Thursday, 30 December 2010
Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Immortal Beloved is one of those rare examples of a book which far exceeds the rather tame level of expectation its premise creates. We're barely introduced to our heroine, and the first thing she does is run in the opposite direction from the only sign of any real excitement. Then? She hides out in the countryside for the entire duration. As a Cate Tiernan newbie, I think I can be forgiven for my initial misgivings when, a few chapters in, it dawned on me that I was reading a paranormal romance set on an organic farm. Happily, at that point, Nastasya's voice takes a turn for the snarky - and the narrative begins to offer up tiny morsels of her intriguing backstory. While anyone looking for an action-packed read will be disappointed, Immortal Beloved is actually the tale of a fascinating journey of self-discovery. Nastasya's inner conflict is every bit compelling enough to keep the pages turning, and what we eventually get is an intimate story that's surprisingly epic in scope.
Of course, what really drives this one is the strength of the palpable chemistry between Nastasya and her leading man. The man in question is Reyn, a fine example of the hostile-but-handsome variety of love interest. Though this may sound like we're back on well-trodden paranormal ground, Reyn is drawn in shades of grey that add layers of interest and complexity to his interactions with Nastasya. However, there's definitely a point in the story where Nastasya's attraction to Reyn becomes problematic in a way that might be offputting to some readers. In all likelihood, you'll not only wonder whether Nastasya can get past a particular obstacle, but also whether you actually want her to. What I would say is this: keep going. Much as you may fear that Immortal Beloved is on the verge of advocating some seriously messed up gender dynamics, it really isn't. Actually, it's headed in a way more subtle and complex direction that ties convincingly into the novel's greater message.
Unusually for the first book in a trilogy, Immortal Beloved wraps itself up almost as satisfyingly as a standalone novel. That's not to say that you'll escape the obligatory sequel cravings, because this first book sets up some incredibly tantalising storylines that'll make it hard to resist the promise of the second instalment. However, there's just enough closure to leave you feeling that you have actually read an entire novel, and not just part of a really long one.
While undoubtedly marking the beginning of an epic trilogy, Immortal Beloved also has a striking attention to detail that makes its world-building stand out from lesser books in the paranormal genre. Marketed in the UK as a crossover title, the tone and content reads fairly adult for a YA audience. It's somehow fresh and timeless - much like Nastasya herself, in fact. I'd recommend it foremost to fans of the paranormal genre, and also to anyone interested in exploring themes of immortality from a human perspective. If this is you, consider Immortal Beloved one to look out for.
Out: January 6th 2011, UK
Many thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for providing a review copy of this book.