Thrills and chills
Fast-paced action, creepy atmosphere ... pity about the characters.
THE glut of young adult (YA) fiction nowadays can be wearing, especially when talent is thin on the ground. You’ll end up with boring, tired stories featuring predictably perfect romantic interests and awkward but somehow “special” protagonists.
Unfortunately, I found Unbreakable, the first in The Legion stories, painfully derivative. Kami Garcia made her name with the Beautiful Creatures series, which blends witchcraft and high school angst, but her foray into balls-to-the-wall supernatural action falls short of originality.
Thankfully, though, that doesn’t make it an entirely unreadable novel.
The premise is not only predictable but tired: teenage Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead from a paranormal attack. She is rescued from a vengeful spirit by two gorgeous (but of course) brothers, identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of a five-member secret society sworn to protect the world from a demon – a society whose members have all been recently murdered.
Kennedy, Lukas, Jared and two others – Priest and Alara – are forced to take their parents’ places in the society and, armed with their individual, unique skills, find a weapon that could help them defeat the demon.
While a story about a group of people is a nice change from the paranormal romances where boy meets girl and weird stuff goes down, Unbreakable shamelessly borrows from other established horror franchises – the biggest example being American supernatural TV series, Supernatural.
Those who follow the series featuring two brothers who hunt all the things that go bump in the night will recognise in Garcia’s book similar ghosts, similar methods of dispatching them (salt, holy water, Devil’s traps), and, of course, gorgeous brothers with diametrically opposed temperaments, dead mothers, EMF detectors, the end of the world, and a generous dose of angst.
While Garcia could have created a brilliant new book series while playing off established fictional narratives, she disappointed me by just borrowing, and in such an obvious fashion I felt almost insulted.
On the plus side, Unbreakable has one thing going for it: it is undeniably, hair-raisingly creepy. Playing on archetypal horror motifs – orphanages, prisons, wells – Garcia does a brilliant job of sending chills up your spine. The story is definitely well-paced, fast and exciting enough.
Although Garcia sacrifices solid characterisation in lieu of thrills and spills (it’s never quite established why, for instance, Alara dislikes Kennedy – She Just Does), for the casual reader it works well.
Sadly, I felt that all five of the main characters are shallow, superficial and poorly fleshed out.
The big emotional reveals lacked panache or passion, and the rudimentary love triangle (but of course!) between Lukas, Jared and Kennedy came across as pre-packaged, stale. It is unclear why Kennedy picks the angry twin over the smiley one, unless we assume she has a liking for distant, stand-offish men (and hey, who doesn’t?).
The conclusion to Unbreakable (the second instalment is due sometime this year) was refreshingly harsh and brutal. There’s enough of a cliffhanger and a twist to keep you hooked, and when you consider the questions left unanswered (the mysterious murders at the start remain just that) it’s clear Garcia has set the stage for a tale that might just pick up as you go along.
Scary but slightly stale, Unbreakable is an easy read and definitely something that will shiver your bones during our warm tropical nights.
If you’re searching for well-planned characters and proper emotional development you’ll probably be disappointed, but there are thrills and chills aplenty in this heart-racing read.