Running Toward Illumia

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 May 2018

Member Reviews

It's one of those books, that take few chapters to pull you in, but when they do you are hooked. :)

First of all, the setting is amazing. I love that there is not a lot info dumping from the start. Astrea lives with her family in part of the country, where people are banned for whatever reason. Her live is fairly sheltered. Life gets a lot harder, when there is very little animals left to catch and famine is raging. She is a lead huntress and one day on a hunt she stumbles on a Unicode. They are magic and whoever eats o kills them, is cursed. She is desperate, but unable to kill him, so she decides to just capture him and let the village decides what to do. That night, after some pretty big revelations, she makes a way out of there, with unicorn in tow. :)

One the road out toward Illumia, they are joined by another elf, whose intents are not clear. Road is full of adventure and uncertainty as well as self discovery.

I love the way, we slowly discover the world with Astrea. And the world described is full of magic and magical creatures.

I wish the book was a bit longer and it didn't end when the story got really interesting. :) Time for a book number two. :)
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I received this book for free from Netgalley/Publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. 

I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was just a bit slow for me or missing something. I don't feel it ever reached its full potential. I really wanted more. It wasn't bad and I loved the sass in this book but I just wanted more from the world building. I love to be able to see in mind what is going on and times I got a little confused. For that reason I am giving it a 3*. I do think I will read more by this author to see if the writing is different with other books.
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Well, I don't know where to begin with this one. It's got its good and bad points, just as it's got it's intriguing and disturbing points, and all in all leaves me with mixed feelings about various things throughout.

Let's start by saying that I did enjoy reading this, it's well written and easy enough to get into, at times it was even gripping, but there's something lacking and disappointing about it at the same time, a nagging feeling that lasted the entire way through from start to finish. It keeps the characters to a minimum, which makes it easy to follow and keep track of who is who and who is what, introducing new characters and new beings gradually as the story progresses rather than dumping them all on the reader in one go as some author's do, and the setting is, more or less, constant forestry, which, again, doesn't make it that difficult to picture and imagine the whole thing taking place, though there are a few touches around that to make it appear less like lazy world-building. At times, it was a bit too basic, a bit too simplistic, but perhaps I've come to expect more from the characters I come to love and the world's they live in. However, for all of those good points that prove the author is talented at writing, not a spelling or grammatical error in sight, the execution of it does leave something to be desired as far as the story itself goes.

A tribe known as the 'Banned' are banished from Illumia to the Mist Valley, all of them seeming to have ginger hair, pale skin, and freckles, and who are now living in famine as the forest around their village begins to wilt and die, or, something, honestly, I'm not entirely certain on this point, it was never really explained, everything was vaguely alluded to, and no answers were ever really given. This is where the nagging feeling kicks in. From the beginning, the story starts, without build-up, nothing to lay the world out that lies around the main character. The very first scene is of Astrea, the main character, capturing a unicorn in order to drag him back to the village and slaughter him for the tribe to eat, but rather than killing him herself, she waits for the people in charge to decide what to do because of the possible curse it might put upon the people who eat the meat, which, to be fair, begs the question why she went out of her way to capture a unicorn in the first place, however desperate they are, if they long to survive, surely avoiding a curse on top of potential starvation is an obvious no-go. But there's nothing other than this action being carried out, the unicorn being caged and fated for slaughter, which happens from one breath to another, before Astrea's parents are packing her a bag and sending her off with no explanation other than to take the unicorn with her and go to Illumia before her approaching birthday. That's literally as good as it gets on the setting, character, and plot build-up. The next thing, Astrea and the unicorn, Windmane, are on their way, travelling across a river with fleshing eat fish, being chased off by the tribe who catch on to what's happening, and who shout across the water that she's now been banned from the Banned. I'm sure there's some irony in there somewhere.

Following that, Gander, an elf, stumbles across their path, saving them from ogres, and claiming to require the unicorn to take back to his boss. After that, it's the three of them, running into one problem or another, each of them sustaining minor injuries here or there, and Astrea growing weaker and weaker as the journey goes on. Honestly, reading the story, it was nice getting to learn about these three characters, for how little we actually know, but by the end of the story I was left with the realisation that none of them really stood out, none of them were what we were lead to believe them to be, even the unicorn, the most solid of the three, and he ends up not being quite as we thought, with a dragon referring to him by another name, which is oddly never questioned, and considering he never once said he knew any dragons prior to them entering the dragon tunnels beneath the mountains that lead into Illumia. It's all odd and ridiculous, and the things that I personally felt should have been explained by the end of the book, still remained a mystery.

