The Charismatics by Ashley R. Carlson failed me at the halfway point

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The Charismatics by Ashley R. Carlson failed me at the halfway point

The goodreads blurb for this book included the following:   Ashley R. Carlson’s award-winning fantasy debut will satisfy the appetites of those who enjoyed the romance of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT, the stirrings of rebellion in Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES, and the steampunk universe of Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I think if you read that and then read the book, you would be rather disappointed.  I could see how it isn’t exactly a totally false statement, but it really distorts reader expectations.  I struggled after the first half of this book, and I ended up lumping it into the “meh” pile.  

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Goodreads Summary

I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve been lied to, nor that I’m partly to blame. I’ve spent my life following orders, never questioning Legalia’s decisions for me, for the world. I had food, shelter, better living conditions than most-why rock the boat? 

Because you can choose between doing what is comfortable, or doing what is right, answers the small voice within me. 
I was afraid of that. 
An arranged marriage. A corrupt government called Legalia. A forbidden spiritual realm. 
Duchess Ambrose Killaher was just seventeen years old when exiled to Shinery-a city of snow and darkness-to marry a man who despised her, finding her only solace in an invisible companion named Roan. 
Now as the poor starve in the streets below and rebellious acts become a frequent occurrence, Shinery holds its yearly celebration to commemorate Legalia’s rule. But when Ambrose stumbles into a hidden courtroom and witnesses a violent murder, she is thrust into a secret world of the supernatural-one that could endanger everyone she’s grown to care for. With the help of a handsome stranger, Ambrose learns of the past Legalia has covered up, and that she alone possesses the power to stop their unspeakable plans for the future. 
My Thoughts

I was pulled in quickly by the narrative voice and the situation of the protagonist in this story.  Untouched by the husband she was forced to marry, living in a foreign and unfriendly land, and surrounded by a corrupt ruling system that abuses the lower classes, Ambrose seemed poised to become the shining light in a rebellion.  However, things didn’t quite go down as I expected.  The plot got weighted down by a series of political maneuvers that were focused on using some sort of spiritual powers.  I wasn’t really clear why the spiritual powers were a threat or an asset, so I couldn’t understand why it was a cause.  This seemed to be a book that was trying to either pit science against spirituality or that was trying to bring them together.  The purpose, again, was really unclear to me.  When politics and ghost hunting weren’t the focus, “romance” was.  Overly dramatic scenes where a blossoming love was thwarted by various jealousies and barriers took up a lot of pages.  There was a lot of concern about sexual intimacy and a lot less concern about emotional connection between characters, which is not exactly my idea of romance.  In the end, I was more unclear than ever about what exactly was going on in either the spiritual world or the earthly realm, and I wasn’t sure I cared. I enjoyed several of the characters, especially the secondary characters, but I just didn’t enjoy the actual story after the first half.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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