Book Review – Prismatic by Sarah Elle Emm

Prismatic by Sarah Elle Emm

I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. Part or all of this review may be quoted elsewhere without my express permission so long as “Writer’s Block Party” or “Lisa Taylor” is given credit with a link back to this post.

Back Cover Description:

Rare glimpses of birds are the only reminder of the freedoms Rain Hawkins once had. Now segregated into a mixed-race zone within the United Zones of the Authority, under tyrannical rule of President Nicks, Rain is forced to endure the bleak conditions set upon her. The possibility of a way out arises when Rain discovers an organized resistance called The Freedom Front, and learns that she, along with many other multi-racial people, has special abilities. Determined to overcome her situation, Rain sets out on a mission with the resistance that will fill her life with wonder, romance, and the undying hope for a better world.

My Review:

Prismatic is the story of Rain and her friends, who at the beginning of the book, are being placed in a “Mixed Race Zone” by the dictator, “President” Nicks. All races are divided into zones, but most are treated halfway decently. Mixed races, however, are considered by this new government to be inferior and so live in extremely harsh conditions. Rain, a teenage girl, and her young brother Daktari, have lived in the Mixed Race zone with their parents for four years when the story really begins.

Rain meets Jabari, the man she is clearly meant to be with. She is attracted to him immediately, but she gets a whole lot more than just a new boyfriend. Jabari has started The Freedom Front, a small rebel group of teenagers determined to overthrow this new, oppressive government. But that’s not all…apparently those of mixed ethnicity have powers to varying degrees. These abilities aid the kids in their quest to begin a revolution.

The idea for this story is just great, and I was extremely excited to read it. I liked the characters and loved the concept. I also love the cover, although now that I’ve finished the book I don’t get the connection of the title “prismatic” or the graphic on the front to the story. The relationship between Rain and Jabari was, while sometimes cheesy, something that paranormal romance fans will eat up. The female characters are strong and the relationships balanced. I also found Jabari’s two friends, the comical duo, to be extremely entertaining and I honestly thought Zi and Daktari’s barely perceptible relationship was the best developed of all of them.

There were a few specific things that really held this book back for me though.

First, it was extremely wordy. While there were no typos, I feel like this book must not have gone through a professional editor. Often times two or three paragraphs said the same thing over and over. Sentences were unnecessarily long and complicated to state simple ideas, and lots of passive voice (was doing vs. did) sometimes held the action back. I felt like I was being told about the action after the fact, I didn’t feel like I was IN the action.  It was written very conversationally. Things that we say like “try and” instead of “try to” aren’t as noticeable in speech, but really drove me nuts in the writing.

Second, things seemed to work out far too easily. I feel like this book could have been longer and had so much more “edge of your seat” action if things had gone wrong once in a while and the kids had to think on their feet. Throughout the book, they plan these missions they have to accomplish (stealing fuel, sneaking out of their zone, etc.). When they execute the plan, the mission goes quickly and without a lot of action because it always works. If anything does go wrong, it’s an easy fix, and only takes a few sentences of uncertainty before the problem is solved. Now this is the first of a series, so I don’t know how complicated the rebellion will get…but so far, it hasn’t been too difficult which I find a bit boring.

This book would go from just okay to great if: 1) the author had gone through and made the sentences action-oriented and to the point (made every sentence move the story forward). That would make it much shorter. And then 2) beefed it back up with more obstacles and action and plot points.

So, the book didn’t drag me in and force me to stay up reading. But, even with the problems I mentioned, I never had a hard time picking it up either. I did want to know what happened, and if I can nab a free copy of the second one to review, I probably will just because I know that writing improves significantly with every book a writer tackles. So we’ll see what happens with the second book. For the series as a whole, I’m reserving judgment.

Still, we all like different things about our stories, so if this sounds like a book you’d like, pick up a copy and see what you think!


