The White Oak (Imperfect Darkness #1)
by Kim White
Story Machine Studio, 2012
In The White Oak, the first book in the Imperfect Darkness series, Cora Alexander is pulled through a sinkhole and enters the underworld still alive. Her living presence threatens the tyrannical rule of Minos and the Infernal Judges who have hijacked the afterlife and rebuilt it, trapping human souls in a mechanical, computer-controlled city that lies at the core of the earth. To survive, Cora must rely on her untrustworthy guide, Minotaur, an artificial intelligence. She is helped by a mysterious voice, and by Sybil, underworld librarian and author of each person’s book of life. When Cora’s own book is destroyed, Sybil gives her a golden pen and sends her into the City to begin writing her own destiny. Along the way, she reunites with the ghost of her dead brother, Lucas, a genius programmer who alone is capable of finding the chink in Minos armor. This fast-paced adventure begins, and ends, in the middle of the action; introducing the characters, themes, and mysteries that find their resolution later in the series.
When I first saw the blurb and cover for this book on NetGalley I was really excited; girl falls through a sinkhole and lands in the Underworld! Still alive! Her captor and main adversary is Minos! Yay, Greek Mythology! But unfortunately this book didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations; I was really rather disappointed.
Cora Alexander’s life is forever changed when she falls into a sinkhole during her father’s funeral and lands in the Underworld still alive. This, of course, upsets the balance of the Underworld and the rule of Minos and the judges, who control the realm with an iron fist and have turned it into a computer-generated world full of shades. With the help of her untrustworthy guide, Minotaur, Cora must journey through the realm to find a way to return to the world above.
That is the book in a nutshell, although I left a lot of stuff out (read the summary via the link above if you want the full version). This book was strangely incomplete; there is no wrap-up of the story line and the book ends on what could be called a cliffhanger if I cared enough to be interested in the next installment. I felt like Cora was a very flat character; she does things, and occasionally provides a teeny bit of insight into why she’s doing them, but we don’t really get to know her very well at all. I also felt like the book suffered from too many points of view: there are at least three that I can remember off the top of my head, and switching between the points of view (one of which is strangely in third person while everything else is in first) caused the story to lose momentum and made it kind of tedious to read. After a fast-paced start which grabbed my attention, the rest of the story just failed in comparison and I found myself really uninterested in how things would end. For me personally, this just wasn’t a very well-constructed story. And that hurts me a bit to say that, because the summary was really promising. But there just wasn’t any resolution to the plot, and I can’t enjoy something that didn’t have a point. This was just a really unsatisfying reading experience.
Also, a note on the e-galley version of this, there were some weird sentence breaks that made the reading experience even more annoying because I had to keep deciphering what the sentences were supposed to say. Here’s an example: His arrival was merely the realization of destiny was entirely different through our gates. a prophecy. Cora’s before she slipped. This makes absolutely NO sense, and what’s supposed to be written was this: His arrival was merely the realization of a prophecy. Cora’s destiny was entirely different before she slipped through our gates. Now this was a fairly easy one to figure out, but there were others where it literally took me a good minute to put the words back into their proper order in order to read them, which just further pulled me out of the story. Hopefully all of those issues have been found and fixed in the final version.
All in all this was a disappointing read for me. The characters were flat, there were too many points of view, and absolutely no resolution to the plot. I won’t be reading the sequel.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.