The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck

This book, unfortunately, did not live up to my expectations as it quickly descended into drama, angst, and a predictable plot. While it is a fast read, I found the characters to be one-dimensional and mostly unlikable, lacking growth, and I was left wanting more about the characters and the world.

About the Book

Publisher: Delacorte Press  |  Release Date: September 11, 2018  |  Pages: 386
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  |  Format: eARC  |  Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Welcome to a world where nightmarish creatures reign supreme.

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So, he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern—one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal—or not-so-mortal—soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare.

Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire—and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos.

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My Review

Friends, I was really excited for The Lantern’s Ember from the moment I saw this stunning cover and read the synopsis, and I was so excited to get an opportunity to read an advanced copy for review. While the book started strong and appeared to be full of spooky folklore, overall this book, unfortunately, did not live up to my expectations as it quickly descended into drama, angst, and a predictable plot. While it is a fast read, I found the characters to be one-dimensional and mostly unlikable, lacking growth, and I was left wanting more about the characters and the world.

“The line between greatness and villainy is as thin as a garrote wire.”

The premise of this book is so interesting: the Otherworld is a realm where all those creatures that we thought were fictional exist. Goblins, werewolves, vampires, and more are all real! The worldbuilding for tinkers and the technological advances that the Otherworld has made with the harnessing of witchlight was really interesting but I found that outside of the witchlight the worldbuilding was non-existent.

“One doesn’t choose to become a lantern. Most of us are tricked into it.”

The synopsis led me to believe that Jack’s past and his five hundred years of experience as a Lantern would play a bigger role than it did. I was drawn in by the idea of his role as a gatekeeper of the Otherworld, and quite frankly I am a sucker for stories that involve characters that have long lives… there is something so interesting about watching a character see cultural change and this is something that I think was definitely missing.

Ember O’Dare is an orphaned witch that lives in a town near Jack’s Crossroads. He’s been watching her from afar ever since she was a young child, and while she hadn’t seen him she always felt his presence and protection. I thought it was kind of cute how she kept trying to entice him to show himself to her, and their interactions throughout the book honestly are the only characters that I liked. I love strong female characters, but there is a fine line between strong and indignant and she gets herself into huge messes because she thinks she knows everything when she knows nothing. Like 90% of me reading this book was screaming at her being like “oh, I didn’t know it was so dangerous” when she literally had been told repeatedly that it was dangerous. Ugh, she frustrated me to no end.

The third-person omniscient narrative style constantly shifts perspectives between the characters (often mid-page), and as a result, I never really felt connected to any of the characters. I would have expected Ember and Jack to be the main characters, perhaps with dual-POV storytelling from their perspectives, but I found the narration a jumbled mess that was at times difficult to follow. The story may have been stronger with a more dedicated narrative perspective.

While the book’s blurb definitely is accurate, I feel that it was a bit misleading as so much of the actual narrative seemed to center around romantic feelings. There was kind of a love rectangle and it was kind of weird as none of the characters were really developed. While I am not a huge fan of the romance genre, I do not mind it as part of the story but it kind of grated my nerves – particularly Dev’s character, who I found to be incredibly obsessive and possessive.

All of the characters in this book were essentially the embodiment of a trope: Ember is “not like anyone else,” Dev is the “Edward Cullen kind of obsessed love interest,” Finney is the “guy in love with his best friend,” and Jack is the “honorable love interest that wants what is best.” The characters do not really act outside of their trope and are largely unchanged at the end of the book.

I really enjoyed how folk legends such as the lost colony at Roanoke, the Headless Horseman, and the boogeyman were “explained” in this fictional world, and like I previously said I really loved the concept of the Otherworld! I just wish that more time had been dedicated to worldbuilding and that there was a clear narrative POV – I think that would have made this story a lot stronger. Honestly the “twist” at the end I picked up on at the beginning of the book so I was hardly surprised (except that it was meant to be a twist lol).

The theme of life and what makes it worth living is there in the text, especially given that most of the characters are otherworlder’s that have had long lives. It is most evident with Jack and his life as a lantern, one that he would not have chosen for himself. “Maybe the purpose of life is to experience those things, however fleeting. I’ll never know now what my life might have been.” 

Overall I found The Lantern’s Ember to be an interesting story with a lot of promise but lacking in character development. Since I read an ARC it is possible that some additional editing happened and some of the issues I had could be addressed in the finished copy. I think if you go in expecting it to be an angsty romance with some steampunk & fantasy elements you will enjoy this book. Honestly, it kind of reminds me a lot of Twilight, which I didn’t like, so if you enjoy that kind of story this may be for you. This book is a standalone (which I really appreciate because they are so rare in YA fantasy) and truly wraps up everything at the end with a neat little bow (which seemed too perfect but honestly is the least of my issues here).

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an electronic advanced reader copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication. 

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!

14 Comments

  1. Hanna @ Booking in Heels

    August 29, 2018 at 12:43 PM

    I was completely on board with that synopsis until I saw ‘vampire,’ and then I backed away. Shame. I liked the cover and the general concept (pre-vampire, obviously).

    I can’t deal with angsty romance though, so it was probably for the best.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 31, 2018 at 3:22 PM

      I should have listened to my gut on the vampire thing like you did… because in retrospect it is like a giant and glaring red flag for me now. It is such a cool idea kind of mulled by a Twilight-esque angsty plot, and it is a real shame.

  2. Carolina @fictionologyst

    August 29, 2018 at 7:04 PM

    This is such an amazing and thorough review Kaleena! I love the premise but I can see why this book didn’t live up to your expectation. I think I’m gonna pass this one too!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 31, 2018 at 3:23 PM

      I definitely don’t think that you would like this book Carolina, so it is probably for the best that you skip it. Thank you, I am always nervous about my critical reviews!

      1. Carolina @fictionologyst

        September 1, 2018 at 8:46 AM

        You don’t have to! I love reading critical review, it’s honest 💕

  3. Madam Mim

    August 30, 2018 at 5:25 AM

    Very in-depth review! I really enjoyed reading it and the way you considered the different elements of the book do thoughtfully! Sounds all too much like a lot of rather mediocre YA fantasy out there!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 31, 2018 at 3:25 PM

      Thank you so much! I am so sad that this one wound up not being for me, but I definitely think it has it’s audience out there… it is a shame that the blurb is unlikely to entice the right audience, though.

      1. Madam Mim

        August 31, 2018 at 3:40 PM

        Yeeeh it really didn’t hook me. I’ve read a couple reviews that were very positive… a few mixed ones… and I just don’t think I’m going to pick it up tbh

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          August 31, 2018 at 3:44 PM

          I don’t blame you, but I am glad that there are some positive reviews out there for this one.

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