Pinnacle

Pinnacle was first published in 2018 and is Lynn Veevers’s debut novel. It is a paranormal romance that focuses on a magically gifted teenager who is targeted by a terrible monster. The book forms the first part of The Core series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Following the brutal murder of both of her parents, Kaya is forced to relocate to Oklahoma to live with her Aunt Di. However, it does not take her long to turn her life around. She falls in love with the handsome Kenneth and, following their first kiss, discovers that she possesses powerful magical abilities. As her parents belonged to different tribes, she manages to spark a wide variety of powers that range from telekinesis to animal transformation.

When she reveals her powers to Kenneth, he is equally thrilled. It turns out that Kenneth belongs to a family of Natural Lycans – people who can transform into a specific totem animal. As Lycans mate for life, Kenneth is starting to feel as though Kaya is his one and only. Naturally, Kaya finds this thrilling. She can’t believe that her first love has turned out to be her soulmate and she devotes herself into learning all that she can about his pack.

However, Kaya does not realise that she is in grave danger. As her powers grow, her magical core becomes more powerful. This unbridled energy acts as a beacon, attracting Afflicted Lycans – monsters who have been transformed forcibly into Lycans – who wish to feed off her. As the Afflicted Lycans possess an ability that nullifies magic powers, Kaya must rely on the protection of Kenneth and his family as they track down the alpha of the Afflicted pack and destroy her. Only then will Kaya be safe.

Before I begin this review, a word of warning. While Pinnacle is a mostly clean read, it does contain some scenes of excessive violence and gore. If you are in any way squeamish, you might want to give this novel a miss. You should probably also be aware that, although there is no sex depicted in the story, there are conversations of a sexual nature and scenes where it is made quite clear that members of the cast are sleeping together. If you’re planning on gifting this book to a younger reader, you might want to flip through it first to ensure that you think that it’s suitable.

Contrary to what you might believe, I don’t take any pleasure in giving negative reviews to independent novels. However, I pride myself in being an honest reviewer and I can’t pretend that Pinnacle did not have its problems. Although it was clear that Veevers had a strong idea of how she wanted her world to work, the novel on the whole felt like an early draft. There were some jarring examples of incorrect word usage (“bazaar” instead of “bizarre” / “courters” instead of “quarters” / “diseased” instead of “deceased”) and generally clumsy dialogue that really should have been fixed during the editing process.

This novel was a prime example of why writers are told that they should show rather than tell. Most of the world building in this novel is provided by massive, expository blocks of text. For example, when Kaya first hears about Afflicted Lycans, she is advised to speak to Kenneth’s father, Owen, to learn more. Kaya immediately heads off to speak with him, only for Owen to proceed to explain every tiny difference between Natural and Afflicted Lycans. This takes the form of an enormous speech which spans almost an entire chapter.

This is just weak. It’s how you write an essay, not a fantasy novel. While some of the information is relevant to the story, uninterrupted dialogue like this feels unnatural and there are a million and one better ways to present this information to the reader. This info-dump comes before Kaya has even seen an Afflicted Lycan for the first time, which also means that it comes of no surprise to the reader when one does appear a few chapters later.

The plot of the story was exciting in places, though I did find that the violence was gratuitous. An example of this is the scene where one of the good guys ripped the head and spine out of one of his enemies like some sort of Mortal Kombat fatality. The ethics of this was also never brought into question. Even Kaya, who has never been in a life-or-death battle before, has no problem with killing her first Afflicted Lycan and does not think about this again afterwards.

While this book did at least finish on a strong note, neatly wrapping up this stage of the plot while leaving threads hanging for the next book, it did feel a bit flimsy on the whole. Despite the fact that the Afflicted Lycans are supposed to be tracking Kaya, they escaped mention in the story for large stretches of time. This space was instead spent focusing on Kaya’s drama-free relationship with Kenneth. Even when a supporting character’s husband was brutally murdered, she is only given a couple of pages to grieve before she is brushed aside to make way for more Kaya and Kenneth bonding.

Yet, I personally felt that Kaya and Kenneth’s relationship was very awkward. I just didn’t gravitate towards them as a couple for much the same reason that I dislike the relationships portrayed within the Twilight series. There is no sense that Kaya had any choice in the matter, she seems destined to be Kenneth’s one-and-only. Kenneth explains this to her in the creepiest of ways, making frequent references to how Lycans bond for life and that he desired for Kaya to be the mother of his children. Despite the fact that he was only eighteen and she was seventeen in the novel.

I did not find this charming at all. It felt more like he was grooming her than actually trying to engage in a natural relationship. This was magnified by the scene in which Kaya wakes up with Kenneth’s family crest stamped on the side of her head. Apparently, when anyone bonds with a member of Kenneth’s family this is a thing that happens. Men get the crest on their backs, while for women it appears visibly above the ear, marking them forever as a member of the pack. Naturally, no one even bothered to tell Kaya that this would happen. Luckily, and somewhat unrealistically, she had absolutely no problem with being marked with this possessive and permanent facial tattoo. Does this weird you out? It certainly weirded me out.

I also did not really feel any connection to the other characters in the novel. Despite the impending threat of cannibalistic Lycans, everyone felt incredibly self-centred and most of the story was spent paring them off. There was also a sharp divide between how the characters were described and how they behaved. For example, we were told that Samantha is fiery and dominant, yet she immediately relinquished her position as alpha to a new female who joined the pack, had a room that was decorated with pink drapes and lace, and talked at length about how she knew how beautiful she was.

Kaya was also problematic as a protagonist because she was just too powerful. She made me think a lot of Keita from The Spectra Unearthed, as she possessed virtually every magical power that you could think of. She could morph into any animal to use their respective abilities (this included other human females and a Lycan), she could levitate, she could speak with the dead, she could communicate telepathically and she could move things with her mind to name but a few. However, she didn’t seem to have any weaknesses. She was even largely immune to the wrought – the ability that Afflicted Lycans possess that nullifies magic – as she could shift into a form that was unaffected by this. On top of this, Kaya was naturally loved by at all even though the book told us that she wasn’t especially beautiful or confident. This isn’t great. It’s hard to relate with overpowered Mary-Sues like this as they just feel too perfect, which prevents them from ever feeling like real people.

The villain of the story also felt a little shallow. While Senka – the leader of the Afflicted Lycan – did have a tragic backstory, I didn’t feel that enough was made of this. She was a bit of a non-entity – mentioned several times but not actually appearing until the final few pages. She was also wholly evil – existing to murder other magical beings while showing absolutely no remorse or even an understanding that what she was doing was wrong. No attempt was made by the characters to reason with her, understand her or negotiate with her in any way. She was merely a final obstacle that needed to be overcome by the protagonists in order to wrap up this stage of the story.

I think I’ve probably made my point. Pinnacle just wasn’t the novel for me at all. The story was too exposition heavy and largely ignored plot and character development in favour of pairing up all of its characters. If you’re a big fan of paranormal romance stories, perhaps you will get a kick out of it. However, there are far better novels out there.

Pinnacle can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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