Heartborn by Terry Maggert (Shattered Skies #1) (DNF)

Title: Heartborn
Series Title: Shattered Skies
Date Added: July 3, 2017
Date Started: October 9, 2017
Date DNF: October 18, 2017
Reading Duration: 9 days
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult

Heartborn coverPages: 239
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle

Her guardian angel was pushed.

Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.

Before the end of Heartborn’s first chapter, the main character’s brother cuts off his wings and pushes him out of “heaven,” and I was so ready for the promises of Paradise Lost references with a heavy helping of Revelations.  The chapter ends with Keiron’s fate unknown, and I didn’t miss another possible homophone reference in his name with Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx, who not only dwells in between but also serves as a sort of guide for those thrust into that liminal state.  Since this novel’s blurb indicates Keiron as a “guardian angel,” it’s a cleverly benevolent subversion to the original, darker paradigm.

One of the things a paranormal romance must do is having likable love interests.  If either one of them is lacking, it makes it difficult to care about the couple through all their travails.  Of course you also don’t want to make any character too perfect since flaws make them more relatable, but it’s generally good form to not make either one abusive and/or without any redeeming qualities (the former being my major problem with A Court of Thorns and Roses and the series as a whole until I read it in its entirety).

Thankfully, Livvy is immediately endearing and her situation instantly sympathetic.  She has some sort of breathing disability that sounds like either severe asthma or POTS, but winds up being described as having only “half a heart.”  Regardless, her boss is a total asshole about this.  She works in a library, which you’d think would be perfect for her condition, but she’s apparently not allowed to keep water at her station, and walking to the fountain not only takes a long time for it, but also saps all of her energy.  What makes this worse is her bitch boss considers these breaks, and she only has a certain amount of time to do it.  Livvy literally measures out the steps it will take her to accomplish it, and I immediately felt connected to her with this, because I’ve had to do the same or break down a seemingly small task into stages like “Okay, first I need to stand up.  Then I need to walk to the kitchen.  Then I need to…” because chronic illness leaves you with limited resources to spare.  The novel takes place in the States, which means the ADA exists, but Livvy was the quiet, mousy type who wouldn’t dare challenge authority even with the law and ethics on her side.  There are so many people in such a situation that my heart couldn’t help but go out to her.

With all of positive points, you might be wondering why I declared this book DNF, especially considering it’s about angels/angel-like beings and that’s kind of my thing.


Unfortunately, Heartborn had more potential than payoff.  The former  was drowned out by the overabundance of exposition and telling.  The author refused to let us see the characters.  The novel switches back and forth between what’s happening to Keiron and Livvy on earth to Keiron’s parents/family in Windhook, and the latter parts are filled with how noble, highborn, and wonderful they are and how they completely understand each other.  Maggert does it so much there’s no room to show any of it.  The messenger and “Blightwing” (an “angel” who’s committed some unforgivable crime) Cressa is constantly described as young, impressionable, and wide-eyed (if not innocent due to the crime that gave her that notable title), and the extra chapters with her seem wholly unnecessary.  Also despite so much exposition about everyone’s emotional state, Maggert never describes anyone else’s wings except for her, and I found that odd.  I’m assuming they all have them, and it just seems like such a wasted opportunity for endless expression.   There is so much you could do with wings in terms of color, number, size, shape, type, etc., so I’m shocked he didn’t cash in on this.

Then with Livvy and Keiron, Maggert introduces this other potential love interest Dozer, so I thought there was going to be the dreaded triangle, but he doesn’t go that direction, which is good, but then I’m not sure what use the character has.  I’m guessing Maggert was going for him being Livvy’s friend, but is Dozer and Keiron are nigh on interchangeable in terms of personality.  There’s nothing that stands out about either of them except Keiron is more attractive.

I’m noticing this trend in fiction to have a sick/terminally ill female MC (The Fault in Our StarsMagoniaetc.) which is okay, I guess?  I don’t know if it’s an excuse to make her weak and dependent, and I’m not saying that I couldn’t read a story like that if done well (I’d be a gigantic hypocrite since I’m editing one with that paradigm right now).  It might be a response to the “strong female character” archetype, though the SFC was already a response to women not having agency.  I don’t know.  What do you all think?  I’m fine with both types of characters, because, well, women are people, and people come in all types.  Plus there’s more than one way to be strong.

