The Charismatics by Ashley R. Carlson is a debut novel, and the the first book in the Charismatics series. It tells the story of Duchess Ambrose Killaher and her fight to find a place in the land of Legalia. She’s recently been married to a Duke who clearly despises her and she has been placed into a puppet’s board position in Legalia’s government. She longs to do more to help the desperate lower class but isn’t sure how, and her only companion and true friend is Roan, her invisible “animal familiar,” if you will. Over the course of The Charismatics, Ambrose comes into her own, finding new friends and making a difference in her community.
Since I have some mixed feelings about this one, I’m splitting up my review a bit. There were a lot of elements I really enjoyed, as well as a couple prevailing issues that kept distracting me from the compelling plot.
What I liked: The plot sucked me in within the first chapter. I really was reminded of The Hunger Games and The Golden Compass as the synopsis implies, and I loved the idea of the Charismatics, those born with supernatural abilities. The writing was also very charismatic, which kept me from putting the book down for too long. Along with the plot, the natural aspects were wonderful! I loved the descriptions of Shinery’s frozen peaks, the Badenheim forest, and the rainbow oceans of Archipegalos.
“Beautiful, Lady,” Roan says quietly now, when I’m finished. I scoop him up and bury my face in his downy fur.
“He doesn’t want me,” I whisper. “He doesn’t love me.”
“But I do.”
Ambrose was a compelling character, and I LOVED Roan, her invisible, shape-shifting companion. He was an amazing friend, and their relationship was so natural that for a while I was hoping that he was somehow human and would be transformed into her love interest. There were so many good characters in this story; these were definitely highlights of the story.
What distracted me: This read a bit like a debut novel. There were so many ideas! I wish Carlson had separated them out to make three novels instead of one! Here’s an example of what I mean. The land of Legalia has all of the following: solstice festivals, “elected” monarchy, ballgowns, elevators, steam-powered dirigibles for air travel, radio, fairy-created technology, televisions, national news broadcasts, nuclear reactions, and people born with magical abilities. The world of The Charismatics had elements from so many sub-genres that I began to get lost in it all.
A related, but different, issue was that Ambrose and Vasser’s relationship felt a bit forced to me. There was a lot of declaring and little showing of the depth of their growing relationship. The situation with Giselle seemed especially strange.
All in all: I finished this book knowing that I wanted to read the sequel, mostly because I REALLY want to know what happens with the plot and all of the characters I’ve come to like. Here’s hoping for the sequel!
(This ARC was provided through Net Galley for an honest review.)