Today I am judging Ryan O’Riordan’s novel, Summer of the Brother.
Oscar Knight finds out he has a twin brother whom he never knew about, and unfortunately the brother, Sebastian Radbourne, reportedly just died of a drug overdose/accident. Oscar, having been adopted, at first blames his parents for not telling him about his twin brother, but then he discovers they never knew about the twin either. Apparently Sebastian’s parents made the choice to adopt one twin instead of both. Obsessed over the brother he never knew, and desperate for answers from the Radbournes, Oscar decides to make the foolhardy trip up to where his twin brother grew up to attend a formal investigation about his brother’s death.
Oscar arrives and everyone is put off by him, because he looks almost exactly like the dead Sebastian. Eventually, Oscar discovers that his brother’s grave has been desecrated, and that there have been a slew of desecrated graves in the area. Soon Oscar meets some of Sebastian’s friends, Charlie and Georgia. With these friends, Oscar uncovers the truth that Sebastian is in fact NOT dead, but undead. As an added bonus, Sebastian loathes his brother, which is strange, since the two had never met, but nonetheless Sebastian threatens Oscar that he must leave or he’ll be sorry. Oscar can’t leave, because he can’t believe what’s going on, so he, Charlie, and Georgia investigate the situation, meet other vampires, almost die, and then – spoiler alert – Sebastian tricks them all and sets up Oscar to take the fall for a heinous murder.
If you don’t remember my star ranking system, please refer back to my explanation in –>this blog LINK<–.
I give this novel 2 out of 5 stars. As I’m sure you can tell by my synopsis above, I was anything but impressed by this novel. The concept isn’t horrible, I suppose, and there were some interesting moments, so I didn’t completely hate it, but I will say I was ready to stop reading before I even hit the 30% mark. BTW, if you do read it, the story doesn’t pick up good speed until somewhere after 45% or so. For the purpose of my pay it forward challenge, I finished the entire book, and now you can decide whether you want to read it or skip it.
As this story is part of a series, there are some parts of the plot left unfinished. As much as I didn’t fully enjoy the story, I will say that the author at least dealt with the major loose ends created in this part of the series. In terms of genre, I believe this story falls under the category of supernatural. On Amazon, it’s listed under the category of romance – REALLY?!?! –, so the desired effect of the novel, presumably, would be to show at least two characters meeting, having sexual tension, each one chasing their different goals, and somehow the story should end with their union, or at least imply a union could happen.
If that was the goal, this story went way out in left field!
At the start of the story, Oscar has a one night stand with a girl in his group of friends, and while he seems enamored with her, it’s clear that the only reason she had sex with him was due to drunkenness or perhaps pity. He gets angry with her for her disinterest, and he heads up on his adventures where he meets the main female character of the story, Georgia. Oscar believes Georgia may have had a thing for Sebastian. Oscar and Georgia do have some sexual tension, in a strange way, but it doesn’t seem real. As you read the story, you discover that Georgia and Sebastian never really became lovers when Sebastian was alive. In fact, although the writer tries to be sneaky about it, it becomes blatantly obvious that Sebastian and Charlie were exploring the start of a homosexual relationship.
Despite all this back story, vampire Sebastian forces Georgia to make a choice between himself, the vampire, or Oscar, the human. This makes no sense, except to make a piss-poor attempt to adhere to the romance genre.
Aside from the genre wrongly assigned to this book, in my opinion, the rest of the plot moves at an obnoxiously slow rate through the story cycle. You could argue that the slow plot reflects a more realistic reaction to Oscar’s moments of self-discovery. The action sequences flow better, in parts, but the characters remain set on making foolhardy, illogical decisions. The main three characters are impetuous 18-year-olds who all party a good amount, so I guess these are not exactly critical thinkers, but I still find their lack of logic disturbing. I’m cool with this world having vampires, but once you see the vamps, you don’t chase after them with no knowledge of how to deal with them, armed only with a pocket knife and a hammer!
Does the entire plot of the book makes sense to itself? It does, in a way. Is the plot contrived, full of stereotypes, and somewhat misogynistic? Yes – yes it is.