Either way, I feel more sorry for this book than angry at it, because it had such potential.  I think if it hadn’t been about angels, I’d have more of a “fuck it” attitude, but I really wanted to like it if only for that reason.  On a more positive note, it’s spurring me further towards my own original angel story idea (yes another one), which is what often happens when I read a novel with a paradigm I like/plan on using that either doesn’t do it the way I would or isn’t effective in some other way.  For Livvy at least, I wish the author had provided her with a better story, given Keiron more of an individual personality, and let me hear about some beautiful wing plumage for Heaven’s sake.

2 stars.

16 thoughts on “Heartborn by Terry Maggert (Shattered Skies #1) (DNF)

  1. “I’m noticing this trend in fiction to have a sick/terminally ill female”
    I think this is an important discussion point and you’ve summed up both sides of the argument really well. It’s good to have sickness shown in fiction, but female victims are ten a penny and it doesn’t seem healthy way to portray women. For me, it comes down to how it’s done: is the character strong or weak? Are ugly symptoms swept over so that the illness becomes romanticised?
    Like you say, there is more than one way to be strong, and chronically sick people have to have a hundred times the strength and determination of healthy people, just to get through the day. But that isn’t shown in most fiction, instead we see wispy helpless women with no agency or determination. And rather than show the ugliness and boredom of illness, we see the dramatic and soft focus version. I don’t this helps raise awareness of what illness is like or helps sick people at all. (excuse the rant! 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what it is. The ugly/unattractive symptoms are pushed aside so that “cute and helpless” ones can be lauded. It’s “funny” because tuberculosis or consumption actually started a fashion trend *headdesk* The flushed cheeks and pale skin symptoms were considered gorgeous so many girls/women tried to mimic it with makeup. I think it might even be why Queen Elizabeth(?) had that particular makeup regimen, or one of the reasons.

      I mean I LOVE The Fault in Our Stars, and Hazel’s condition is definitely serious and handled seriously, but there’s some definite romanticizing of it, and again I’m guilty of it in writing, too, because there’s a trend for it. It’s hard to balance. Usually narratives about disabled people aren’t up to reality because they’re not written by disabled people, which is another problem. Like I can tell when I’m reading about asthma from someone who doesn’t have it lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I knew a little bit about consumption, but never realised it went so far! That’s shocking! And just shows how ingrained this woman-as-romantic-victim thing is.

        My best friend has Type 1 diabetes, he says he’s never seen it shown accurately. My new book has two serious conditions in it, (one of which I have) and it was massively important to me to get them right and not just follow other fictional accounts. Have you ever written about chronic fatigue or asthma?

        I know what you mean about falling into certain traps and cliches even though you really don’t want to, also. So many books simply copy other books, so that fiction becomes its own reality rather than a representation of truth, and it’s because it’s an automatic way to write. I often do it with plots, I automatically write a plot filled with cliches without realising, and then have to go through consciously to remove them all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I just recently found out about this. I forgot what I was reading, but it was eye opening that the signs of sickness can be seen as attractive. It’s like…how messed up are we that THAT’S a thing.

          Diabetes has to be one of the most misunderstood conditions. You constantly see “jokes” about it with sugary snacks and some reference to diabetes plastered all over it. I’m not going to pretend I know all the mechanisms behind it, and of course this is anecdotal, but I have a major sweet tooth and no diabetes whereas my husband has always watched his and he was diagnosed about a year ago. Both his parents and all four grandparents had it, so there’s a major genetic component. It’s a lot more than just consuming lots of sugar, though that can help trigger it.

          I haven’t written about CFS as much, but I’ve definitely written characters with anxiety and depression.

          That…is so accurate and I’ve fallen into it to. I need to fix my first novel for so many of these tropes that are that collective fiction, but when I first wrote it, I thought many of them were truth. It’s hard to break out of it, because it becomes expected. Readers expect certain things to happen in certain types of novels, but it’s actually good when it doesn’t. One of the best stories I read last year was Radiance by Grace Draven, which was about a noble arranged marriage. It was the utter antithesis of what you’d expect in nearly every different way, and it was freaking fantastic. So breaking those cliches is always a good thing!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The State of the Writer: 6/3/18 | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

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