A plot as a whole? This book had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it had an hollow feeling, the characters were empty, the landscape left nothing to the imagination because it was literally endless trees with a tiny break to add a river, a stream, and dark tunnels with zero light for the character describe the environment beyond the other senses, and considering she was out of it for the most part, we got little of that as well. I think the thing that I've been struggle to put my finger on is that it felt incomplete. We ended up knowing next to nothing about the Rudan, the tribe that was Banned, or how they survived when they weren't supposed to last in the endless mist, or why they were banished in the first place, or why this never-ending mist is there, if it's natural or a curse. We literally aren't told more than a girl from a group of people who were banned from this other place needs to escape with the unicorn she's just hunted down and trapped. That's it. We know she has two living parents and some brothers, but nothing about them beyond that, not even any real feeling towards them, and as the story progresses, a journey of no more than a week, she quickly forgets them for the most part anyway. Windmane stops speaking each and every time we get close to any kind of answer to anything, ever, and he's the one character that seems reliable and trust-worthy throughout considering she doesn't know anything beyond what's written in a letter, and even that creates more questions than it does answers. And Gander, well, he's unreliable at best, always evades answering questions, and never answers anything, either.

But, the oddness of the plot aside, with far more questions left and questions created than answers given, there are some points that, quite honestly, disturbed me, and it takes a lot to do that. First, there's the milk that's bottled up in Astrea's bag, her mum informing her she must keep drinking it on her journey, which she doesn't, obviously, because it ends up leaking shortly into their travels. This milk, as it turns out, milk which shouldn't be in a village of famine with no animals to slaughter, and, presumably, no animals to farm from, either, is from her mother, who's been giving it to her for years, because it's the only thing that keeps her from growing weak due to the fact she turns out not to be human, but half-human and half-moon elf. Considering Astrea is seventeen, about to turn eighteen, and still drinking her mother's milk, which is shrugged off as soon as the truth of it comes to light from the letter with few answers and only disturbing ones at that, and I find that disgusting. Surely, of all the things to use as an excuse as to why she's survived so long in the mist, without the light of the moon to recharge her, that is the last thing most would think of. It makes me think of that overly feminist song by Courtney Love from her Hole days. Milk of the mother is life, it's a natural thing, but to think of an eighteen year still drinking it, without question, it's taking it a bit far, if I'm honest, and it made me feel really uncomfortable. But the worst revelation that came from the letter left to Astrea by her mother, the only source of information until at least seventy five percent of the way in, is the fact that the man she thinks is her father, who she's been lead to believe is her dad, isn't, and that her birth father is a moon elf who 'unwillingly' tempted her mother to stray from her father and create her. That, to me, is called rape. She was in love with a man she was setting out to spend the rest of her life with, and if someone is unwilling to sleep with someone, especially when that someone is experimenting on half-bloods for some unknown reason, that is still very much rape. It's never addressed as such, it briefly alludes to it, but then the rest of the time there's a pull Astrea feels towards the necklace her birth father left for her to claim when the time was right, the doll he left with her from her own people that she's had all of her life without realising, and someone who's constantly following them, questioned, but ignored, like being followed on this dangerous journey means nothing despite the fact she questions it here and there, and from an unknown, hooded person that appears from time to time, that no one else seems to see, and who offers words of encouragement and comfort, which would make me, personally, uncomfortable coming from a stranger. But Astrea is left with an excitement to find out about her birth father, to try and find him and meet him, ignoring the fact entirely that he forced himself on her mother using his powers. Honestly, this is disgusting. From what seems to be a hugely feminist view of the whole milk scenario to not calling rape, rape, and turning it into something exciting and adventurous, and a story for the next two instalments. It doesn't sit well with me, not just due to personal reasons, but in general, and that lets this whole thing down for me.

