fantasy elements flesh out the world, but the book is unencumbered by them: while they deepen the world and help develop the plot, the pure joy is McCoy’s talent for writing brilliantly entertaining characters.
The longest breath is also the shortest when you have no control over tis comings and goings. I closed my eyes, focusing on the comings and goings. I closed my eyes, focusing on the pain pulsing through my leg to tell me I was still alive. Sand flowed across my body filling up every crevasse, the force of the pull watering my eyes because I couldn’t seal them firm enough. Everything burned. My skin heated from the friction of quickly burrowing in the ground. I didn’t dare open my eyes, though they were raw enough that it felt like I already had, entering a world of blind turbulence.Kingdom of Acatalec, Chapter Thirty-Two: “Under the Sand”
Kingdom of Acatalec was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Kingdom of Acatalec will be available in paperback and eBook from retailers, including—but not limited to—Amazon, and audiobook via Audible, from 3 October 2022.
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