Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing indie author, Lianne Miller. She teased us with a few details about her debut novel, Artifice, and afterward, I had the opportunity to read it.
Eliza Ross believes she is living an isolated life in Montana without family or friends. Then a mysterious stalker turns her world upside down. The cops think she is crazy, but the medical doctors soon discover that Eliza isn’t normal—and they are determined to find out why.
Dmitri Markov is a Druzhina who knows everything about Eliza, but his mission is to make her forget. He will do whatever it takes to keep her alive and deliver her to Shashenka Belyakov. Other elite Druzhinas are sent to assist Dmitri in recovering her from the hospital. They will not fail.
An unlikely friendship with a mortal enemy only deepens the mystery, putting Eliza on a collision course with Dmitri and immersing her in a shadow realm where nothing is what it seems. As the truth unravels, Eliza learns that she must destroy the one responsible for enslaving her, or she’ll never be free—but as she races into the unknown, she unwittingly sends Dmitri into a downward spiral that may doom them both.
Belonging to the supernatural/fantasy genre, it is in complete contrast to the southern fiction and mysteries I generally read.
It did take me a little while to get into the vampire mindset, but after the initial odd feel, it began to flow.
Now that I have finished it, I can tell you that the length fit the story. Too many books these days contain filler, or fluff, to take a book to a predetermined word count. This was not one of them. The story held its tension and conflict throughout and its flow was steady.
As far as characters go, there was a definite difference between genres. In women’s fiction, mysteries, YA, romances, et cetera, when I care about a character, it’s usually on an emotional level. In this book, I cared about the main characters, but on more of a situational level. I rooted for a positive outcome to their situation, but I can’t say I felt a real emotional attachment to any one character.
Being that Druzhina’s are vampires, there will obviously be differences between them and humans. I felt the author did a remarkable job illustrating those differences (while maintaining the human element). From the small details like their ability to heal, nocturnal living, to the fierce loyalty to one another, she painted the picture without drilling it in. She gave her readers credit for getting it on the first mention.
The Druzhina’s dialogue felt stilted, somewhat formal at times. In a romance, general fiction, or a legal thriller, it would have read like poorly written dialogue, but in this story, this genre, it added to the realism of the characters. They are an army of sorts and playful, snappy, witty dialogue like you’d find in a Jonathan Tropper novel would not have worked here.
The author manages to include various settings from around the world. Giving a perfect balance of description without relying too heavily on it, it did not take away from the story. This is an area where I tend to skim-read or skip completely when an author drones on about everything from the setting sun to the long shadows to the traffic and so on. The author set up her scene and then allowed the characters to move the story along, never breaking pace.
Artifice is the first book of a series. There are two types of series. In the first, each book stands alone. You can read one or all, in any order and enjoy them the same. In the second type of series, to truly enjoy the story as a whole, you have to read them in order, beginning with book one. Artifice left so many unanswered questions regarding the main story-line that I finished it feeling a bit cheated. Granted, that is not a flaw in the writing or the author, but rather, the intention. If you read book one and enjoy it, the chances of returning for book two are much greater. I, for one, would prefer to have major plot points resolved with only lingering questions to entice me to read book two, otherwise, it feels like an incomplete read. In a sense, it’s like being held hostage. If the first book is received well, most will return for the next without leaving everything up in the air in book one. But, that is merely my preference and not a flaw in the writing. I’m sure there are many who enjoy the anticipation in waiting for the next installment.
I found most of the chapters to be short and concise. Again, this is a personal preference, but I liked the general chapter length. It made it an easy read. Many times I was going to put the book down to take care of something around the house and ended up reading much further into it than I intended because short chapters make ‘just one more chapter’ irresistible. I had told Lianne I would begin reading it the following week after receiving it. I picked it up the night I received it just to browse and ended up finishing it the following afternoon.
Artifice is a promising debut and one with the ability to entice those who have never ventured into the supernatural genre. It’s not the bats-hanging-from-rafters, coffin-sleeping, garlic, crucifixes and steel stakes type stuff of decades gone by. The story is more human related than vampire related. I would recommend it and keep in mind that by the time you read it and like it, book two will be out.