In honor of the release of The Gold-Son by Carrie Anne Noble, I’m sharing my review of the book. I received an advance copy of it in exchange for an honest review, and I really wanted to like it. The cover is gorgeous and the description great. It seemed like it would be a fun read:
All sixteen-year-old Tommin wants is to make beautiful shoes and care for his beloved granny, but his insatiable need to steal threatens to destroy everything. Driven by a curse that demands more and more gold, he’s sure to get caught eventually.
When mysterious Lorcan Reilly arrives in town with his “niece,” Eve, Tommin believes the fellow wants to help him. Instead, Lorcan whisks him off to the underground realm of the Leprechauns, where, alongside Eve, he’s forced to prepare to become one of them.
As Lorcan’s plans for his “gold-children” are slowly revealed, Tommin and Eve plan their escape. But with Tommin’s humanity slipping away, the fate-crossed pair has everything to lose unless they can find a way to outsmart a magical curse centuries in the making.
For starters, the story should have been centered around Eve instead of Tommin. He never changes or takes initiative and feels very flat. He’s driven by his curse throughout the story and is nothing but a naive follower. Eve is much more interesting, does all the planning, leg work, and saving, and in my opinion has a much more interesting story that we hardly get to hear about. The book shifts in perspective between the two of them, written in third person.
With the magical, mysterious beginning of the book, I fully expected to love the whole story. Noble does an amazing job of describing nature and settings in the first half of the book. She has some really beautiful lines. But the characterization is sorely lacking.
The first thing that bothered me about The Gold-Son was that after meeting Eve twice for less than ten minutes, and hardly communicating with her because she doesn’t speak, we get this line: “Strange as it was after knowing her such a short time, he thought he might miss her a little.” He didn’t know her “a short time;” he DIDN’T know her at all. His attraction to her makes absolutely no sense. From there, I continued to see how Noble relies on telling rather than showing in her writing.
Down in the Neathlands, certain death or a harsh beating loom over Tommin and Eve’s heads to keep them in check, but neither of them really seems scared. Their fear doesn’t come off the page at all. So I was never afraid for them, and sure enough, neither of them died or got beaten to a pulp. The story was interesting enough, but it felt like it was passing by before me. I never really felt connected to it or drawn in.
When something exciting actually happens halfway through the book, we get the best examples of Noble’s failings in regard to characterization. The narrative devolves into a ‘this happened, and then this happened.’ Literally going “And then” or “, and then” several times. At the outbreak of the excitement, the only clue about how Tommin is reacting emotionally or physically is summed up in a single line: “Heart pounding with terror, he ducked down behind the table and then peered over the edge at the Great himself.” Seriously. That’s it. AND “and then” is in the sentence. So while the action should be exciting, I again, didn’t really care because Tommin doesn’t seem to. Oh, but a few lines down we get a great description of how the cats are handling the situation: “Cats hissed and howled and scrambled between legs and out the narrow windows.” They seem more scared than Tommin.
The first half of the book was a 3-4 star read. But then Part two happens, and it gets terrible. From chapter 37, the story jumps to chapter 1, restarting. So from 56% through 67% of the book, I was screaming inside, “why is this not two separate books?!?!” There is a major disconnect from the first half of the book, and the narrative wanders with absolutely no direction. I had no idea where it was going. Looking back, that section needs to be a whole lot shorter. The return of another character should happen sooner too to help the reader feel like the whole thing is still one story.
The next section of the story is the greatest. From around 70-81%, it’s a five star read. The characterization is wonderful.
Then the climax (sort of) begins with Tommin proving himself to be a naive idiot who is incapable of change, growth, or taking action for himself. From there, the problems begin.
There are a lot of minor problems throughout the book. I could make a list, a large list. But aside from spoilers, it feels very nitpicky to do so. Just trust me that several things stick out, making you furrow your brow, roll your eyes, or groan in annoyance. The worst of them hit after the exciting events at the halfway mark and surrounding the climax (so sprinkled throughout the story but mostly from 50-67% and 81%-the end). Things either don’t make sense, are inconsistent, too convenient, or not explained well enough. All these little things pretty much ruined the climax and resolution for me.
Another thing that ruined the climax was the odd pause right in the middle of it. Seemed like a complete waste of time and was very frustrating. After the climax, the narrative gets insanely cheesy and is full of awkward ‘explaining’ conversations. As I said before, Tommin gets saved at the end. I really don’t understand why the story is focused on him at all. He doesn’t do anything exciting in the book other than steal.
Overall, a disappointing read. The story had a lot of potential, but Noble failed to deliver. I rated it 3 stars.