Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written two. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Cassidy Jones and the Luminous, a young adult superhero novel by Elise Stokes.
Characters: Super-powered 15-year-old Cassidy Jones narrates this tale, the fourth novel in her series. Supporting her in her exploits are her best-friend, the mysterious Emery Phillips; and her “kind-of” boyfriend, Jared Wells.
Elise does a nice job with her characters, starting with just enough physical description. Here, Cassidy describes Jared:
Jared had his father’s dirty-blond hair, angular face, and athletic build, but that was where the similarities ended. Where Jared was noble and trustworthy, his father was a snake. He’d left Jared’s mom Eileen when Jared was three. That was all I knew about him. Jared rarely talked about his dad.
and here’s Emery:
Emery was the spitting image of his father. The same jet-black hair, black, intelligent eyes, milky complexion, and chiseled good looks. The only thing six-foot-four-inch Gavin had on Emery was four inches and muscle mass, both of which I had no doubt Emery would one day match. As it was, he wasn’t one of those tall, scraggly high school boys. Emery was mature beyond his years, in more than just physicality.
Cassidy is a solid, grounded, kid, though impetuous. She has a deep sense of responsibility about her powers, and loves her family. Family is a theme throughout the book, and parents and siblings of Cassidy, Emery and Jared all play major supporting positive and negative roles. Elise has a knack for creating interesting characters. Even her minor ones get quirks and characteristics that give them real life as seen and noted by her protagonist.
Plot: A strange aquatic life form, “The Luminous,” imprisoned deep with the earth for eons, has accidentally been set free, and is intent on taking over. Only Cassidy Jones, backed up by her friends and family, have a chance at stopping them/it, and not a very good one.
Setting: The story takes place in Cassidy’s hometown of Seattle. There’s not much in the way of tourist details, like Pike Place or the Space Needle, but Elise gives enough setting description to visually frame her story.
Here, Cassidy, Emery and Jared have “borrowed” Jared’s dad’s yacht to go out on Lake Washington. They’re investigating a report of people disappearing into the Lake.
My eyes dropped to dark water below, squinting, trying to penetrate the black. I couldn’t see very deep. Overcast skies hid the moon and stars, leaving only the artificial glare that emanated from the 520 Bridge that linked Seattle and Medina as the greatest source of light. I estimated we were around a mile away. The misdirected beams from the bridge didn’t touch the darkness surrounding us, nor did the residential lights that dotted the shores on either side of the lake.
Setting description, like character description, is important, imho, to help readers “see” the story’s action. Elise does a fine job of bringing home the visuals.
What I thought could’ve been done better: Make no mistake, despite being an “indie” book, Elise is easily a professional-caliber writer. The book itself adheres to the highest editorial standards. I think I found one typo in the whole book — “Why didn’t I thought of it?” she asked herself. That’s it. One typo. Even with professional editing and proofing, that’s a high standard for a novel, beyond many a publishing house book.
The only other thing I’ve got is purely a matter of personal taste, and I can’t say it’s right or wrong. Elise makes some unusual choices for attributives. “And Cassidy doesn’t go anywhere without me,” Emery informed, crossing his arms stubbornly, getting in on the dominance display.
I’m not sure “informed” works as an attributive the same way “said” does, and it has a funny ring to me, one that takes me out of the story for a millisecond. I’m pretty sure it’s grammatically correct, but adding a pronoun after “informed” might make it work better — “…Cassidy doesn’t go anywhere without me,” Emery informed us…
What I thought was good: I enjoyed this novel as a fan of superhero fiction, and as a fan of good, colorful, verbal writing. Elise has a master’s grasp of vivid verbs and active voice that keeps her prose speeding along.
“This is not your decision.” Dad lashed the words like a whip. “You are not her father.” Note the use, in this one snippet of dialogue, of a muscular verb “lashed” and a similie “like a whip.” These and other good writing techniques, all through the novel, make for crackling copy that even editors can appreciate.
But for a reader who grew up on Marvel and DC superheroes, it’s the action that’s the real star. Elise comes through here as well.
The thief directed a flashlight into the hole. He had no clue that he was no longer alone on the rooftop. I slunk up behind him and tapped his shoulder. He started, but didn’t scream or drop the flashlight. The guy was a real pro.
He whipped around. I introduced my fist to his jaw.
The blow snapped his head backward, and his body followed the motion. My hand shot out and secured the harness. The man dropped the flashlight, which tumbled into the hole, but his abrupt stop caused him to whiplash in the harness. A series of pops rippled along his spine.
I winced. I hated the sound of cracking joints.
And I love superpowers. Elise doesn’t disappoint here, either. Here, Cassidy is talking with a friend.
Before answering, I took a moment to categorize what Joe knew and what he didn’t know, in order to avoid revealing too much once again.
He knows that exposure to an undisclosed substance in the laboratory of Emery’s mother Serena had mutated me last October, resulting in ultra-enhanced senses, super strength and speed, and skin that can turn rock-hard. He also knows that I have the ability to learn fight moves just by watching them, and to heal from almost any injury, which might make me immortal.
I grimaced. I tried to avoid thinking about immortality.
While it’s unknown if Cassidy is immortal, I’m here to tell you — she’s certainly memorable.
Overall: Well, 58 years old must qualify as young adult, because I thoroughly enjoyed Cassidy Jones and the Luminous. Elise hits on all cylinders with this novel. The writing is snappy, the characters colorful, and the action is swift. While “YA” is convenient for classification purposes, the novel easily transcends this label and is simply a great fun book narrated by a sympathetic teen protagonist that I can sum up in two words: “Love it.”
Good job, Elise!
A Requiem Dawn by J.L. Forrest
False Allegiance by E.L. Lindley
Guardians of Terath: Seeking Sorrow by Zen DiPietro
Verliege by Micheal Rivers
Time of Death by Ellis Vidler
The Permeable Web of Time by Martha Fawcett
And for sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thrillers, check out my own novel American Goddesses on Amazon or Smashwords, and the newly published sequel Rogue Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!