Title: The Lotus Effect (Rise of the Ardent #1)
Author: Bridget Ladd
Published: July 2013
This book is the first in a series. It introduces some neat ideas, with some not fully fleshed out in this book. I’m guessing that those unresolved plot lines will be spun out through the balance of the series.
Although I tend to run the other direction from dystopian books, this one had several factors that drew me in. First was the cover art, which is beautiful. When I looked closer, the word “steampunk” caught me. Then I saw a synopsis describing a woman renouncing her position of power and privilege to become a fighter. Okay, I had to check that out.
Characterization and badassery
Lily Emerson starts out as a pampered member of the elite. At this early point, she’s aware that there are inequalities and injustices in her world, and she’s not a big fan of them. She gets pissed off during her coronation ceremony and instead of going through with it, she performs some likely suicidal grandstanding. At that moment, she ceases to be a docile sheep among the elite and becomes, essentially, a freedom fighter. It’s a darn shame that the only athletic skill she has is the gentle art of dance. (Which, as it’s presented, is humorous.)
Fortunately she meets up with Xander, who keeps her alive and prepares her to compete in the death battle she’s volunteered herself for. Thanks to him, she might be able to avoid going squish as soon as the battle starts. (Well, she does get pretty dented early on but she does some squishing of her own too.)
Overall, Lily proves herself to be determined, tough, and willing to lose everything just to make a point. Badass? Foolhardy? Kind of both, but in a way that works. This is YA and it’s just realistic that young adults are both idealistic and naive.
Plot and pacing
This book was long. The scenes were all well-paced, but the book itself balanced between this volume’s plot line and some overarching plot lines for the entire series. As a result, the story did get just a touch muddled and there was a sense that the story didn’t advance as steadily as it should. The first book in a series can be tough to balance perfectly.
And okay, I’ll address the similarity to The Hunger Games. This was distracting in the beginning, when the similarity was strongest. There is a ruling elite that manages the non-elite with a murderous, iron fist. There are 8 different sectors. There is a public drawing. And there is a periodic battle among contestants from each sector. This book is not a variation on The Hunger Games. The battle is a driving force in this book, but it is not a central element for the series as a whole.
Prose and editing
I liked the prose. It was descriptive and on point. I had a very good sense of the steampunk elements and the world itself. Even something simple like a wrought iron pattern comes alive with a real sense of what I’m seeing. Lily’s fascination with an item in her home reminded me of my own childish fascinations with particular items. This commonality between her and me gave me a better sense of knowing her
On the other hand, there were editing issues. Words like “decent” instead of “descent” and shutter instead of shudder. There were a lot of issues with apostrophes. It’s the kind of stuff that needs a human editor to catch. I did not catch any continuity or logic errors, which is good. Those are far more difficult to correct than simple word swaps.
The humor is occasional and mild. It’s generally a serious book, other than some secondary character comic relief.
“To change the system, I needed something more. Something brave. Something…stupid.”
This was a big effort, taken on boldly. There were a few too many ideas than there was space to fit them in this one book. As a result, the ending prompted a number of cliffhangers. On the bright side, book two in the series is already available, so a reader can just leap right into the next book.
The concept of the book is good and it plays out well. The steampunk elements were particularly evocative, and perhaps the thing I liked most. For me to make it all the way through something so long, it has to keep giving me reasons to continue reading, and The Lotus Effect did. I liked the mix of technology, physical prowess, and the hint of a magical something-or-other.
I do not hide the fact that I am picky about books and a hard grader, so don’t let my nitpicks get in the way of the main point. I really enjoyed this book. I recommend it, as I recommend all of the books on this blog.