Author: Jessica Shirvington
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (US) / Hachette Australia (Aus)
Publication Date: March 2012 / October 2010
Hardcover: 367 pages
It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”
Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.
Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.
A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Violet Eden Chapters (a trilogy)
How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: I was initially skeptical about this book based on the blurb – I love paranormal YA when it’s done well, but I’m sad to say that most of my recent forays into this jungle of vampires, werewolves, and fallen angel spinoffs have been…not good. Ok, they’ve been disastrous. The blurb for Embrace suggested many overdone paranormal YA tropes lay waiting in the book, so, like Ana, I was fine to take a pass on this title. But then, the positive reviews started to roll in – a starred review from Kirkus, glowing praise from Publishers Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, as well as positive feedback from the blogosphere and via goodreads. I decided that I HAD to give this book a try.
And that, my friends, was a mistake. But more on that below.
Violet Eden (yep, that’s her name, because it’s a story about ANGELS, get it?! EDEN!) hates her birthday, because it’s also the grim reminder of the day that her mother died in childbirth. It’s no surprise, then, that Violet is not looking forward to her seventeenth birthday party, even though she’ll be with the people she cares most about in the world – her workaholic and emotionally distant father, perky best friend Stephanie, and her crush/mentor Lincoln. The day Violet turns seventeen, though, strange things start to happen. First, there are the crazy veins darkening on her forearms. Then, there’s the strange way Lincoln is behaving, kissing Violet then pushing her away. Finally, there’s a hot new dude (with sparkly purple and silver hair – more on that in a bit) that shows up, following Violet’s every move.
Violet learns that these events are all related, and that she is, in fact, an angel-human hybrid and destined to become a Grigori – a protector of mankind against fallen exiled angels that want to enslave humanity and live out their twisted hedonistic dreams on Earth. See, Grigori come of age when the human-angel turns seventeen, and then have to make the choice to “embrace” their responsibilities and powers thus becoming a full Grigori, or turn their back on duty and live forever alone and in fear that exiled angels will hunt them down. Complicating matters is the fact that Violet and her crush Lincoln are actually meant to be Grigori partners (which means for some reason that is never adequately explained in the book that they can NEVER be together), and the presence of the mysterious hot exile angel Phoenix, who has his gloriously styled purple-silver locks of love catching Violet’s eye.
Added to the mix is some half-baked conflict in which exiled angels of dark and angels of light are teaming together to kill all Grigori so that they can exact their unimpeded control on Earth.
If Violet is going to survive, she has to choose her destiny. She has to embrace her fate (see what I did there?!?!).
Ahh, Embrace. I went against my doubts and decided to read you, all the way to the bitter end. Where do I start? How do I begin to articulate my thoughts about this novel? I suppose I’ll start with the positive – the fact that I was able to finish the book speaks volumes. The writing itself and voice for Violet are consistent and competent, and I had no problems with the actual prose and readability of the novel. I also like the basic premise and idea of Grigori and exiled angels duking it out on Earth…but that’s were things all start to fall apart. The characters are lackluster; the plot is mind-numbingly familiar and predictable (down to the insipid love triangle between Good Grigori Lincoln and Bad Exile Phoneix). The entire story is a lukewarm rehash of any number of paranormal YA books on the market, from Twilight (but not nearly as fun) to Hush Hush.
Since there are so many possible talking points for this review, I’ll just stick to my main problems with Embrace, which are threefold: 1. Violet and the Plausibility Gap; 2. The Hilarity/Ridiculousness Factor; 3. The Worldbuilding That Makes Me Feel RAGE.
Let’s start with Violet.
1. Violet and the Plausibility Gap
Violet Eden is our heroine, who is damaged, shyly withdrawn, but of course is both rich and effortlessly beautiful, drawing the eye of many a supernaturally powered suitor:
“If you want him , you have to, you know…make a move. You need to let him know what he’s missing out on. Use your…assets.”
