Reader Review: A Mark Unwilling – Candace Wondrak

A Mark Unwilling:  ★★★

Recently, I was contacted by Candace Wondrak inquiring as to whether or not I would be interested in honestly reviewing her just-published novel ‘A Mark Unwilling’. After reading through the synopsis she sent me and instantly taking an interest in the sound of the book, I happily accepted the request. The blurb of the book itself tells you that the story is going to be a hell of a ride, but I found that I was still rather taken off guard at certain points. At first, I thought the book would be a great suit for me, and I found that it did indeed fit into my preferred genres, though it wasn’t all to my personal taste.

All her life Lexa Blue has been waiting for the day when she’ll have her soul collected by the Demon whose Mark she bears. Having had her soul traded by her parents, she’s gone through time not knowing how long she has or who she’ll one day have to face. But, of all things, Lexa wasn’t expecting to have to deal with the end-of-the-world Apocalypse. With the aid of her warlock best friend, a prophetic artist, a group of vampires, and a sketchy FBI agent, what else is she supposed to do apart from run into the – sometimes literal – fire?

The concept of the book is introduced straight away and this indeed proves to be effective in quickly capturing the reader’s attention. The very first few pages make it obvious that there are definitely original aspects to the story. There’s blatantly been a specific narrative that has been created and, in turn, this gives the audience the sense that there are many more details o be uncovered in regards to the characters and the world itself. likewise, the details don’t take long to be provided as the story picks up very fast. This is well maintained throughout the duration of the rest of the novel as well – the premise has been well constructed and maintains a level of originality which is refreshing to see of the genre. Of course, this makes it all the more appealing for the audience as they want to dive into the world building and the storylines that are being built up.
As I was reading the book, I also found that there’s definitely very good imagery that quite obviously showcased and made evident throughout the narrative. The descriptions provided are detailed, they allow the reader to explore the scenes and the characters well, and they make the book feel all the more three dimensional which is vitally important. Some elements and some characters were obviously a lot more explored than others, though this is to be expected with any book, so that’s not exactly an issue as much as it is just an additional detail.
When it comes to the main character, I think the reader is definitely provided with a good level of insight into the character’s mindset and the reasons as to why she acts the way she does. As I said previously, the descriptions provided throughout the progression of the book are well-developed and this is maintained when it comes to the characterisation of the protagonist. Because the audience is given such good insight into what the character is thinking, her emotions are understandable and the reader is able to pick up on the reasons as to why she reacts to certain situations in certain ways.
With that being said, my biggest issue with the book overall was probably with the main character herself. From the introduction of her personality, she seemed cliched, but is made to seem as if she’s totally against tropes and being a ‘stereotype’ even though she’s written like one. She definitely takes on the role of being the ‘special snowflake’ and that was something that continuously also got on my nerves. I didn’t like the way that Lexa tried to make distance herself from – as she describes them – ‘typical weak girls’ because this imposes negativity and generally encourages a bad outlook. Girls aren’t weak, and girls should be sticking together, you know? We need more female characters embracing that they may be like everybody else and there’s nothing wrong with that. I also didn’t necessarily like all of the dialogue and interactions as some of it seemed forced and leant way to scenes that proved to be rather embarrassing for the reader as well. The character talking about anime hair and Pikachu threw me for a moment, and not in a good way, just in a way that felt like she was indeed constructed around that ‘I’m not like other girls’ trope. With that, I did like the element of vulnerability that the character allows herself to showcase near the end of the book. I think that this displayed a good amount of character development and general character building and, whilst there’s a lot more that can be expanded on further, this was easily able to be picked up on.
As the book carried on, there were also a lot of amusing elements and dialogue that I found brought the audience closer to the story and closer to the personalities of the cast. This made the bonds between the characters seem a lot more developed and three dimensional as well which was fun to see and generally a nice reading experience. Some of the dialogue was a bit off – such as how the nurse was introduced early on in the book – but I felt like the general continuation of the character building and the relationship development was well-written and immersive.
However, one of the things that is also evident from the very beginning of the book is that it’s written in a lot of short sentences, which sometimes definitely works to impose a specific tone, though it does make the story telling feel rather abrupt. This prevents the plot and the scenarios from flowing seamlessly and realistically as if has that sense of ‘stopping and starting’, which can also work to make it more likely that the reader is going to lose interest in the story quickly as they won’t be able to follow what’s happening all that well. Along with this, the narrative does feel like it’s moving too fast. I found that, at least for me as a reader personally, there wasn’t enough build up towards certain plot points within the book. For example, the school shooting scenario occurred very quickly – because it was so sudden, it didn’t take the audience off guard, it just made the reader feel less involved and as if there was less depth to the story overall.
Finally, and, again, this a personal view and not by any means the voice of the entire audience demographic, but the romantic subplot between Lexa and the Devil’s son made me very uncomfortable. It generally imposed a sense of unease in me, and not because the book was aiming to, just because I picked up on a lot of bad connotations. I don’t think it was developed all that well and it didn’t feel as if it came ‘natural’ to the situation [despite the situation being entirely unnatural] so it just wasn’t something that I could get into and enjoy as a part of the story. It didn’t feel like one of the ‘dynamic’ partnerships that are in turn meant to seem oh so interesting, and, instead, there were a lot of elements of abusive actions that I picked up on and didn’t like either.
The ending of the book definitely leaves it at a good point, I would say. The story and the series is evidently ready to be developed further, continued, and further expanded, and so this means that the reader is more likely to take a further interest in continuing their read of the series as well. It does make you feel like you want to explore what’s going to happen next and how exactly these characters are going to deal with it, so that’s done very well. I also like that, when it comes to the end of the first book, there’s the obvious feel that there is a lot of potential for the story – it could go and continue in many different directions and there’s a lot of grey area for further subplots and action to be introduced. Not only does this provide the author with a lot of leeway when it comes to actually writing the second book, as they’ll be further able to explore where they want to go with the story and how they want to move forward with it, but it also keeps the audience thinking about what might possibly happen next, so it stays with them.
To put it simply; I want to say that this book is not at all bad. It’s well-written, immersive, descriptive, and definitely showcases the beginning of something that could potentially be very special once it’s been expanded on further. The novel itself definitely does well to appeal to young adult readers and the premise that the narrative is focused on is very original, which is always nice to see and fun to experience. However, that being said, the characters have a lot more development to go through before they actually become likeable. The main character does feel like a trope at times, and she’s made out trying to be too ‘different’ to actually be relatable and likeable for the reader. As well as this, there are certain elements of the story that I just found didn’t sit well with me [like the forced relationships] but, again, this may be due to the lack of development as the book progresses very fast it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. The story has reams of potential and showcases the author’s evident growing talent – it’s just generally under constructed so the plot needs to be developed further to become more structured.

I would like to thank Candace Wondrak for getting in contact with me and providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure getting to work with you and read the book! I look forward to the continuation of the series and wish you all the best!

To check the book out on GoodReads yourself, click here!

Thank you for reading this short review and I’ll write you later.

If you’re a fan of young adult paranormal fantasy who has a preference for warlocks and vampires, then I definitely think you should give this novel a read. It’s a ride you won’t soon forget, and you’ll be pleased to have explored this new, exciting narrative.

If you’re looking to expand your reading preferences, support young authors, and generally have a nice time reading a book that will throw you for a loop, then check this one out. You may find that demons and angels are your thing after all.

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