My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Around the world, people die under mysterious circumstances. Each has a sign. Each is a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. A NYC interior designer Jason Walker receives a message saying he is the final piece.
Emily Ethan, a startling beauty with supernatural powers, appears and tells Jason that powers dormant within him are about to wake. He is the only person who can prevent darkness from enslaving the world. He is the Beholder whose advent has been awaited for many years.
Setting out on a journey with Emily, Jason discovers the world he could have never imagined, but the greatest surprise arrives the moment he realizes he has fallen in love with Emily.
Jumping into the world of The Beholder began with a refreshing jolt. No easing the reader into the back story, no time taken to explain the current context. Right from the opening scene, we are thrust into the midst of action. And what action! I was also happy to note that the writing itself was smooth and easy to follow, and the pacing of events unfolded at a good rate.
What I enjoyed the most about the novel were the following: 1) Amberlake describes some very difficult, abstract events quite well. Things like, experiencing the stopping of time, what energy bursts look like at night, how to ‘cut through’ space and time, as well as his general use of metaphors and similes, are all very well done. For most of the book, the imagery is quite strong; 2) as mentioned above, the pacing was good. There was rarely a dull moment, as the reader is taken to various local and international locations, meets new characters on both sides of the Good vs. Evil coin, and is plunged deeper into the mythology and the back story connecting the characters. There is no room for boredom in this book; 3) I also enjoyed Amberlake’s spin on magic/special powers being rooted in Energy, which the way it is described in The Beholder, is a refreshing change from a lot of books out there.
I did struggle with some things in the book. 1) In contrast to point number one above, sometimes I felt certain details could have been elaborated on. Lack of information left me feeling disoriented in time and place, and which ultimately impacted general comprehension. For example, at times it wasn’t clear where a character was, or when or how they got there, requiring me to scroll back to situate myself. Another example is, towards the end of the story, when I had difficulty differentiating dream from reality. 2) The basic rules of Energy were not always clear, so it was difficult to measure one Sighted against another. When Emily does something amazing, how does that measure up with what Pariah can do? With what Jason can do? What are the limits to Energy? Are there any weaknesses or an Achilles heel to using this power? Some of the explanations were not detailed enough for me to get a good basic grasp, which left me feeling as though some of its uses were random or convenient. 3) I would have liked to have seen more character development, as we don’t know that much about more about Jason or his friends by the end of the novel than we did when we first met them.
My over all feeling is that The Beholder is an exciting, swiftly-moving novel that brings something new to urban fantasy. The characters are young, fun, and dynamic, and Amberlake’s usage of language, imagery, and pure unbridled imagination all connect to create a good, solid, enjoyable read. This book is recommended, and I expect the sequels will be equally entertaining.