The character of Oscar Knight is a narcissistic, newly-18-year-old, rude individual. Most of the first part of the book is nothing more than a whining chorus of “poor-me.” Unable to take responsibility for himself, he instead blames everyone else for what has gone wrong in his life. I understand a lot of young teenagers and young adults act this way, but it doesn’t really connect me to the protagonist of the story.
Oscar’s transformation throughout the novel can best be described as an incremental movement from a whining sad-sack of an individual into a slightly less-whining person who at least tries to protect the only two allies he has acquired in his mostly self-serving pursuit to find out more about his unknown twin.
The other characters in the novel are, for the most part, cardboard cutouts of a particular type of person. Charlie is the cool club kid/closet homosexual. Georgia is the brainy girl next-door who has only recently got up the courage to even try to kiss Sebastian. Both sets of parents in the story merely do what’s necessary for the plot to move on. The parents also meet all of the gender stereotypes in a rather dry and boring way.
From what we do see of Sebastian, he’s also yet another carbon copy archetype of a vampire that, for some reason, is stronger than the other vampires, even though he’s only recently been turned. And, as if you hadn’t guessed, becoming a vampire has made him want to fulfill all of his desires for revenge, and he wants to use his immortality to get everything he’s ever wanted. I think they sell this brand of vampire at Walmart at a 2-for-1 special.
Grammar and Technical Issues
I just checked the book’s information on Amazon, and supposedly this book was produced by a professional publisher! I just tried to find the publisher online, but I’m hitting a wall. It’s been several years, so perhaps the publisher has been acquired by other companies. The reason I mention the whole publisher issue is due to the unbelievable amount of grammar and technical issues throughout the entire book!
These go beyond minor issues of grammar or spelling. Majorly wrong words used, lack of continuity, misplaced/unclear metaphors, and the list goes on. There are even some moments where the author confuses the names of Oscar and Sebastian. Since these are two very different characters in the book, even if they are twins, the story makes even LESS sense when the wrong names are used.
Honestly, this book needed at least one or two more rounds of full line edits . . .and rewrites . . . and better plotting.
Most of the world of the novel felt pretty much like our world, and that stayed consistent. Once the supernatural elements of the world were introduced, parts of it seemed underdeveloped and not well thought out. There is supposedly a commune of vampires, and the leader wants the vampires to try and emulate humanity, so that someday people and vampires can live peacefully side-by-side. At the same time, all the vampires go out and eat people and don’t really do anything to work on inter-species communication, because humans always react badly (???). Yeah – that really makes sense!
Also, we discover that Sebastian was turned by a different sect of older vampires, which is why he is more powerful, yet he ended up living with these less powerful vampires. Why is he there? Why isn’t he with the ones who created him? It just seems awkward and a convenient excuse for Sebastian to be more powerful during the fight scenes.
My other major point of distraction is the entire forced romance scenario. It makes no sense for Sebastian to force Georgia to choose between twins, especially when he’s barely kissed Georgia himself. They supposedly had a bunch of online chats that were kind of flirtatious, but it’s clear from George’s explanations that Sebastian has kept a lot of his life private from her. She didn’t even know that Sebastian and Charlie snuck off to London together. Georgia also seems to have an idea about Charlie being secretly in the closet, as she debunks the Radbourne’s claim that Charlie is a drug dealer. She never states the truth of his sexuality, so maybe she didn’t admit it to herself, or perhaps she never put it together that Charlie and Sebastian were developing a fondness for each other (?). Hard to say, given the evidence, or LACK thereof.
But the MAJOR problem is that there really isn’t much of a romance between Oscar and Georgia. He’s vaguely interested in her, but as established from the beginning of the story, his interest does not come from a place of true romance, and rather stems from the place in-between his legs. I think that the only reason he even considers Georgia is because he suspects that Georgia liked his twin brother. It’s unclear if Oscar pursues her just to have the things his brother once had, or if he thinks he can easily fit into the place of affection Georgia had reserved for Sebastian.
At the end of the day, in terms of a romance story, I doubt these two will do anything more than a one night stand’s worth of mediocre sex followed by awkward moments of silence. Maybe as the series progresses, the writer will continue to force this inane idea of this romantic coupling, but I personally will not be reading the rest of the series to find out.