I'm in two minds as to whether or not I would want to continue reading this for the rest of the trilogy. The story offered us little in the way of explanation, but now Astrea has reached Illumia, I would cautiously expect answers to follow in the second book and be wrapped up in the third, but if they were to continue in the same fashion as this, I would be left severely disappointed and let down. I would want the plot to be fleshed out properly, the setting to be explored more thoroughly, the characters to show themselves without illusions and evasions, without being weary of the dangers of their journey, to find time to tell us their backstory so we can learn for ourselves why the characters are who they are, to see what shaped them, because we got none of that. But the issue of rape, I would need for that to be made clear, to not be brushed off as an excuse for why Astrea is a moon elf and left at that, to not be made to feel as if I should like her father when he comes into it despite what he's done. As soon as the information came to light, it was left hanging for a time, and then it was all about wondering who he was, what became of him, how she came to be through him and how exciting it all is, and it made me feel so uncomfortable, because it was one of the few facts we do learn of this world and these characters, of any kind of backstory, and that's the one fact we got, hanging over us, the rest of the journey. I was disappointed we didn't know more by the end, about the plot or the characters, but the fact this mysterious father raped her mother is shrugged off and overlooked is the biggest disappointment of all, and it's sad, really, because overall I did enjoy this book, I did find it gripping at times despite too many questions and not enough answers, and I would like to continue on this bizarre journey, because it is different, it is refreshing - it's almost like a whole new way of writing, of leaving the mystery there. But, sadly, I'm not sure I want the mystery to be nothing more than a man who experiments with the creation of life via rape, either an act he commits or has others commit, as we're lead to believe. Perhaps it turns out her mother lied, that it wasn't rape, but the fact remains it was painted as such and yet not treated as such.

Windmane, the unicorn, is my favourite of the characters, but even he isn't more than a sassy king of comebacks in the end, which is a tragic let down - I would love to find out more about where he came from, how he lives, why he's referred to in as many words as being a disgrace to all unicorns. Astrea holds potential as a character, but none of it's used, and all of it hanging there, just out of reach, so there is still room for it to be used, but I'm uncertain as to whether I would be hoping for something let will never come. And Gander, honestly, I never cared much for one way of the other, the whole way through he screams untrustworthy, Windmane and the mystery hooded person both warn Astrea not to trust him, but, to be fair, he never lies about the fact he can only be with Astrea in the Mist Valley and not Illumia, and he never lies about being owned by Xia, the big-bad that never quite. However, the back and forth between Windmane and Gander is hilarious, especially considering Gander can't hear Windmane. And there are other humour moments, such as a liken of an odour to the farts of Astrea's brother, which is about as much as we learn about said brother, and the unicorn emptying his bowels on a log, which Gander needs to use to prevent himself from falling into the river that would carry him to his death, so he ends up rolling in it, amongst a few other cracks along these lines. It's so odd and out of place, but because everything is so bizarre, it works, and it breaks up one dangerous feat and the next with a laugh or two.

Overall, an interesting tale, with intriguing characters, and a curious world, but all of which we're left knowing almost nothing more about than when we started. If the sequel shows the promise of answers, and no question as to how Astrea came to be without brushing it off as acceptable, then I would love to continue on this journey with Astrea and Windmane, especially Windmane, even if it's purely to find out answers. But I would love to learn about the world and the characters, and the backstory, and have all the gaps filled in by the end of the trilogy, I just don't hold out much hope for that happening since there was none of that in this story - I understand trilogies have their answers spread out over the three books, but the first usually always offers at least some of those to spur on the next round of discoveries, and I felt let down by the less of a handful that we learnt in this. The potential is there, all around, and it's not written off to the point of being unable to reach it, but it needs to be used and used well or it will reach the end of the third book with nothing more than a hollow feeling of wasted potential. 

I longed to give this book five stars, but that must be knocked down to four due to the use of rape as a plot device without reason or rhyme, perhaps the answers to this will come later, but leaving it hanging there wasn't a great move, and ignoring the action of it in favour of what this means for the main character as a moon elf is also a bad move, because it implies the rape itself isn't important as long as the outcome is beneficial to the result of it, and I'm tempted to drop it down to three stars, because of the unsatisfactory explanations, lack of information, etc., but it's possible to add it back on there for something different, that has the potential to stand out if it only uses it, and because this was a joy to read, all the negative points aside, it was a fast and fun read, some of the humour I admit is on my level, though it's more the delivery of it than the content itself. I think I'd like to rate this with 3.5 stars, given the chance, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, hoping that the next two books will delivery in all the ways this one failed to do so, and bump it up to 4 stars, but I swear it better not let me down.
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Awesome read, well written with a great plot and characters. I was engrossed from start to finish. This book has elements of adventure, action, and a smidge of romance. Astrea and Windmane are my favorite characters. I loved this book and can't wait to read the next book! I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Netgalley.
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This book was better than I thought! I loved the UNICORN!! Who knew he would be so sassy, and have THEE best comebacks?? I wasn't expecting the Unicorn  (can't remember his name) made this book for me! Astrea was likable but every ehhh for me, and the elf called Gander was too much....This was a fast, and fun read! Loved the fantasy, adventure, and action! Did I mention the dragons, fairies, and long lost relatives!?!?! Side note I hate milk , so kudos to Astrea drinking warm milk...
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I wasn't really a big fan of this book.

