The Neophyte’s Tale by A. R. Alexander

Book Blurb:

The mighty eruption changed everything….Earth’s survivors now live in safety and harmony on the Great Island–or so they think. Ruled by the powerful women of the Disciple Council, the Great Island’s colonies mirror the beauty and inspiration of the Seven Wonders of the World. But the feminine, tyrannical leadership of the island is too suffocating to bear. And now, sixteen-year-old Raindalynn Noic is dreading her testing for her “chosen” career. All females must be tested for the memory gene. Carrying the memory gene will doom Raindalynn to a life of alienation and solitude. After all, she is just now exploring her feelings for her childhood friend. But the test reveals what Raindalynn feared all along: she has the dreaded gene. As the new Neophyte, is Raindalynn different from any Memory Keeper before her?When her abilities exceed their greatest expectations, Raindalynn must rise to the challenge of saving her people from a dictator who threatens to destroy them all. With a plan to overthrow the Disciple Council, Raindalynn is their only chance at freedom. The secrets she now possesses might be the weapon needed for the Insurrection to succeed. Will the Neophyte’s Tale be the last story she’s ever permitted to tell?

I received this book from the author for free. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.

Erin’s Review:

The Neophyte’s Tale is a dystopian novel that takes inspiration from Greek mythology, where women rule instead of men and the memory gene allows experienced history to be passed on through generations by Memory Keepers. It is the debut novel of A. R. Alexander, and the first in The Great Island series. This review may contain small spoilers.

First off, the cover art of this book is very eye-catching and professional! It does a great job of capturing and representing the story and world as a whole. However, the formatting and editing do not reflect the professionalism of the cover, being very basic and at times have mistakes that should have been caught in a proofread. While the poor formatting and proofing did not take away from my experience reading the novel, it is something that hopefully will be corrected in future editions of this book, as well as in future novels in this series. I would highly encourage the author to include several editors and beta readers in her writing process to help avoid formatting and editing errors, alongside to develop the story as a whole.

Right off the bat, there is good grounding in the setting for this story, and the author does an excellent job of setting the scene. I quickly learned that this book is very much centered around the worldbuilding and the culture, rather than around characters, making it stand out from other books in the genre. I imagine the author spent a lot of time developing the world of the Great Island and beyond, as we learn all about the history, politics, and lifestyle of the people who live in this world.

About two-thirds of this book is exposition, expounding on the history, the life and duty of Memory Keepers, and such. I was certainly expecting a much more action-packed story, since it is in the young adult category, but it is much more slowly paced as it focuses so much on the worldbuilding as opposed to a high intensity plot. I do love me some good worldbuilding, but my greatest joy in reading always comes from character exploration and growth, so the exposition did not hold my interest as well as it might for someone who loves to learn about culture and customs.

Our main character, Raindalynn is very naïve and innocent at the start of the story, all of her hopes centered around a sweet romance with Chadwick. However, I was very surprised to see the relationship end rather quickly (with good reason), but for Raindalynn to feel very unimpacted by that betrayal. Perhaps she is more focused on her life as a whole changing, but when Chadwick comes back in the last quarter of the story, it feels a little too late for me. I wish he had been more present throughout, to give them opportunities to work through their hurts.

Instead, I was rather convinced that Carthel would be the love interest, but there was only ever friendship there, which was refreshing. You don’t get a lot of pure friendship between girls and guys in the young adult genre!

For me, Naedia, the Memory Keeper  of Rhodes who is training Raindalynn, had the most character development, agency, and complexion out of all of the characters in the book, but I wish she – like all of the characters – had experienced more growth that we could see. Her relationship with Keith seemed really genuine, and I found myself wishing we were experiencing their story instead of Raindalynn’s.

I think all of the characters had a lot of potential, but the story’s focus is much more on the world and the politics than deep character arcs. My biggest wish would have been for Raindalynn to have more agency and growth. I was really thinking she was going to be a big-time rebel, based on how we are introduced to her, but once she is chosen as a Neophyte, she becomes little more than a pawn in the political schemes and coups of others. I understand her unique abilities make her a valuable asset, but her character is very one dimensional, so the deep care others have for her sometimes feels unfounded.

All in all, I give The Neophyte’s Tale three stars for the fantastic worldbuilding and culture exploration, although the formatting, heavy exposition, and lack of character development kept this book from being a more enjoyable read. I think the author has a lot of potential and I hope she will continue to grow her craft and explore the world of the Great Island.

Rated:

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