Review: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Title:  Carrier of the Mark

Author:  Leigh Fallon

Publisher:  Harper Teen

Series:  Carrier Trilogy #1

Other Reviews for This Author:  None

Carrier of the Mark is the first book Harper Collins has acquired from its website inkpop with the intent of publication.  I was on the website for a brief time, and that brief time coincided with the rise in popularity of Fallon's manuscript.  At the time, it was making waves in the community and becoming quite popular. Carrier of the Mark has since been taken under the wings of Harper Collins, and there is no doubt that it has been subjected to the editing process as a resultant.  My reading of the book started on an initial high that dipped lower with the second half of the book.  I've read worse than Carrier of the Mark, but I've also read better.

Who moves to Ireland in order to get a fresh start?  Megan and her widowed father, that's who.  They only moved there for his career, and they've lived in so many places that it could just be one more stop - one more place to settle in quickly before uprooting their lives and moving on.  Megan's father thinks differently, though.  Kinsale could be the place for them.  Megan could finally have a set of friends that meant something.  Schooling that would last her for a while.  Getting used to a new country suggests to be difficult, but Megan decides to make the best of it.  After all, what can she do about it?

It's at Megan's new school that she meets Adam DeRis.  He's sexy, aloof, and out of her league.  So says his reputation, anyway.  Adam hasn't shown more than passing interest in any girls before.  The chances are slim that Megan will be the one, yet she can't help her magnetic attraction to him.  As Megan becomes a friend to a girl named Caitlin and a group of nice students, she begins to acclimate to her new school life.  She also learns more and more about the DeRis kids.  Rumors fly about the family.  Everyone seems inclined to tell a story that is more mysterious and ridiculous than the last.  Adam, his sister, Aine, and their brother, Rian, are all known for being a bit unapproachable and attractive, but no one seems to really know much about their family or their guardian, Fionn.

Megan changes that.  Something about Adam has caused her to become smitten.  There's no love at first sight, but there's something that pulls her to him.  Adam seems to feel the pull as well.  He shows her more attention than any other girl at school, and it becomes quickly known that he treats her with a different attitude than he does most girls.  As Megan becomes intertwined with one of the bad boys of the DeRis family, she learns more about herself and the world around her than she can ever imagine.  Megan will soon come to realize that what she learns is far bigger than a teenage love story, and that the consequences could spell danger to them all.

Readers will like Megan overall.  She has a zeal about her, and she's by no means depressed or overly angsty the way some other PNR heroines can seem.  The voice is lighter than expected, really, and though it isn't funny, it works for the narrative.  Megan starts out the book like many other heroines of her type.  She's new to the area, falls for the school's resident mysterious-hottie-hot-hot-boy and discovers that he has secrets.  Like, capital 's' Secrets.  This means that Megan's growth really revolves around her discovery of who Adam is and, as a resultant, who she is.  What's interesting is that Megan's growth is more defined by an evenness of the playing field.  She doesn't merely become a catalyst but part of the catalyst.  The way the world-building works, Adam and Megan are effectively of similar ability and placement in the world, and it allows her growth to seem more even and progressive than one would see in other paranormals.  Because Megan's growth is so directly related to the plot, however, her character growth emotionally is lacking.  Her biggest issue involves Adam.  Once they become codependent and in love, Megan really doesn't change much because the plot focuses simply on the world-building and the tension heightening for the romance.  The plot-heaviness of the second half of the book deterred her character growth and that bugged me more than I expected it to.

To go in another direction, though, I did find the secondary characters more interesting than expected.  There are a lot of character 'types' here, especially when you consider the hero, but they work much better than one would imagine.  Adam is pretty standard in terms of a YA paranormal romance hero.  He has an initial side of mystery and brooding to him, but underneath that is a character that is very loving and protective (thought thankfully not overly so) of the person that he loves.  I found myself quite happy with Adam.  He doesn't stand out much or go beyond the heroic mold that the genre has come to produce, but yet he is very loving and a nice (if simplistic) escapist tool for the reader.  Rian is arguably much more interesting, partially because he is not a part of a love triangle with Adam and Megan.  Rian is just angry and prone to more temper tantrums than most of the characters, and I have to admit that I found the violence amusing.  He reminded me a bit of Rosalie from Twilight, but more expanded upon.   Aine was sweet and caring towards Megan.  I liked her well enough.  I liked Fionn as well.  He plays the role of guardian well, and his backstory alone endears him more to the reader's sensibilities than one would initially imagine.  However, I wanted more from the family as the story progressed because of how everything was structured.  Pseudo-family structures like this have popped up in so many YA paranormals since Twilight (Starcrossed, Die for Me, ect.) and overall I tend to find the characters interesting, but Carrier of the Mark loses some of the build-up and steam to the characters involved in comparison to those other reads.