i'm not too sure if it was the storyline or the characters but i just felt there was no draw to this storyline at all. nothing about it kept me gripped.
In a Village full of redheads, Astrea has always felt like an outcast and like shes never really fit in, along with famine plaguing the village, she one day stumbles upon a unicorn - knowing how this would help her village she decides to bring it back for food becoming somewhat of a local hero.

The confusing i that the unicorn then starts talking to her about a curse that would be placed upon anyone that eats the unicorn should the village decide to use the unicorn as food. so.. Astrea then decides to take the unicorn and run off into the night hunting for illiumia in order to save the world and claim her birthright... and along the way meets Gander who is an elf with and alluring element and defiant sort of rebellious streak who has an issue with pixie dust. the only thing that keeps this book mildly entertaining is the hatred that the elf and unicorn have for each other and the quippy remarks that are exchanged.

I honestly feel like this story was something that was made up on the spot to be as silly and illborate as possible. its just not a good storyline and i found myself laughing at how ridiculous it was when the author introduced a new element to the book.

but talking unicorns? really? - definitely a big no from me.

Even though it was well written and there were some funny elements to the characteristics and Leya has a great perception of world building...  i just found it a madly ridiculous concept of a storyline and just don't think it worked at all.

There is also a HUGE amount of repetition throughout the book and i feel that it just was really drawn out when it didn't need to be.

All in all, no t a book i would recommend but plenty of growing room for Leya in the future with any other series.
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Another of my netgalley reads, this has actually been out previously as a series of novellas, but this is the first time it's been collated into an omnibus. And it's the first time I've read it, so it's fair game.

Astrea is the unloved child of a hidden village of gingers, who are slowly starving to death due to a rather unfortunate bit of famine that's struck their fog-filled forest home. So she's very impressed with herself one day when she discovers a unicorn, with plenty of meat on its bones, and brings it back to the village for food. It might offset her lowly status, brought about by her annoyingly blonde hair.

Now if only the food would stop talking to her. The unicorn, in a particularly sassy way, keeps putting the idea of a curse into her head that'll strike anyone who happens to eat it (which includes the entire village). So, with a little prompting from her family, Astrea runs off into the night with the unicorn and not much else.

And goes through a journey of personal discovery, helped along the way by Windmane (the unicorn) and Gander, a sexy bad boy elf with a pixie dust problem. She's got to get to Illumia, in order to claim her birthright and save the world. (There's a lot more in there, but spoilers.)

Given that setup, you might be expecting a lot of fluffy romance, but actually it's mostly snark and regretting bad decisions. The unicorn and elf hate each other with the passion of a burning sun, and the punchy dialogue keeps it clipping along at a fun pace.

Certain element of repetition in the plot, which I think might be the end result of combining four distinct arcs, but thankfully it's fun enough that you won't necessarily notice. There's a decent adventure plot, with some rollicking fights and a nice amount of world-building, with hints of a future political struggle ahead.

Ends ludicrously abruptly though, especially as an additional element gets added in just as it stops. Still, be interesting to see where it goes next.
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A good coming of age story and claiming a birthright. The doll was slightly creepy, the milk was an ew moment and I didn’t trust the elf one bit. I liked Windmane, the blunt and sassy unicorn with his jokes and making fun of Gander. It felt cloak and dagger so plenty of secrets left to be uncovered.
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Astrea always felt different, an outsider, even in her tribe of the Banned. Luckily she is a great hunter and uses her talent to help her family and her tribe survive. But one day she catches a unicorn. Even though they are starving, she can't believe they would actually kill the animal and with a push from her mother, she decides to rescue the unicorn and run away on a quest.
Dragons, fairies and all sorts of magical creatures get involved in Astrea's fate and she is forced into a destiny she is not sure she wants or is able to fulfill.
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Loved this book, and I can't wait for the next one!
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