Review: ‘Awakenings’ by J.E. Shannon

Evie Shepard’s nightmare begins when she finds herself buried alive, with no idea how she got that way. As she struggles to remember what happened to her, she begins to notice changes about herself. Her senses are heightened, her movements are quicker, she is incredibly strong….her heartbeat has stopped. It’s then she makes a disturbing discovery. She wasn’t buried alive. She was murdered.

Somehow she has come back…

And she wants revenge.

I was going through my Kindle last month and discovered this ebook, which I acquired back in 2013 and had never quite gotten around to reading. (For the record, this isn’t the longest a book has languished on my TBR pile. There are books there that have moved house with me. More than once.) It was published by a small press that subsequently tanked under dubious circumstances, though it has since been self-published. The version I’m reviewing is the small press version, so please note that there may be some differences between the currently available version and the one that I have.

Awakenings is an urban fantasy whose subtype isn’t vampires or werewolves but an undead creature called a vengador (which is Spanish for “avenger”). These are creatures that get supernatural speed and strength, as well as electricity powers, but who are driven to kill their murderers, even knowing that doing so will end their own existence. I enjoyed reading about a different type of supernatural beastie.

There were a lot of things I really loved about Awakenings; the writing is generally very good (with a few copy edits that may be gone in the current version), and the story is action-packed, full of explosions, car chases and fight scenes. All good stuff. And I enjoyed both Evie (as she struggles with her loss of humanity) and one of the other female characters, Amie, who is a Russian super-soldier and hacker with a penchant for explosives. I’d totally read a book about Amie; she stole every scene she was in. I adored her.

The villains of the piece were murderous Russian slave traders, which stretched credibility a bit, at least for me. I think that Awakenings is meant to be set in a darker version of the USA (rather than in a parallel world that is roughly the same), but I never really got the real sense of that difference, and the villains seemed Bond-like and almost cartoonish in their evil ways.

But the main thing that made this a 3.5 star read for me rather than a four star read was the unnecessary romance. I just didn’t feel any chemistry between Evie and Ethan. Also, she was seventeen and he was … older. I don’t know how old, exactly, but he’d been married and widowed, and had a PI business. I’m assuming at least late 20s. I don’t mind an age gap between characters who are romantically involved, but when one of them isn’t even a legal adult yet (even if they are an undead with superpowers), it just feels a little off to me. It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t get onboard with the Bella/Edward relationship in Twilight.

Still, I like that the book doesn’t have a sugar-coated, happily ever after ending, and the action scenes were compelling. I’d recommend Awakenings for anyone after a fun summer (or winter) holiday read.

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