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
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 Stars, Magonia, etc.) 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.