Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Shutter (Courtney Alameda)

Title: Shutter
Series: standalone
Author: Courtney Alameda
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Horror
Told: First Person Singular (Micheline), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, gore, disturbing images [see Horror Content below], a few words of language, some minor sensuality, minor parental abuse)
Format Read: ARC (EpicLibrarian)
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Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

*          *          *

Why I Read It: I almost never read horror, so I didn't give this creepy cover a second look until I happened to get an ARC. When I discovered it was about girl who hunts the undead with an analog camera, it was too interesting not to read!

Series: This is a standalone, although there was one mystery left unsolved that I certainly wouldn't mind seeing answered in a sequel.

Writing: Sharp and abused adjectives, verbs, even adverbs lent the style a raw feel that perfectly set the tone of this darker, violent story. Great flow, description, and movement.

Setting: Our world but alternate, with the roaming undead and a corporation that hunts them to protect the innocent. The book takes place mainly in San Francisco, which proved the perfect setting with all its creepy fog.

Story: This story was like a descent into a dark stairwell, each step down plunging the characters into more shadow, more hazards, and increasing the chances they would never make it back to the light alive. In other words, a horror story! But it wasn't just about the horror. The plot was engaging and interesting, the occasional violence and disturbing images there to chill and thrill at opportune moments. And the characters were highly skilled and almost fearless as they faced off nightmarish creatures in the name of duty - everything they did they did with purpose, and they did it well. Most will come to this book for the horror, but they will find it overshadowed by a stellar story with great pacing, tense action, and strong characters.

My Only Complaint: A big whodunit mystery was left unsolved. Throughout the book I was guessing who the culprit was, so when I didn't get an answer at the end it was frustrating. Hopefully there will be a sequel and the mystery will eventually be solved.

Characters: Micheline was fierce, both in her fighting and how much she cared for her friends and family. I think the best thing about her was how she fought for herself as well as others, none of that "I don't mind dying as long as I save my family" self-sacrificing drivel one can find with stories like this. She was 100% "I'm going to save us all and that's that" and stuck to it.

The boys were awesome. As a team they were perfectly balanced - all were strong and highly trained fighters, but they had their own individual personalities and areas of expertise as well. Ryder was wicked with weapons and the first line of Micheline's defense, both against violence and matters of the heart. Jude acted the lazy playboy but was sharp and powerful and passionate when he wanted and needed to be. Oliver was the brains - tech support and doctor rolled into one, and he was good at what he did. Together they were Micheline's backup, never trying to protect or shield her - they knew what she was capable of and let her take point and do her thing.

Romantic Relationship: Restrained, for the most part. Micheline and Ryder being together was against her father's rules, so they had to figure out just how far they were willing to go to be together. I won't say whether they got their happy ending or not (because in horror the couple doesn't always get to be together so I don't want to spoil it!), but I will say I was satisfied with the ending.

Horror Content: The ghosts can be very grotesque and creepy and do shudder-worthy things to both the dead and the living. There are really only a handful of gore-laced scenes, though. As for the violence, all the characters get put through the wringer more than once - fighting ghosts and demons is dirty, brutal work.

Conclusion: While most certainly horror with its disturbing images and bloody violence, Shutter was mainly a thrilling story with interesting original elements and stellar characters. If you like horror I highly recommend it, but even if you don't and can stomach a bit of squeamish imagery (like me) then I highly recommend it for the story and characters!

For Fans Of: Blue Exorcist, D. Gray-man

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles

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