It’s really great that self-publishing lets people cut through the wall set up in the publishing industry by the need for connections and inner circles, but sometimes, it creates problems. This is one of those instances. This book was published too early. The Perfect Mortals comes from a young author with clear natural talent and a good story in mind, even if we’ve seen it many times before, but this book really needed to be edited and workshopped, or at least given some space to mature before being published.
There are good things about it. While there is an almost excessive amount of cursing and plenty of typos to be found, author Reece Bridger really does have a raw talent for writing. The style itself is nice if a bit unpolished, there are some solid and vivid descriptions, and there are good characters here. Fantasia and Weylyn are easily the two most interesting Harmon siblings, with Aurelia coming in a close third in my mind. She is gentle yet fiercely protective of her siblings, despite not being a physical fighter. At least until she does a 180 after gaining her power (or Bua, in this world) and becoming a murder wizard, but she continues to have good moments. The sister-sister relationship between Aurelia and Fantasia was particularly well done, and the scene featuring them that takes place right before Fantasia receives her Bua is very touching.
That being said, the pacing of the book is bad, to the point where the plot waits for the characters, and then the characters wait for the plot. To make that clearer, the first 3/4 of the book takes place over the span of 5 days. It takes almost 1/4 of the book for any mention of the actual plot to show up, but it doesn’t go anywhere after appearing. It’s like someone hits the pause button on the world and the Harmons are allowed to gain their powers before needing to do anything. Halfway through the book, I was still looking for the overarching plot to have some sort of bearing on the story, and was getting bored with following the Harmon siblings as they had conversations, went to sleep, dreamed, got their Bua, and then didn’t really do anything with their powers. In short, I expected a coming of age story. What I got was a slice of life.
Once all four siblings finally had their Bua, I expected them to go off and do something. Instead, they go camping about 100 yards away from where they were living with their guardian. This is so they can practice with their newfound powers, but the book never actually shows them doing any of this. Instead, readers are explicitly told that they get better, and then time is suddenly passing at a much quicker rate than it was before. Then some people attack them and that’s really the only time the plot has significance. This, unfortunately, is also the end of the story.
Another problem with the book is that it does far too much telling, not enough showing, except when it comes to the world building. Too much time is spent on the wrong details. I think this is a mark of the author’s age more than anything else. As a reader, you can easily tell that Bridger has put a lot of thought and care into crafting the world the Harmon’s inhabit, but almost none of that attention makes it on to the page. The result is a group of characters who travel between a total of three almost completely blank spaces. Readers will know what color leggings everyone is wearing as they travel into the city of Kylia, but they won’t know what Kylia looks like. They’ll know that the Harmons move through Crowmen territory and then Fantasia and Weylyn will fight them in the town square, but aside from feathers, long legs, and talons, you won’t know what Crowmen look like. Do they have beaks? Do they have faces? Are they human-sized? Bigger? Smaller? You won’t find out in this book.
Books 2 and 3 in the series are already out. I picked up a copy of the second book as it was offered for free through the Kindle store, but it may take me a while to get to it. I’m hoping that the author matured a little between writing the first book and the second. I do think that there’s a lot of potential for the series, but after reading this first book, I’m not sure where it will go. And again, Bridger very clearly has talent, but it needs to be honed before he can put out a really strong book.