I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The book started a bit slow, and I kind of had a hard time warming up to Madeline, Brandon and Thomas, but I was reading this as a review copy so I wanted to be sure I gave them a fair chance to grow on me. It took me a few days to read the first several chapters of the book, but once everyone got settled in an the story really got going, I read the rest in just a few hours – it hooked me that well.
The three characters have known each other for years: Brandon is Thomas’s younger brother and Madeline’s best friend, while Thomas is her erstwhile boyfriend with a tendency to wander. Madeline suffers from epilepsy and has a history of absence seizures, where she will become non a responsive and stare off into space. Kids at school, of course, treat her differently as a result, something that only gets worse when she begins to have seizures where she shakes violently and collapses unconscious.
When we first meet her, Madeline wakes up in an empty, derelict hospital with no electricity and no clue to what she’s doing there or why it’s in the condition it is. She leaves her room to try to figure out what’s going on when she runs into Thomas who explains that she’s been in a coma and has been since the day her parents were killed. Before she can get too many more answers, though, she experiences her first major seizure and wakes up in her expected classroom, assuming what she’d just seen was a seizure-triggered dream. When it happens again after another major seizure, she starts to become more confused.
In both worlds, Brandon and Thomas are the main forces in her life, and while she’s trying to cope with the confusion of her dual realities, the brothers – though trying to be supportive – cause a whole different level of confusion as they try to define, or maybe redefine, their relationships with her and, to an extent, with each other.
I really liked the mix of apocalyptic-level drama contrasted with the typical teenaged angst boys and girls put each other through. It helped make the more dangerous aspects of the dystopian world stand out from the more mundane issues she had to cope with in the peaceful world. It was also interesting to see how her interactions with the two versions of the brothers impacted how she dealt with them amid the changes they were sometimes unintentionally throwing her way. I also liked seeing how information she’d gain in one reality could be useful in the other.
The book ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, so I’m hoping the next installment will be ready fairly soon! I really am glad I stuck with it – “Altar of Reality” is a nicely told story with several dimensions to it, and a believable heroine just trying to figure out a very strange situation.
Intriguing start to a new series
I have to admit, the reason I initially picked up this book is simply because my husband’s nickname is Nyghtfall, and it made me curious about the book, so I had no real expectations for the story. I ended up liking it quite a bit. I usually have 3 or 4 books I’m working my way through at any given time, but this one was interesting, fast-paced and good enough that I read it almost straight through.
The story is set in an alternate, dystopian reality where society is primarily controlled by the Knights of the Four Orders: Templars, Teutonics, Hospitaliers and Inquisitors. In the not-too-distant past, humanity had fought a war against the Nephelim – a race of half a human / half-angelic beings that essentially function like vampires with wings – which ended with the destruction of the Nephelim. Also in the mix are humans with “parapowers” known as Zeniths. Because their powers are feared, Zeniths are socially ostracized and politically oppressed. Against this backdrop we meet Scarlett Night, her uber-cool parents and her best friend Jax. When her parents are attacked, however, Scarlett learns that not everything is at it seems, and finds that she and Jax are no longer safe. With that our story its off and running.
Though the initial setup follows a well-worn path, once the action befins, the story really starts to come into its own. The world-building is nicely done – and done without any excessive infodumps. Meeting with the heads of the Four Orders gives an idea of what each Order is like, and the general atmosphere is communicated by how people act and what our heroes observe. The history of the war its likewise presented more through dialogue without just tossing a big history lesson into the middle of the action.
I really only had a couple of issues with the book, none of which are major, but they did have an impact on my enjoyment.. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories – in part because there are just so many of them coming out these days. When I realized the Nephelim are, for all intents and purposes, vampires, I felt a bit “tricked” by the authors. I suppose in some ways its not a bad approach, since I might have skipped the book if is known that’s what they were, but it still irked me a bit. I will say, though, that the Nephelim seen to be without some off the typical vampire tropes that have led to my disliking them: They aren’t automatically evil, nor are the overly sexual. Personality-wise, so far, at least, they seem mostly like normal humans, which is rather nice.
There are several references to a Nephelim named Nyx. Most references to Nyx use a male pronoun, but at least once the female pronoun is used. Nyx is also referred to as both a god of the Nephelim and the name is also described as being “used” by their leader, so perhaps the god is one gender (traditionally, Nyx is the Greek goddess of night) and the leader is the other, but it really wasn’t clear.
Lastly, I found myself surprised when the book ended. It felt like like the players had just gotten all of their pieces set and were about to begin the game when the emcee came out, thanked everyone for a lovely evening and invited us all back in a few weeks for more.
As I said, they’re really fairly minor issues and I will certainly be tuning back in when the game continues. Overall is a fun read and I’m very interested to see where the story will be taking us.