Indie Press Book Review: Asymmetric Angels by Essa Alroc

3.5/5 Stars


17182976I won Alroc’s first novel in this series, Strangely Sober, in a First Reads Giveaway. It was the first independently published novel (and the first review copy) I’d ever read, and I was a little nervous about it. But I was pleasantly surprised by Strangely Sober (you can read my review of it HERE)and even more so by Asymmetric Angels. I’ve read some great and some terrible indie press since my induction into the category last year. And Alroc’s novels remain pretty firmly near the top of my indie-reads recommendations. I’m giving it 3.5 stars.

Who should read this book? People with a dark sense of humour, a love of quirky characters and bizarre plot lines, and lovers of the mystery/crime fiction genres.
Who shouldn’t read this book? People who get hung up on realism and take themselves really seriously at book club meetings.

Of course, as with any independently published book there is a concern about editing. I think the hardest part of being a self-published author is the fact that resources such as professional editors are either paid for out of pocket (at exorbitant cost, trust me) or bypassed in favour of the less reliable, but more economical, beta-reader editors. Unless the author is very lucky, or very well connected, this often amounts to friends and family. So editing can be a major concern for a nit-picky reader (like myself). However, Alroc seems to have done a very thorough job with her editing. There are a handful of typos, but no glaring grammatical blunders, and nothing that got in the way of my enjoyment of the text.

I actually preferred Asymmetric Angels to its predecessor for a number of reasons. While the characters and plot are still a little “out there” for traditional publishing (a shame) Alroc has a natural skill for pacing. I literally sat down and read this novel in one sitting. She is able to tie together multiple character POVs, and jump between them, with the panache of a professional writer. Her pacing is better than many big name writers in the crime fiction genre, and her characters are infinitely more entertaining than most.

This was true of Strangely Sober as well, but Alroc has definitely tightened up her plotlines and reined things in a bit with Asymmetric Angels, and it works in her favour. Asymmetric Angels feels more grounded and focussed. I’m sure Alroc has a ton of ideas for Sal and her crew, but she managed to keep the number of capers in her second novel down so that we could focus on Angel’s current predicament. We get to know the characters a little better in this novel, and we get to see their softer sides which, after an introduction like Strangely Sober was necessary to humanize them. Especially Sal.

Dare I say it? Asymmetric Angels, though it pushes some boundaries, could easily be picked up by a daring agent/publisher, polished, and sold to the masses. The trouble is, finding that daring agent/publisher (if such people even exist anymore).

I’m not going to summarize the plot for anyone. The jacket blurb does that well enough. But I will say that I enjoyed Alroc’s decision to bring her antagonists a little closer to home. The ridiculous Reverend and his gay-bashing bible thumpers, though they should be satirical, are disturbingly close to the real-life born-again crowd. The battle between the drag queens and the holy warriors is both hilarious and sad. Alroc touches on other real life issues, such as domestic abuse and mental illness. Admittedly in an extreme way, but she doesn’t make light of these situations either. Overall, I’m very impressed.

My biggest issue with Strangely Sober had been the relationship between Sal and the over-protective control freak, Cole. This is largely resolved in Asymmetric Angels, first by separating the two so that Cole’s control freak instincts have to work at a distance and later by Sal putting her foot down once and for all. Thank the gods!

Alroc has clearly set up the ending to make room for another book in the series, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it. If Alroc’s evolution as a writer between the first two novels is any indication of what she is capable of, I think the third novel in the series will be extremely promising.

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