Sunday, September 3, 2023

Review: The Wayward Haunt by Cas E. Crowe

by Cas E. Crowe
Release Date: June 20, 2020
2020 by Cas E. Crowe
EBook Edition; 379 Pages
ISBN: 978-0648876500
ASIN: B08BKM1391
Genre: Fiction / Dystopian / Fantasy / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from author

4.25 / 5 Stars

In the middle of the centuries-fought war, teenager Zaya Wayward is sentenced to the filthy coal mines of Gosheniene. Accused of a murder she didn't commit, the true identity of the killer must remain secret-the black-veined woman, a cursed, sadistic wraith fuelled by violence and rage.

When Zaya is conscripted into service life at the Tarahik Military base, the ghost is waiting. Zaya's ability to see the dead is the key that could annihilate human existence-and sinister forces will go to unstoppable lengths to get it.

One thing the wraith does ensure-the wrong choice will cost Zaya her life.
My Thoughts
The Wayward Haunt was a completely different novel from what I expected.  To be fair though, I think I just looked at the cover, saw a spooky old castle, and didn't even bother reading the blurb to see what the book was about, thinking this would be another haunted house book. So, imagine my surprise when the main character, Zaya, is a prisoner in a labour camp, on a future Earth that has undergone a catastrophic environmental disaster far in the future? I was like, boy did I ever read this one wrong. Then, I was hooked. I devoured this book, enjoyed the world building, and liked the interactions between the characters.
Zaya was a formidable main character and I enjoyed her tenacity, strength, and daring. But I also liked her vulnerability, something the author built into her character very well without making her seem pitiable. Having lost her parents at a very young age for reasons she can't remember, Zaya struggles with the possibility they may have been dissenters in the centuries-long war destroying her world. Conscripted into a ten-year service for the opposite side, she constantly questions her loyalties and the choices being made for her as well as the loyalties of those around her. Can they be trusted? And as she learns more, she beings to question where to put her own loyalties. This is the kind of emotional struggle I like as I want to see characters deal with difficult decisions and choices as very few things we deal with in life are black and white. Zaya is dealing with multiple traumas and betrayals, so the emotional roller coaster she is on makes her so much more relatable as a character.

The plot itself is definitely a science-fiction dystopian novel, an Earth far in the future, destroyed by cataclysmic events.  The science and the magic balanced each other out so you've got the futuristic transport systems and weapons mixed in with lycanthors, magic, and necromancers. And I wasn't too disappointed as we also had the ghosts. Written in rich detail without leading the reader, but allowing the reader to discover the world along with the characters, I enjoyed the world-building and thought it was well done.  The balance of fun and clever dialogue with sharp and poignant scenes of death and destruction made this book hard to put down.  The author also gave us clever hints built into the prose about Zaya and her family as well as some of the other characters, enough to be tantalizing and making you want to learn more.  And personally, I am so glad there was love triangle, no insta-love, or any of those other tropes that destroy this kind of book for me.  There is possibly something starting to happen between Jad and Zaya, but at this point we'll have to see where that leads.

The Wayward Haunt was a pleasant surprise featuring a dystopian landscape of war, destruction, and darkness, but also magic, mayhem, fantasy, ghosts, friendship, secrets, and betrayal.  There is a complex backstory to the main story, and all the threads fit together even if you don't quite understand all of them at this point.  Because there are a large amount of characters, only a few of them seem more than one-dimensional, but there are two more books in the series, so we'll see what happens in those books. In the end, this was full of action, fast-paced, and Zaya was a great character to get to know. I definitely recommend this book to those of you who enjoy a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian fiction.