I actually got this review request not just through an email, but via a Youtube video as well advertising the book. I thought the video was pretty basic, but actually really well put together and it did pique my interest. And the story sounded interesting as well, so I knew that I had to give this one a read.
Describing herself as “a fantastic new voice in YA Fiction”, Michelle Horst’s Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows is more mature YA Fiction novel and certainly one of the most intriguing reads I’ve had in a long time. It’s a story of hope amidst the coming of complete annihilation and the battle to save those who have been chosen to carry on the human race.
About The Author (Info provided by the author)
I hail from the sunny South Africa and although I am on the other side of this big rock we like to call Earth, I like to think that I’ve managed to write a book that will touch the heart of others. Vaalbara was originally meant to be for my own pleasure only. I wrote this YA Fantasy for myself, but one day I woke up and found that it was in demand by others.
Books have always left me wanting more, so I decided to try my hand at writing my very own. I wanted to write a story that I would want to read - with the romance and passion levels soaring, and focusing on a girl who had the right, fun attitude. I wanted to show that someone could go through hell and still come back from it.
I didn’t intend for Alchera to come alive the way she did. Six months later, when I opened the file for Vaalbara, I realized I was almost finished, and I guess that’s when it hit me that I was hooked. I suppose this is how most journeys start out.
I am also currently busy with four other books which should be finish within the next twelve months. Two of these are short stories and are a new way of writing for me, but I do enjoy it.
I’ll bow out with my quote from Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows; Hope is the heartbeat of your soul – as long as you have hope your possibilities are endless.
For more information go to:
- Trailer for Vaalbara
Facebook: Michelle Horst
The cover is beautiful to look at. A perfect, picturesque land that is somewhat soothing to look at. However, this beautiful cover somewhat hides the darker nature of the book. Also, the waterfalls are a recurring theme within the book so it’s nice that it demonstrates that.
Whilst I don’t try and give away too much in my reviews, in terms of important plot points and that stuff, in order to do a rounded review, I will be mentioning some plot points. So before I start, just beware that this review does contain some spoilers.
Aislinn is a young teenage girl that is kind of an outcast in her society – what with no real parents to speak of and with a rather disturbing talent of being able to see into the future. She thinks that her luck is in when she meets a handsome new boy at school called Ryan – who seems attracted to her for reasons she can’t understand. Turns out that this boy is actually from the land of Vaalbara and his real name is Raighne and he’s here to take Aislinn back home. Turns out that Aislinn’s real name is Alchera and she is a Princess of the land. She is told that the end of the world is approaching and it’s her duty to rescue the ten Chosen, who are the ones to carry on the human race after the end. She has ten days to rescue them before Earth is destroyed – so no pressure then!
The book is told from the POV perspective of Alchera and she is a strong heroine – starting off as kinda vulnerable and insecure of herself then gaining strength as the book carries on. Often she has conversations with an invisible friend called Sid, which are actually some of the funniest scenes in the book. So she is definitely a good heroine for this novel – especially considering some of the challenges she is about to face. Seeing as this book does have a very religious context to it, she could be considered a kind of Jobe/Jesus character.
Now, I have to be honest, I am in two minds of how I felt about the actual story of this book. Most Young Adult books I’ve read tended to be upbeat and with a positive feel to them for the most part. This book, I have to be honest, I found to be a little depressing and dark. I’m not saying that YA books can’t be dark – after all, The Hunger Games has some pretty dark themes to it and even Harry Potter could be pretty dark sometimes. But I can’t help but thinking that maybe Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows is probably a little TOO dark in places. After all, it’s dealing with the end of the world and the death of an entire race – that is not a small subject.
I think my biggest problem with it is that I couldn’t identify with any of the characters from Vaalbara itself. They seemed to be completely ambivalent and uncaring to the destruction of the human race – with the exception of the Chosen. Even some of the heroes I found to be cold and uncaring, so I really couldn’t support them. Also, I didn’t like the fact that Alchera (despite showing some feelings against this initially) made NO attempt to try and stop this from happening and just went along with it. She didn’t have to have succeeded – but for me the story would have been better if she at least made an attempt to save her people, so that her humanity wasn’t entirely gone. There was also a quite nasty torture scene in the middle of the book that I thought was maybe a little too unnecessary and graphic.
Now, I know the above may sound like I’m being overly negative – but I have to admit I am actually also impressed with it. I like it that Michelle Horst doesn’t conform to a lot of YA conventions and does something different. And in fairness to the book, there are some extremely dramatic moments in the book and we do feel Alchera’s suffering as she progresses – but we do also have some humour to balance it out. There is somewhat of a happy ending as well – I just wasn’t sure I was satisfied with the way the story went about before it got to that moment as it seemed to glance over the fact that many people had died.
PROS (it’s not the end of the world):
Unique Young Adult novel that does do something different to most novels of its genre.
Very dramatic and also humorous.
Has a positive message at its heart.
CONS (apocalypse now):
Maybe too dark for some readers.
The general plot is extremely harsh and not something that I think will appeal to everyone.
I appear to have conflicting emotions about this one. One part of me thinks that it’s a very dramatic and powerful novel that goes against a lot of YA conventions – the other thinks that it’s too dark and depressing and this may potentially put some readers off. However, I am going to meet this half-way because I don’t think this is a bad novel in any way and it actually does have a positive message at its heart. If you are prepared to have an open mind and don’t mind the dark content, then check this one out and be prepared to lose yourself in the drama of the piece.
FINAL SCORE: 4/5