What surprised me (in a good way, mind you) was how there were character presences beyond the family.  Granted, they got shafted in the latter half of the book like everything else.  Considering how little I see of friendships and socialization in YA PNR though, I found it to be nice.  Megan gets a solid group of friends that is present in a good portion of Carrier of the Mark.  Caitlin is her most prominent friend, and I remember her the most out of the various students.  Her personality wasn't as fleshed out as I would have liked it to be, but it was so nice to see Megan deal with a friendship along with her relationship.  She actually was a friend to Caitlin before she started dating Adam, and her group of friends and her friendships mattered to her on some level.  It got sidelined during the second portion of the book, but she still had to worry about her interactions with Caitlin and keep from becoming a total recluse in the name of love.  That kind of friendship aspect usually appeals to me, and it's one of the few executions of the plot that stood out to me as being realistic and surprising in its enjoyment factor.

Realistic friendships aside, Fallon's writing runs into some major issues when it comes to the world-building and plot movement.  Fallon writes to the paranormal YA formula pretty well - hence all of the Twilight comparisons being seen in various reviews (including my own) - but that also means that her concepts and world-building have to be well done and original in order to stand out.  Fallon gets points for originality, as she uses the concept of the elements in ways that I didn't expect, but she loses points for execution.  Positively, one can say that she has created a really complex idea of the world that she wants to show.  There's a lot of information and complexity to Carrier of the Mark in that regard.  Destinies, prophecies, ancient orders, supernatural's a potpourri of tropes that manages to work out into something pretty in-depth and beyond my initial expectations.  Readers will be initially put off by the amount of information that Fallon seeks to show to the reader within the dialogue and exposition of the text, but they'll find it interesting and quite unlike Twilight after that.  It's what differentiated the book from its predecessors.  In some ways, it reminded me of Torn by Ericka O'Rourke, which also uses elemental powers, although I felt the world-building in The Carrier of the Mark to be a little more excessive in explanation than needed.

So, you may ask, where does this go sour?  In my reading, I immediately found that halfway point to be the breaking point for my pure enjoyment of the novel.  The world-building has indeed been thought out to a fairly complicated scope because of the various supernatural laws and relationships, but Fallon's novel maximizes it to the point where the reader just doesn't care.  The second half of this book caused a major shift in the enjoyment of the reading.  The relationships became stagnant in wake of the plot, and the plot itself didn't move forward so much as get info-dumped for almost two hundred pages.  Entire chapters would have pages of dialogue explaining some detail of the world-building.  Every chapter had something new to add on, and the relationships between one fact and the next seemed to blur as the book became a constant stream of info-dumping peppered with scenes of actual characterization in between facts.  It all just screamed of something that wasn't a polished story.  Info-dumping I can forgive if it is one or two times and relatively short, but the info-dumping in Carrier of the Mark was beyond excessive, and it slowed down the reading process exponentially.  The book picked up somewhat at the end, and the world and the characters left the story with enough questions to make me consider reading the next book, but the unevenness of the pacing completely balanced out how I was enjoying the initial storyline and characters.

Carrier of the Mark is such a mixture of enjoyment and frustration.  I liked some aspects a lot - they appealed to my reasons for liking the genre, after all - but the execution of the paranormal elements threw a huge wrench into the reading experience.  I left the book with a bad taste because of it, and I'm still not sure where I stand on book two.  I believe that I will read it to see where it goes and hope for improvement, but I think it's safe to say that I'm lowering some of my initial hopes should I read on.  There's also the matter of the recent authorial behavior.  I found that irrelevant to tackling the book as a whole, and I had all of these thoughts long before that came into play.  It is worth saying that I was less ambivalent about continuing the series before it occurred, though.  Readers will find it satisfying if they want something that stays with genre conventions and has a unique world to it, but they'll have to be able to get past the technical malfunctions of the plot in order to truly enjoy it.

Cover:  This cover is so wonderful.  Yes, it does have a girl and an angst-pose on it, but it looks fabulous and dark.  I really do enjoy it.

Rating:  2.5  Stars

Copy:  Received from publisher/publicist for review  (Thank you, Heather and Harper Collins!)

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roro said...

tnx 4 the review
maybe i'll read it

Alison Can Read said...

Great review. I liked this a little more than you, but I understand all your issues. I'm the opposite - I didn't like it the first half and then liked the second half. I really liked the world building.
I also saw Rian as being like Rosalie. I must say that I loved the big family.