Overall Rating: 

Cover Rating: 3/10 Ineffective. Though I loved the illustration of the crow perched on the three-eyed skull, the cover as a whole strikes me as aggressively unsatisfactory. The orange-ish red of the parchment/leather background is too saturated, giving it an almost cartoonish feel. The placement of the title, author’s name, and tagline are simply ineffective. The tagline is basically illegible, the title looks like an after-thought, and the author’s name is difficult to read. While it may look decent in print, this cover is ineffective for the ebook market.

I was excited when the author reached out to me with a YA Paranormal novel. I figured this book would be right up my alley. Then I saw the cover and flinched. But the synopsis was interesting enough that I decided to put aside the bad first impression and follow the wisdom of not judging a book by its cover. I agreed to give it a try. Unfortunately, the inside was only mildly better than the cover.

I always have the best intentions when I start a book. I always want to love it. But I just could not love this book.

The book begins with the introduction of a highly unlikable main character, 17-year-old Annie Murphy. Annie sees (“Sees” in the novel) premonitions. Annie is rough around the edges and rude to everyone. I mean everyone. Her family, other students, the cops, even people who help her – she turns right around and threatens. She is rude and disrespectful and then acts surprised when people are rude to her in return. It was really difficult to like the book when I couldn’t stand the main character.

The book begins with Annie harassing her brother’s girlfriend, Artemis, who is about to do something Annie believes she should not. What she is about to do and why she shouldn’t do it is not explained. Even 65% of the way through the book, it is not explained what exactly Artemis was planning to do or why it was a bad thing. Artemis is introduced as the stereotypical spoiled, queen bee, rich girl, while Annie is the stereotypical loner outcast with a chip on her shoulder. Annie swears like a sailor and has no respect for authority. She is basically dripping with teenage angst and not the least bit charming. If it weren’t for her gift of foresight, she wouldn’t have even been interesting. She tends to cause most of her own problems and is so self-absorbed it made me want to scream.

The author tries to show that Annie is morally better than Artemis with a scene in which Annie defends a girl Artemis is bullying. It falls flat, however, and only really succeeds in showing that Annie is angry and unstable. Annie absolutely hates Artemis, but her motivation for hating her isn’t clear. Sure, Artemis is your stereotypical mean girl, but Annie doesn’t exactly seem to be very nice either. In fact, Annie manages to insult, belittle, betray, and hurt a lot more characters than Artemis.

So Annie tries to stop Artemis and fails. Artemis does the thing she shouldn’t have done (it’s about that vague in the book, too). The next day, Artemis acts strange and then goes missing, and the plot takes off. Annie’s brother might be the suspect. The detective on the case is the same detective that sent Annie’s father to prison for murdering her mother. And Annie discovers a nearby inn run by witches who may have connections not only to Artemis’ disappearance but to the death of Annie’s mother as well.

The book is told in first person perspective, which the author seems to struggle with. The perspective jumps into omniscience occasionally. Annie plucks new character’s names out of thin air without properly learning them (this happens at least three times). As a reader, it left me going “Wait, what? Who is this character? When were they introduced? Did I miss something?” While spying on characters, concealed and further away, she is able to describe exactly what they’re doing and feeling in unrealistically intimate detail. It’s easy to forget at times that Annie is the narrator. Sure, this may be another aspect of her poorly-defined premonition powers, but I highly doubt it. Rather, it seems instead like the author isn’t quite comfortable actually anchoring the story to Annie’s perspective.

Pros: Despite the flaws in the storytelling, the story itself is interesting and exciting. It will keep you guessing until the end and gasping in surprise with each new reveal.

Cons: From the cover to the continuation errors to the grammatical errors to the use of a drawing as the author photo, Crows basically advertises itself as a new author’s first attempt at self-publishing. I don’t think it was professionally edited (if it was, the author needs to replace her editor). In fact, I don’t think the author even read the whole book beginning to end. If she had, she might have noticed issues like Johnny taking a swig from his drink, then watching Beatrice suspiciously before carefully taking a sip of his own drink. Huh? I did not like Annie. I thought she was rude, vulgar, and selfish. I didn’t like her so much that it was hard to finish the book. I didn’t really like any of the characters, which made it very difficult to care what happened to them.

Favorite Quote: “When you play with evil, it plays with you.”

Now I can hear some of my readers going “Wow! This review is harsh! She’s a first-time author. She’s self-published. Give her a break.” But my job as a book reviewer is not to give the author a break. Authors need honest feedback to succeed. Self-published authors need that honest feedback even more. My job as a book reviewer is to provide an honest review even when it hurts. I have every confidence that Grace Harney is a talented writer. I completely believe that she is capable of writing an incredible book. This book was not incredible. But I also guarantee that it won’t be her only book. I have been on the receiving end of some unpleasant reviews before. They hurt. A lot. But they also changed the way that I approached my writing, my editing, my revising, and my business as a whole. Most of the books I review on this blog are self-published. I hold them to a much higher standard than Crows was able to achieve.

My advice to the author would be to network with other self-published authors. Figure out what they are doing and what is working for them. Get feedback from them. You can find groups of self-published authors in basically every form of social media. They can help newer authors learn how to promote their books, how to find reliable and talented editors, and how to design effective book covers.

Crows can be purchased HERE.