Author: Amanda Gray
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher
I read “time travel” and “Romanov Russia” in this novel’s synopsis and thought this book must have been written for me…because let me tell you, I have quite the fascination with the last ruling royal family of Imperial Russia. A revolution, an assassination, an escaped princess whose body was never found? That is the stuff of my childself’s imagination. (Also, this is one of my favorite movies of all time — judge me.) In fact, I’ve immersed myself so much that I can recite the particular characteristics of each sister, so finding out that Gray centers on my personal favorite grand duchess just blew me out of the water.
That is where it ends, however, because Endless is an occasionally effective mystery book, an at-best adequate suspense story and a sometimes cheese-inducing romance novel. I can’t say that this novel is driven by its characters because I think they are quite lackluster. Jenny is an only child, she lives with her dad and has an aunt and one friend. She is lonely and always looking for someone to understand her. She’s sad when she needs to be sad, smiles when she has to and fights when she’s called to. There isn’t anything remarkable or memorable in the way she is presented except for the fact that she has a special ability.
The problem here is that a reader cannot just be told a character is a certain type, this must be supported by the environment; how people react to this character, etc. The development was simply lacking. And I felt this practice was current in most aspects of the story. For example, a lot of weight is placed on a relationship we never even truly witness. Yet this relationship is central not only to understanding Jenny’s emotional state but to the plot itself. In fact, Jenny’s relationships to those closest to her are showcased very minimally. Apart from Jenny, the secondary characters all seemed one dimensional. They wavered transparently without ever taking solid shape.
Something else I had a problem with was dialogue. Endless dialogue (excuse the pun). Everyday, mundane conversations are not necessary. When having a phone conversation about a crucial clue to the mystery the characters are solving, we don’t need the chit chat. I am (most of the time) a firm believer of less is more. Too many words, too much description tends to devalue the work, in my opinion. The point is, a lot of this is skimmable.
Now the plot. About half-way through the book, I suffered a jerking bout of confusion…because initially, what with Jenny’s ability to see visions and dream strange dreams, Endless seemed to follow the route of a paranormal. Enter time travel. After that, it seemed more sci-fi. Not that the two are exclusive but it was strange to start a character off by defining them by a single magical talent, then not using that talent for the rest of the book.
The plot progression is also, at times, equally confusing. The subplots are obviously interconnected but it isn’t done in a way that makes it easy to identify the connecting threads, nor is it engagingly ambiguous. (Though much of this might be me being not-smart). And when at last all the dots are connected, a lot of it still didn’t make sense. And, as far as I know, this is a stand alone. No room for later explanations.
Why, you wonder, did I give it 3 stars. Well, Gray really hit me with the Romanov family. And also, this is very readable. I point out my issues because I wanted it to work. And it does. I can see how many will have a good time with Endless. Unfortunately, it could have been more.
One more thing: I did kind of love the ending. Such a tease.
This review also appears on Goodreads.