She meant my boobs. Steph was always telling me that I had it, so I should flaunt it. But I preferred to focus on other things, like my high cheekbones, full lips, and creamy complexion. And, of course, my long hair, which I could hide behind when I needed refuge.
Ahh, effortlessly gorgeous, yet shyly withdrawn heroine. Bella Swan, what hast thou wrought? This is a minor complaint, however, in much larger picture. My main gripes with Violet (and the cast of characters at large, really) concern how easily she accepts the news that she is a half-angel without real argument or question. In this pivotal scene, Violet learns how Grigori are born (which touches on my issues with worldbuilding, but more on that below):
“How do you know I’m one of these ‘Grig’ whatever, anyway?”
“Grigori. It happened when you were born and your mother died. If a parent dies within twelve days of their child’s birth, the combination of new life coinciding with new death creates a gateway for an angel to impart a piece of its essence.”
Of course, not even a full page after our heroine learns she is an ANGEL HYBRID she completely eats it up because:
I stoppped in front of him, staring daggers. “Am I what he says?”
Griffin looked straight at me, holding my gaze easily. “We are ALL what he says.”
I don’t know how or why, but looking into his eyes, I suddenly knew it was true. It was as if he had penetrated the deepest layers of my guards and unearthed a truth buried deep within me.
And that is IT. No questions asked. No denial. Just because OMG HE LOOKED INTO HER EYES AND IT WAS TRUE, she accepts this explanation – without seeing any demonstration of angel powers, or exiles, or whatever.
But that’s not all! Because it turns out that Violet is not only effortlessly beautiful and a future Grigori angel-in-training, but she’s also Powerful Beyond Compare! Most fledgling Grigori can perceive of only two angelic senses (smelling apples or flowers being the main sense) – but powerful Violet can experience all five. She’s also so powerful that her aura looks like a rainbow (get it?!? VIOLET EDEN, Rainbow Angel!), and attracts exiles of both light and dark. Of course. How incredibly boring, predictable, and lazy.
2. The Hilarity/Ridiculousness Factor
There are several things about Embrace that are hilariously silly (which is probably one of the reasons I kept reading the book). There’s a bizarre preoccupation with hair in this book – particularly, with bad boy exiled angel Phoenix’s sparkly hair. One could make a drinking out of mentions of Phoenix’s hair. Observe:
I was struck by his hair, of all things – at first look it appeared black, but then I saw other colors rippling through it, shades of purple and silver. It reminded me of a rough opal. I wondered how a hairdresser could have managed such a complex blend of streaks. It was beautiful and…vain.
Phoenix stood up and started pacing the room. He kept playing with the buttons on the cuffs, undoing them and doing them up again. He was wearing a navy shirt that highlighted his hair, and every time he walked under the downlights it shimmered.
Phoenix looked hot dressed entirely in black. No tie or jacket, but he still managed a cool elegance. The outfit acentuated his hair and made it look incredible – the deepest plum, almost black, with splices of dazzling silver.
And my personal favorite:
I turned to look at him. Glimmers of purple floated through the black base of his hair and as the sun caught different angles, a few strands sparkled silver.
“Your hair is…amazing.”
I cannot wait to use this line in real life. There’s also the generous heaping of cheese regarding the romantic entanglements of the plot. Observe one character’s heartened plea to Violet:
It’s not fair that I know how great we would be together, except that we can’t. It’s not fair that, even though I know I’ll never have you, I planned everything – the candles, the lilies – replayed the words I wanted to say a million times when you and I finally made love.
And so on and so forth.
While these are more nitpicky, amusing things – the next problem is the real dealbreaker.
3. The Worldbuilding That Makes Me Feel RAGE
The entire premise of Embrace is that there are exiled angels living amongst humans, who have chosen to fall because they want to experience human sensation (original, right?). The Grigori are apparently created when a parent dies within twelve days of their child’s birth, because this opens a gateway that allows angels to give a bit of its essence to the newborn child. Ooookaaaaaay. This is all the explanation we receive, and like Violet, we are meant to eat it up without question. Why twelve days? Why only a parent’s death? Who knows! That’s just how angels roll.
