Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult

Review: Penumbra by Kat Micari

Penumbra book cover
Image from Kat Micari; used by permission

Title: Penumbra

Author: Kat Micari

Genre: Paranormal

Fed up with the dirty city and a disenchanting life as a fashion model, Beauty’s world is at least safe. But the illusion of safety shatters the night that she frees herself from her self-imposed fears only to be thrust into the magical underbelly of the city, where forces that want to save humanity and evil beings that want to feed off humanity’s despair fight for balance and power. Forced from the comforts and the trappings of her old life, hunted by a cadre of sinister, rat-faced businessmen, Beauty’s only hope is to join with a strange magical ally. Together, with the help of fae creatures in unlikely guises, they must seek out an enchanted, improbable artifact that can heal the city before evil tips the balance, once and for all.

I picked up this book because of the interesting angle – a paranormal featuring a fashion model. I enjoy a good hidden-magic-world-hiding-underneath-real-one story like Paranormalcy, and books with models a la Meg Cabot’s Airhead. So I decided to give Penumbra a shot.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this book.

To start with, it was short. As in, 45 pages on my Nook short. And I was a little nervous about starting it, because I was pretty sure a paranormal novel this short would be terrible.

I swear Penumbra made every beginning writer mistake in the book. Hardly any character development, too-easy plot, unrealistic bad guys, all showing and no telling. But somehow…it worked.

I’m not saying that just to be nice – I don’t do that. This is why I’m not sure what to make of this book. It broke every rule. Every one. All showing and no telling, but the terse, distant narrating style was somehow perfect for this story. Hardly any character development, but enough that anything more would have seemed extraneous. Unrealistic bad guys, but they fit right into the highly unusual story. Too-easy resolution…well, that’s the one thing I think could have been better. I think Beauty’s journey should have been more difficult.

Penumbra is so unconventional, I can’t even do my regular neat discussion of characters, plot, writing, and little details that stood out. Everything is so tied together, I have to discuss it as a whole.

This is one of those books that makes me glad I don’t use a rating system, because it’s just too hard to rate. I enjoyed the read. It was a quick, very dark paranormal short story (I think it feels more like a long short story than a novel or even a novella). It broke every rule in the book, but it worked. Don’t ask me how or why, but it did.

My overall feeling when I finished Penumbra was bafflement. As in, how could Kat Micari break so many of the rules and still have a good story? (In case you can’t tell, I’m still not sure what to make of it.)

I received a free review copy of Penumbra from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

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