Book Review: The Markings, Catherine Downen
Title: The Markings
Series: The Markings
Author: Catherine Downen
A fun debut that sets itself apart in the YA Fantasy genre.
The Markings follows sixteen-year-old Adaline following her escape from prison in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii. At first I struggled to get into the story, despite a strong opening chapter, purely because I personally struggle with first-person perspective novels (something that's very much on me and not this book). However, once I got past that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
There are a number of things that make this story very different to similar stories within the YA Fantasy genre. Firstly, the setting of a post-apocalyptic Hawaii is unique, intriguing and well-built throughout. Whilst the premise is obviously fantastical, I never found myself thinking "this doesn't make sense" or "this is taking me out of the moment". The lore behind this alternate reality Earth is interesting as well, but I don't think the setting equates to the books strongest feature. That comes from its very unique magic system, whereby powers are built around the idea of enhanced senses. Rather than relying on tried and tested formulas, Catherine Downen appears intent on doing things her own way, and it really works. The world and magic system really hold this book together and set Downen's work apart from other debuts.
The characters are also well-established and the core group of Zavvy, Alexander, and Adaline really work well together. However, the cast of secondary characters is large and at times I felt as though it could do with some trimming. But not in a manner that detracted anything from the story at large. Character backstories and exposition is delivered organically and I rarely found myself upset/off-put by reveals, although I did at times question character motives.
At times I felt as though the pacing was off. The novel starts FAST and whilst that is great for hooking the reader, I think it diminished what could have been impactful emotional moments. It's also a tad on the long side for a YA novel in my opinion, and the pacing may have been optimised if the story was slightly shorter.
Overall, if you're a fan of stories such as The Hunger Games then I would happily recommend The Markings. Is it a perfect debut? No. Is it a fun read that does a lot of things right and sets itself apart from others in the genre? Yes.
I'm looking forward to the sequel.
Final Rating: 7/10