vile & Blessed by A.H. Serrano

 

About the Book

A Cursed Existence. An Insidious Spirit. A Hidden Land.

There has never been an Anmerilian born without ability. Never, until River Kennry.

River has no place in a world where worth is measured by the power of one’s ability. He is an anomaly and an outcast, afflicted by an ailment no one can see or explain. Caught in the unrelenting hold of his government, he falls further into the pit of hopelessness as he wrestles with the mysteries of his past.

After a fated meeting with a cryptic stranger, River realizes the only way to uncover his past is to return to the Institute—the very place that scarred and violated him. And if he goes back, it could mean forfeiting his life.

But could everyone be wrong about him? Though he remains untouched by power, there is something inside him. Something alive and entangled with secrets that could upset the balance of everything his generation has ever known to be true.

Welcome to a world where the secrets are as big as continents, the monsters hide in plain sight, and there is always something sinister at play.

Vile & Blessed, the first book in The Vile & Blessed trilogy, is perfect for readers who love their dark fantasy with a touch of horror, plenty of mystery, and realistically imperfect characters they can grow with.
 

Review 

Today’s review is of a book called Vile & Blessed by A. H. Serrano. This was by an author that I was not familiar with but was contacted by Joseph at Emergent Realms as to whether I would like to review the book. 
 
Obviously with a book, author, and genre that I am not familiar with, I hesitantly said yes. Now you may be wondering why I say it is a genre that I am not familiar with when it is a fantasy book. This has the label of Young Adult attached to it, and I have to confess, I have not read many books in this particular area. However, it promised to be a dark fantasy, I thought to myself “Okay, why not?” There is that saying that strangers are friends that you have not met yet, and I think that this applies to books to! So, I delved into this debut novel by A. H. Serrano. 
And I have to say that after having read the book, I think I came out with a little gem.
 
So, on with the review!
 
Vile & Blessed is set around the main protagonist River Kennry, a late teen who has secrets. When we start the story, we find him stood at a river, shrouded in mists. This initial scene skilfully creates a sense of unease and uncertainty, as A. H. Serrano describes that River sees strange shapes in the mists beckoning him into the river. In addition to this, we learn that he is plagued by voices, which he has named Sussurus 
 
As you can guess, River is not your run of the mill teenager!
 
Throughout the book, we learn that River lives with his foster family. And in all honesty, I can;t say that their parenting skills would put them into a 'Parents of the year' award. His mother treats him with contempt (which seems to be her default position) and whilst his father seems to be ok with him, he is at best, condescending. However, he has a warm relationship with his foster sister, Shiloh, who happens to be one of the main side characters. 
 
As we get more info about River, we generally learn that apart from the voices in his head, he also has disfiguring prosthetic skin that has been grafted to his body, and discover that whist he has difficulties, he is in fact a pretty average kind of teenager (well, he does seem surprisingly well adjusted with all that going on!). He has best friends, Darthan and a kind of love interest in Lhii, the daughter of a high ranking military general. 
 
So, there we go! That's the introduction to the whole gang! 
 
Now you might think, 'why has he just told me all that?' Trust me, it is slightly important. 
 
From the first page, I was intrigued by this book, becoming immediately hooked and wanting to know what on earth was going on. Ahe start of the book, we learn that River is on some kind of probation from an unknown hospital. However, it is much later that you get to know what this hospital is and its significance. On top of that, he is also quite extraordinary in the fact that he does not have powers. You see, in Anmerilian, nearly everyone has powers which have been granted by the spirits. Except River! 
 
Now, when it comes to plot, I don’t really want to go into it too much, as this is the main driver of the book. I found that there is so much happening beneath the surface of the story of our characters that I turned each page hungrily hoping for more information about the world and the secrets that are encapsulated within it. A. H. Serrano carefully drip feeds infromation and keeps a tight grip on the plot throughout the whole book, gently releasing it to give some pretty pleasant interactions between the characters or develop the plot, and then pulling it back tightly to increase the tension.
 
I generally liked world building of the book, although at times I did have some problems visualising it, but my brain settled on a quasi rennaisance Italian type vibe. I'm not sure if this is the author, but I am sticking to it! It's where my mind went to!
 
The book seems to be set in a seemingly utopian world, where everyone has powers and there are no wars etc, etc. However, just scratch a little below the surface, and there is a totalitarian government that has some shady goings on (not a spoiler!). There are areas of depravity and exploitation, and it is these mysteries of the environment and the world in which the story is set, that just sucked me in. I loved the duality and duplicity of the world, and the complexity of it adds to the general feeling of disquiet that is always there throughout the book.
 
The characters are all well represented and believable. I have to admit, I did find them a little irksome at times. However, I suppose this adds to the realism, as I have a house full of teenagers and I find them irksome at times too, so I can definitely relate!
 
Besides River, Darthan’s character arc drew my attention. Particularly in the second act of the book. Darthan goes down a pretty dark paths, especially when his character gets fleshed out some more. We learn more about him and his motivations, in that he is primarily a person that has gained musical ability. However, this does not fit his world view of himself, and as a result he descends down a rabbit hole that he is never going to get out of due to his own insecurities. 
 
The book is primarily divided into a three-act structure. Initially, it’s all about an introduction, character development and world building. Whilst the second act progresses the story further, by taking River out of his main setting and placing him in a whole new environment. And in the third act, the story deals with the consequences and neatly sets up the second instalment. 
 
I have got to say, this works extremely well, adding depth to both the plot and to the characters. Particularly the second act! A. H. Serrano pulls this part of the book together, as it introduces a whole new set of characters, whilst leaving the former ones to develop individually of the main protagonist. Additionally, it gives a good breathing space for us to watch River’s development as he unearths the secrets about himself, the past and the world around him.
 
I am also going to give an extra special plus point for adding a glossary. Whilst I don't find them necessary, I always appreciate their inclusion a book. 
 
As you can guess, I pretty enjoyed the book.
 
I found that with Vile & Blessed, A.H. Serrano does an excellent job of shrouding a complex mystery plot in a rich fantasy world, leaving you with more questions than answers. And I for one cannot wait to unearth the secrets as the series progresses.

GIVEAWAY

If you like the sound of this book, well good news. In association with Emergent Realms we have three copies of the Ebook to give away!

Keep your eyes peeled on Twitter for news of this exciting giveaway.
 
 

Yep, I got a copy of the Ebook from Emergent Press, and they asked would you like to review it in exchange for an honest review.

Vile & Blessed is Published By Emergent Realms & is available to buy on Amazon, Kidle Unlimited and also as a signed paperback from Emergent Realms


 

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