Eve doesn’t know why she’s in the witness protection program or who is trying to kill her—in fact, she doesn’t remember much of anything. The only glimpses she has of her identity come through the visions which overtake her whenever she uses magic, erasing days or even weeks of her current life from her memory.
The setup of the book is eerie and jarring. We the readers really get pulled into the disorientation that plagues Eve’s life, and I loved the way the author used the pacing of the book to accomplish that. Although Eve lives in the “real” world (meaning modern-day Earth as we know it), the agents protecting her know she is from a different world and that she can use magic. Her visions are carnival-style macabre, often disturbing in content. When Eve falls into a vision, the next scene usually opens with Eve not knowing what day it is. One memorable example involved her waking up to find pictures on the fridge of herself on a date she didn’t remember, with a boy she’d only just met. She had been living normally for a week or so before the amnesia kicked in, and so now she has to go to a job she had only started training in, and pretend to remember how to do everything. Instead of telling the reader about Eve’s splintered and unstable state of mind, the author shows it to us and lets us in on the experience.
Another aspect of the writing style I enjoyed was the descriptive creativity the author employed. Her metaphors and similes were fresh but not too strange—they didn’t feel like she picked them just for the sake of writing something different, but rather for the image or taste or smell or sound they implied. She also described the different environments Eve travels through concisely but with enough detail that they felt real. There were some moments that seemed unrealistic in terms of character reactions to things, but there is some leeway for this considering the setting of the book and Eve’s character in particular.
I can’t say too much without giving away important spoilers, but the plot seemed fairly sporadic and aimless at first. Things fall together at the end—I won’t say the story concept was super original, but it stood on its own anyway. I didn’t foresee some key elements, which means I got some interesting surprises later on.
As for the individual characters, I have mixed feelings. In some ways Eve seems much more like a victim than a heroine, but things get better later, and I came to like her. Malcolm, the agent with primary responsibility for her, was probably one of my favorite characters—he’s also a person of color, which the author didn’t make any kind of big deal out of. I didn’t even realize he was until one of the side characters described him briefly, and that was that. Aunt Nicki seemed the typical grouch but ended up growing on me.
Unfortunately all of Eve’s peers get on my nerves a little bit. My annoyance with Zach, her love interest, is admittedly unfair, since it’s not exactly his character that bugs me—more the fact that he is presented as a kind of cure for Eve’s brokenness. When he kisses her he can use her magic, but when she tries to use magic herself, she blacks out. There is an important in-plot reason for this, but the whole setup bothers me because it’s so unfair to Eve, who is already being used by her protectors. I’d like to see a genderswapped version of this plot device. As for Eve’s fellow refugees from other magical worlds, they’re all surgically-perfected sexy and dangerous teenagers who think they’re the epitome of cool. Their characters never really showed much depth, which was disappointing.
A quick note about Eve—she is another of those characters who could be easily read as asexual or genderqueer due to being so at odds with “normality”. The question is whether she becomes more concerned with her gender and sexuality once she has lived a more cohesive life for a while. As it is, for most of the book the focus is on other aspects of her identity, mainly where she comes from and who is trying to kill her.
The darkly magical tone of Conjured will no doubt be attractive to some readers and repulsive to others. I was both charmed and disturbed by the memories and segments taking place at the carnival or elsewhere in the “multiverse.” I also enjoyed the concept that the governments of Earth know about these other magical worlds and are secretly in communication with them, providing protection for magic wielders, and even helping to investigate a murder case which has nothing to do with Earth humans. To be honest, I am curious about whether there will be a sequel, or other books which explore this universe.
Pick up Conjured at a bookstore near you, September 2013!