Robert Luis Rabello
Title of Book: Forbidden (The Arotas Trilogy)
Author: Amy Miles
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Urban Fantasy
E-book, or print book: E-book
Overview: Rosaline Enescue escapes from the frightening brutality of her husband in Romania by running away to the United States. She begins a new life as a high school student, but meets a young man named Gabriel, to whom she finds herself irresistibly attracted. How can this be? Where did her self-control go? How can a mere human so captivate her attention? The answers trace back to her homeland and the life she left behind.
Cover / Graphics / Maps : The cover is simple, evocative and looks professionally laid-out. The orange rose has significance to the story and is allegorical of the main character.
Interior Formatting: I read the Kindle version. There were no glaring format issues. The font was large enough to be legible, but small enough to permit speed reading without adjustment.
Readability: Sample paragraphs averaged a readability index of 5.8, which is appropriate for the target audience and most readers of this genre. I had no difficulty with any of the vocabulary or sentence structures in this novel.
Names: All of the names were easily pronounced and accessible. Since the story takes place in a modern context, place names are recognizable.
Hero / Heroine: Rosaline Enescue is a bit of an enigma. Given the terrible ordeal described in the prologue to this story, it's reasonable to expect a degree of hardness and an aloof attitude from this character. In general, people like their protagonists to be strong, and Rosaline certainly projects inner strength and mental toughness. She's described by other characters as kind and loving, but she acts more like a streetwise and vigorous force to be reckoned with, rather than a sweet, gentle female. The descriptions that characterized her as the latter grated against the former.
I'd expected Gabriel Marsten to be a dumb jock, mindlessly interested in conquering opponents on the football field and girls in the social arena. But he evolves as the story progresses, from the inaccurate caricature of an athlete into a decent, intelligent and caring young man. He becomes the type of boy that a father would be proud to call his son, only to transform further into something ELSE, entirely. It's both fascinating and disturbing to experience. Amy Miles has done a terrific job of defying expectations with this character.
Supporting Characters: Sadie and William Hughes are siblings who live next door to Gabriel Marsten. They maintain an annoyed, teenaged tolerance for one another throughout the book, though the role that William plays in the story is less significant than that of his sister. Sadie befriends Rosaline, though the two appear to have very little in common. Nicolae, a mysterious exchange student, transforms from a creepy kid into something very different as the story progresses. I felt that a little platforming of his capabilities early in the story would have made for a smoother character arc near the end.
Villains: Rosaline's husband, Vladimir, occupies a menacing role that exists mostly on the periphery of the story, except for the very beginning and the very end. A lot of the conflict in this book is internal, with Rosaline, herself. The reader is effectively kept in suspense about the danger of her powers throughout the story. This is something that Amy Miles has done very well.
In addition, flat characters, like Claire Scofield--Gabriel's girlfriend--and Oliver--Gabriel's jock friend--serve as antagonists and provide the occasional comic relief. There's a scene involving Claire using Gabriel's leg as an erotic dancing prop that had me laughing.
Plausibility of Storyline: There's a degree of suspending disbelief that every fantasy story must be given. That's certainly true of this one, but there were scenes and behaviors, such as Rosaline's frequent disappearances, which did little to advance the plot and probably could have been cut or modified without impacting the overall story. High school students making travel arrangements and departing the country without parental approval raised my brows too, but this IS a story for young readers, and that audience would likely be unfazed by that detail.
Reviewer's Response: Amy Miles has written a vampire story that defies convention in many ways. Though I am not in the target market for this genre, the story retained my interest throughout, and I actually found myself enjoying the characters, particularly Rosaline and Gabriel, as they evolved. One of the strengths of the independent author movement is that it permits stories that depart from main stream, commercial themes and plot lines to be heard. I believe this story is a refreshing example of that trend. For young adult readers, in particular, this is likely to be a very enjoyable story.