Accepting this premise, and that the Grigori are created to keep exiles in check feels lazy, but doable. When we finally learn about the origins of angels in the context of a familiar creation myth, however, this is where things start to get ugly.
“Many, many years ago this earth and man were created. There are many opinions as to who created them, but that is not today’s story. Man – we can call him Adam, if you like – was given a garden in which to frolic. For a time it was perfect […] I’m sure you understand that if man were to have free will, then he must have the presence of choice and opposition. Angels, being entrusted with this responsibility, used their powers to create one of their own – a rare angel, for it was a woman. In all ways the opposite to Adam, except that they were both immortal […] Well, Lilith was created to bring balance to this unbalanced world. You see, she represented everything opposite to the untainted man, and brought with her all of my favorite things: temptation, lust, seduction, deceit, anger, fear, persuasion, you get the drift. Anyway, Adam was enraged with Lilith when, after a while, she refused to lie beneath him.”
Violet doesn’t question any of this and accepts it at face value. Charming, right? Nothing like reinforcement of good old fashioned religious misogyny to perk up a story!
Even more charming is the revelation that Eve is apparently Adam’s second wife, who was created as angelic PR/cleanup following Lilith’s leaving Adam (that evil temptress hussy!).
I don’t think I have the energy to express the range of emotions this type of premise evokes. There’s shock, followed by disbelief, topped off with a nice generous dose of RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE.
On a related subject, there’s also a scene thrown in early in the book, in which Violet relates a traumatic, life-altering experience when a teacher attempted to rape her in the classroom. When she opens up and tells Lincoln this very personal story, it’s a big deal…but then it’s all mysteriously forgotten shortly afterwards. This experience never again surfaces, nor does it factor into Violet’s mind or decisions (even when she decides to open up and have sex with someone else). This bothers me. It bothers me a LOT because a serious matter like a sexual attack felt thrown in as an early character arc point, then pushed aside and easily forgotten once completed.
There are many other things I could say about Embrace, but ultimately, why bother? I gave it a shot and simply put: this book did not work for me. Your mileage my vary, but for me? I’m steering clear of Violet Eden and any future adventures.
Review Note: All quotes have been taken from an ARC and have not been checked against the final book.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter One:
Birthdays aren’t my thing.
It’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. It’s not that I blame myself for her not being here. No one could have known she wouldn’t survive childbirth. It’s not that I miss her either. I mean, I never knew her in the first place. But it is the one day each year that at some point I’ll be forced to ask myself, Was it worth it? Was my life worth taking hers?
I stared out the bus window, avoiding. Steph was blabbering on, something about the perfect dress, completely absorbed in what she was saying. She was relentless when it came to the science of shopping. I could feel her watching me, disappointed with my cheer level. Buildings flashed past through the frame of the smudged glass and I couldn’t help but wish my seventeenth birthday tomorrow would slide by in the same hazy blur.
“Violet Eden!” Steph said sternly, sucking me out of my trance. “We have your dad’s Amex, a green light, and no specified limit.” Her mock rebuke morphed into a devious grin. “What more could a girl want as a birthday present?”
Technically, it was my Amex. My name, my signature. It just happened to be connected to Dad’s account. A by-product of being the only person at home who actually bothered to pay any bills.
I knew Steph wouldn’t understand if I told her I wasn’t in the mood, so I lied. “I can’t go shopping today. I…um…I have a training session.”
She raised her eyebrows at me. For a moment I thought she was going to call me out on my fake alibi. But then she segued onto a topic we seemed to be discussing more and more often as of late.
I shrugged, trying not to let on how much just the mention of Lincoln affected me. Although the training part wasn’t true, I did have plans to see him later on and was already doing my best not to keep a minute-by-minute countdown.
You can read the full excerpt online, and check out a bunch of extra content, via the official US website: Embrace the Series.
Rating: 3 – Very, Very Bad
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