Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: On the Verge

On the Verge
by Garen Glazier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publication Date: September 16th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy


Art, demons, and death. Seattle is On the Verge.

Freya is just a university student worried about grades and tuition until a gorgeous succubus interrupts her post-exam latte with a proposition: come work for her boss, Seattle’s reclusive heiress and antiquities collector Imogen Beldame. Eagerly agreeing despite a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach, Freya finds herself swept up in a deadly quest at the behest of her psychopathic new employer. Beldame has given her until Halloween to collect three magical pigments that hold the key to crafting mesmerizing portraits that can access the Verge, a borderland on the edge of human reality, and the powerful beings that call it home.

Freya’s reluctant journey takes her to a goblin stronghold in the Cascades for the color blue, to the Seattle Underground to request the color red from Baba Yaga, and to the Fremont home of a beautifully gruesome Cambodian ahp, or spirit of the night, for the color yellow. Working together with Rusty, an enigmatically disfigured man intimately connected with the Verge, and a motley crew of mercurial demons, Freya must come up with a plan to stop Beldame and preserve the fragile balance between fantasy and reality that is at its most vulnerable on Halloween.


I received a copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

On the Verge is one of the few books I've received for review that makes me sad - sad that such a phenomenal book probably won't get the attention it deserves. Because let me tell you, this book was addicting!

The star of Glazier's novel is Freya, a senior art history major who is lost among so many others like her in the Seattle art scene. Her bland work-school-sleep existence seems to spice up when Ophidia, a representative for a well-known reclusive art dealer, offers her a part time job - but what she doesn't know is that this job throws her head first into The Verge.

"The Verge is a borderland that surrounds your world. It's an undiscovered frontier on the edge of human reality wherein exist all the creatures and beings of myth and legend. We[...]are the dreams and nightmares, gods and devils of the human imagination."

The Verge is essentially a dimension of energy that, when touched by the human imagination, spits out the creatures that mankind has imagined; everything from incubi and sucubi to vampires and werewolves exist because mankind imagined it and The Verge spawned them.

I love this twist that Glazier gave to the creation of legend because what she created for herself was an infinite world of possibilities. Literally any creature or power can exist in this book so long as someone generated it. But what's particularly well thought out is that it's not like Chalk Zone where anything created comes to fruition. In order to be created from The Verge, a certain level of love and passion must go into the creation of the art of fiction. So, to use examples from her book, something like Grimm's Fairytales or a Munch painting would come to life, but a toddler's doodle would not.

The other incredible thing that Glazier set up is that the beings themselves do not fully comprehend or understand the power that is The Verge. Without spoiling too much, there is a race of being who, once deprived of their signature horns, are sent back to The Verge, not as sentient beings, but as theidentity-less forms of energy from which they originated.

The other power that is above their heads the physical manifestation of their creation. In the case of Ophidia and Dakryma, the two main demons, they are bound by portraits, and whomever owns the portraits controls them, which is the issue that becomes the crux of the plot.

For such a rich and fantastical world, Freya is the perfect heroine. She has the traditional hero's journey going as she is thrust into this world of fantasy and forced into a series of tasks that threaten her life. But she has a good balance between skepticism and "how is this honestly my life" comments that make her believable and relatable. Honestly, the best thing that Glazier did was to make her a Seattle art student hipster. She's a stock personality, for sure, but a fun one that you don't see too much in fantasy. Even the side kick she picks up along the way, Rusty, is far from your leading man. To use Freya's words, he is a "truculent mountain man" who stands at 6'2" with a meaty frame and a half-disfigured face. Not exactly the drop dead gorgeous hunk that authors usually spin out these days.

The only - and I do mean only - qualm I have with this novel is the author's propensity to whip out her thesaurus. It's perfectly fine when the characters are making intellectual quips at each other, but sometimes it was just ridiculous in the narration.

"Hers was a more crepuscular circadian rhythm; sunrises just didn't seem as natural as sunsets."
"Her congenital perspicacity."
"He thrived in the disconsolate ambiance of modernity."

Though to be fair, she did give me a brush up on my SAT words.

For this and this alone I'd give this book a 4.5, but for the sake of ratings I'm giving it a 5/5. Great characters and rich world building, plus, as an art history major herself, she really took the sentiment of "write what you know" to heart and created a lush and well-researched landscape of the "On the Verge" Seattle art scene (gettit?). Let's hope this fantastic debut get's some traction!

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