Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
Captivate is the second in a series (Need was the first), and as the story ends on a cliffhanger, there will certainly be at least one more in the series. This is a novel which is difficult to read if you haven’t read the first one – although the story makes sense, there are other aspects of the novel that don’t work well without the initial introductions. Most notably, the characters and their relationships struggle to ring true or to fully engage the reader.
In book one, Zara and her friends captured the evil pixies – including Zara’s father – and trapped them in a house deep in the woods, ringed about by iron and magic. But they continue to see more and more pixies, and soon a new Pixie King arrives, planning to claim the territory previously ruled by Zara’s father. Is he telling the truth when he says not all pixies are evil? Are the teenagers doing the right thing by keeping sentient creatures prisoner? What will happen if the pixies ever get free? And Zara lives with the constant fear that she, half pixie, will go pixie and become evil. Could anything ever convince her to agree to the change? Well, maybe. If something threatens Nick, who she loves madly, or her family, or her friends. Then she’d at least think about it.
As I said, the story makes sense and is easy enough to follow for a new reader. It does end on a cliffhanger, which some will find annoying. This book is not complete in itself. You can, however, pick up what’s happened before easily enough. What doesn’t seem to come across strongly is the relationships, and I don’t know to what extent that is because I missed groundwork laid in the first volume, which I haven’t read. However, a good writer should be able to make relationships credible, and characterisation strong, even if a reader hasn’t read the first volume. Jones failed to do this for me.
The relationship that I found least convincing was the one between Zara and her boyfriend Nick. This simply didn’t gel for me; they didn’t feel really connected and there was no genuine emotion. I’m not sure how much this was a result of my not having read the first novel (in which, evidently, their relationship began), but even allowing for that, this was limp and unconvincing.
The friendship between Zara and Issie was considerably more realistic, and it was here that Jones’ humorous gibes worked best as well. Jones has caught the rhythm of female friendship very well, and reflected it back in these two. Sadly, I couldn’t say that either character really seemed particularly realistic by herself, but the picture of their friendship was.
Another thing that I couldn’t help noticing was how much of the Pixie “lore” seemed reminiscent of vampire lore. They can’t, for example, enter your home unless you invite them. Despite this lack of originality – or perhaps because of it – most of the lore directly related to the pixies seemed well enough worked out and was fairly convincing. The same goes for much of the information around were-beasts of various kinds. But I wasn’t entirely convinced by some of the other mythology Jones was putting forward. The introduction of Valhalla, for example, didn’t really seem to fit. I had a sense that perhaps some of this was
made up as Jones went along through this novel; it didn’t give the sense that the entire background was sorted before Jones started the series. It doesn’t matter if you make it up as you go along, of course, as long as you don’t give that impression.
Captivate is a fairly average novel, though it might have fared better if I’d read the first novel in the series. The prose is pretty good, and the tone is well targeted at readers slightly younger than the heroes and heroines (ages not specified, that I remember, but since they’re driving unsupervised and in high school they must surely be sixteen or seventeen). Older readers will probably find the echoes of vampire lore make it seem a little unoriginal, and will dislike the lack of conviction in the background. New readers, like me, are unlikely to engage strongly with the characters. Captivate will probably go down well with slightly younger readers who’ve read the first in the series.