I saw someone in my feed post a status update today about hating books that you might have otherwise liked because of the main character and - um, yup, feeling that pretty hard right now. AIR AWAKENS was one of the most frustrating books I've read in a while because it had a lot of potential, but a lot of that potential was squandered away on Vhalla, the Worst Heroine in the World.
AIR AWAKENS is very similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender in that it takes place in a fantasy land where certain people have magic powers, each based on one of the four elements. Each part of the world is known for possessing a certain type of these magical powers and yup, air, the rarest, was wiped out by an enemy kingdom and our heroine, Vhalla, is the Last Airbender. Oops, I mean Airwalker. She finds this out by complete accident due to her magic powers oozing themselves like magic snot all over an envelope that finds its way into the hands of a trained sorcerer, who then pays her a little visit and patiently walks her through her powers and explains to her who and what she is -
LOL jk, the sorcerer is Prince Aldrik and he pretends to be the Phantom of the Library (no, seriously, he signs his notes "Phantom") and leaves her little notes in the books that she's reading that are half-insult, half-hints at greater knowledge he won't share. When he finally introduces himself to her in person, he asks her if she's ever masturbated before (no, seriously) and then pushes her off a roof.
The argument for this is that her falling is necessary to be Awoken ... but she doesn't float to the bottom or anything with her air magic. She literally hits every spire and roof on her way down and is in so much pain from her bruised, broken, and fractured everythings that the sorcerers have to use magic to heal her. Aldrik later tells her that he only did it because they have a ~bond~ and he knew she wasn't going to die, just get hurt, and if he'd known how badly she would have been hurt, he wouldn't have done it - but then he insults her some more and gets mad at her for not wanting to be #TeamMagic despite the RoofGate incident which... is one thing I'll give Vhalla. I would not exactly want to be #TeamMagic either if some self-righteous a-hole sexually harassed me + tried to murder me, even if it was "for my own good." But anyway, the deed is done. Vhalla has magic now -
Only she doesn't want it. And here's where my big issue with AIR AWAKENS (e.g. Vhalla) comes into play. Vhalla does nothing but whine, cry, complain, sulk, pout, cower, when she's not making moony eyes at her not one, not two, but three love interests. She is the most useless waste of space. The way she treats her alleged friends, Sareem and Roan, is disgusting. She whines and cries so much and threatens to give up her magic (called Eradication) to the point where her would-be magic tutor allows her to take a ridiculously long time to decide whether she wants training because Vhalla is such a special snowflake and such an overall pleasant person to be around, of course he would do her this solid. Probably he just wanted to postpone having contact with her as long as possible. Her personality can be described in one word: books. If there's a book around, Vhalla is going to tell you about how much she wants to read it, and if a person's around (unless it's Aldrik), Vhalla is going to tell you about how she'd rather be reading a book than talking to that person. I get that she's a library apprentice, but this "my whole personality is books" thing feels very lazy to me, and was overused way too much to make up for her lack of other hobbies or personality traits (besides bitchiness).
Also, her romance with Aldrik came out of the blue, honestly. I thought she had a crush on Baldair but no, as soon as she gets over the RoofGate incident (it takes like one day) they become BFFs and have lunch dates and garden parties and sketch under the sunset, even though he called her a worm after he nearly killed her. But honestly, any clout he gets for being a fancy lunch date disappears when Vhalla is framed for treason and held on trial and Aldrik just sits on his royal heiney and does nothing while Vhalla stares at him with big helpless eyes and cries some more. Oh, and the reason she was framed in the first place was because she didn't listen when Aldrik told her not to run into danger, saying, "I'LL SAVE THE DAY WITH THAT MAGIC I HAVEN'T TRAINED WITH YET BECAUSE I'M A BIG STUPID LOSER WHO DOESN'T DESERVE AN OWL OR A HOGWARTS LETTER!" gets to the scene of the danger, realizes she can't do anything, and cries for Aldrik to save her - which he does, because love interest. I was honestly kind of glad when she got tortured, tbh. I spent most of the book wanting to punch her in the face and then at the end someone does it for me.
I hear the series gets better as it goes on, so maybe this is a debut author problem. I noticed a lot of technical errors as well, such as words being used incorrectly or incorrect tense usage, whereas in the author's Loom saga, the quality and style of the writing was objectively better. New book, new you. The problem for me was that AIR AWAKENS was so hyped that my expectations were very high. I read a lot of fantasy and have very particular preferences of what I like, and it didn't help that I'd just read another fantasy romance novel about elemental magic right before this one called THE FIRE-LORD'S LOVER that was so much better. I ended up comparing the two unfavorably the whole time.
On a positive note, there were a few things I did like. Kova doesn't shirk from violence and she knows how to use it in a way that adds dramatic effect without feeling gratuitous. Some of her scenery descriptions are lovely (and more in line with what I expected from this book after reading Loom which I'm thinking now might have had a better editor), and I also liked that Vhalla isn't a virgin when we first meet her. It's refreshing to see heroines that have experimented with sex before meeting the love interest. I'm thinking part of the reason this book is so popular is that the audience reading it seems to be younger and not romance- or fantasy-genre readers, but YA-genre readers, so they're happier with taking things at face value rather than demanding explanations and back story for everything (like me). I know I'm pickier than most and sometimes this makes me look like a jerk when it comes to how I rate, but that's how I am. Your mileage may vary (and odds are, it will vary for the better). If you're a fan of books like CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and THRONE OF GLASS (both of which I hated, FYI), you'll probably like this. Also, the cover's pretty. So there's that.
2 out of 5 stars