Yay, a Freebook Friday! It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these!
Before we start, there’s a new chapter of How To Reverse the Polarity up today! Go check it out, cause the plot is thickening!
Phantoms in Philadelphia by Amalie Vantana is a YA historical fiction piece set in the early 1800’s. It is abook about a group of child-spies, many of whom are now grown.
WHY I PICKED IT UP:
I love period pieces, and post-colonial America seems a fascinating setting. Plus, it’s free on Smashwords!
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT:
The prologue starts with a lovely scene involving one of the main characters encountering her informant under the guise of a romantic tryst. I really liked how she mentally recoils when they kiss, but forces herself to act so she can squeeze him for info. But shit quickly gets real when she finds he sold her out.
Vantana knows how to build tension and her pacing during the tense scenes is spot on.
I also like the sporadic historical references.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER:
While Vantana’s tense scenes are well written and well paced, she unfortunately has some expository problems. Yes, after our stellar opening, we get info-dumped and nothing happens for a while. Some of it was necessary information, but she devotes a few pages to providing secondary character names, appearances, and backstories, only to have our heroine leave all the secondary characters behind and have another awesome, tense scene on her own right afterward.
So what was the point of introducing them right then? Easily half of what she dumped on us through narrative exposition could have come out gently later in dialogue or action.
THIS is a great post on how to use dialogue to exposit naturally.
My only other beef is with the premise of child spies, but I’m torn about it: Child spies are plausible and probably practical. This book strikes me because all their adults are dead, leaving the main characters alone at 18-19. I know it’s a thing in YA to have no parents around, but it breaks the fourth wall for me in this case. I wish there was at least ONE person who checks on them or directs them, or something. A ‘Charlie to their Angels,’ if you will. Either that or I wish they’d addressed a little more what it’s like to be that age and head of your own house. It feels a bit glossed over with a general, “It sucks,” statement.
I’m gonna give this one a bit more time to win me over, because it definitely has some potential—the premise is good, it defies some conventions, and the author shows some skill—I’ll check back when I’ve finished reading (at the end of the book or before).
So go see for yourself! It’s FREE! And tell me how YOU like it in a comment!