About Lisa Taylor

Hello! I'm an author, and in my time as an author I've realized that there are thousands of authors out there that just don't get the attention they deserve. So I'm hosting this "Writer's Block Party" so you can get to know the people that create the stories we all love!
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4 Responses to Book Review – Prismatic by Sarah Elle Emm

  1. mliddle says:

    Hi Lisa!
    My main question while reading your review was how do self-published books (& their authors) improve their 2nd book?
    I assumed this book was self-published because you mentioned that the book didn’t seem to be professionally edited (you said that portions seemed repetitive). If Sarah had not asked you (and other reviewers) to read & honestly review her book, she would not receive feedback about her book other than her betareaders and via Amazon/B & N reviewers? Based on your review, could we assume that perhaps her beta readers were not as helpful/thorough? Also, either she had a poor editor or she had no professional editor? So, without honest reviews from this book, better beta readers AND a professional editor on her second book, it would be difficult for her 2nd book to improve because Sarah would not know what the issues/problems would be.
    My reason for these questions/observations is to know as much as possible about the self-publishing process so that I may create the best book I can.

    Thanks for the post –
    P.s. You mentioned above that Sarah wrote in passive voice a lot (was doing vs did). My understanding of passive voice is that the object of the sentence becomes the subject. For example: “Rachel was blessed by Archbishop Johann.” (passive) vs. “Achbishop Johann blessed Rachel.” (active) I think what you cited above was an example of past progressive (aka past continuous) “was doing” vs simple past tense of “did.” I hope you don’t mind that I mentioned this. 🙂

    • Lisa Taylor says:

      Thanks for commenting Monique!

      Well, Monique, I think the biggest help will be if I go back and add quotes from the book as examples for each thing I talked about. I am at work now, without access to the book, but within the next few days I’m going to go back and do exactly that, since I realize my criticisms are a bit abstract without examples to go on. Also, that way others can offer differing opinions if they’d like.

      But a writer doesn’t NEED a professional editor to get better at writing. It does make it easier, of course, but if they do lots of research and read many different sources on what makes good writing good, they can make the judgment themselves. One easy thing to do is count amount of times the “to be” verb is used in some way. I use to find the common editing mistakes like “to be” verbs, adverbs, etc. Another useful method is, for the most common words, use the find feature to find each occurrence and highlight each one, or ask your beta reader to highlight words that repeat many times within a few sentences. Then, when you go back and look at the manuscript, some of the repetitive portions stick out. I also learned a lot from a book at my local library called “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” by Roy Peter Clark, and there are tons of similar books out there. Probably the best thing to do is to let the manuscript sit for a month, then go back and read it out loud to yourself. You can find a lot of awkward phrasing that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Sarah did many of these things, and I’m sure she’s a great writer. But even great writers have to have new pairs of eyes look over their work. After knowing the story so well, and reading it for so long, your brain can skip right over repetitions or awkward phrases without ever seeing them. I’m just not convinced that someone who was really objective and a good editor/writer gave it a careful read through, and if they did, they weren’t that helpful. Again, over the next couple days, I’ll put in examples of why I say that. Oh, and another good way to evaluate your own writing is to pick up traditionally published, vetted books from a bookstore, and go through those. Highlight all the instances of “to be” verbs. Highlight “-ing” verbs, common phrases, etc. and see how much all that sticks out in the book versus in your manuscript.

      (And I probably didn’t explain the passive voice as well as I meant to…I said “was doing” versus “did” to show the use of the verb “to be,” and didn’t really pay attention to the tense change, present to past. What you say is exactly what I meant… “Rachel was blessed by Archbishop Johann” puts the reader looking back after the action, versus “Archbishop Johann blessed Rachel” puts the reader IN the action. Of course every review is opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt, but I’ve found the majority of readers prefer the second option.)

      All that said, this is my review and my opinion alone. No one should judge a book based any one opinion, but instead should seek out lots of opinions and look for common themes in them. I’m by no means an expert on writing and my ideas of “good writing” are not the only good ideas. I’m just hoping my comments, added with many others, will amount to something helpful 🙂

  2. Prismatic was not a self-published book and a lot of things mentioned were style related. There are things in this review that I think are a great growth opportunity for the author. Writing does indeed grow as authors grow. Some of it is also preference and and expectation for each individual reader. I personally enjoyed this book and you have to remember too that it is a YA book so it is geared for a bit of a younger audience. Prismatic for me was exciting and left quite the cliff-hanger at the end. I look forward to the sequel. 🙂

    • Lisa Taylor says:

      Thanks for commenting Jess! Exactly like I just said in reply to Monique…no lone review can give a fair picture of a book. The whole point of reviews is to gather enough opinions that patterns emerge…No book in the world can make everyone happy 🙂

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