Oriana's Eyes by Celeste Simone
Pub. Date: February 24th, 2010
Series: Great Oak Trilogy, #1
Age Level: 13+
Source: From author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis via Goodreads
As a pure-blood Winglet, Oriana isn't supposed to look at a half-blood much less speak to one. Half-bloods are the lowest of all races at Odon's University, because they are half Winglet and half Finlet. But when a half-blood, Dorian, locks eyes with her in the hallway, Oriana can't help but be intrigued by his daring nature. After sneaking out to the garden in the middle of the night to talk to him, Oriana knows she can't let her feelings go. She fears not following Odon's rules, but the more she sees Dorian the more she wants to break them all. When Oriana's idea of perfection crumbles she seeks a way out of the imprisoning University that threatens not only her happiness, but her very life. Dorian promises he has a plan to take her far away, but Oriana doubts they can escape Odon's all-seeing eye. Oriana isn't sure what she fears more, being stuck in the University or finding out what lies beyond its walls.
When I first read the synopsis for Oriana's Eyes, I was immediately intrigued. I really wanted to and believed I would love this book. In the end, I found that I just liked it and thought it a bit flawed though still highly unique and promising.
Oriana was a fairly good protagonist but I found her character to be a bit of a contradiction. What I mean by this is that Oriana was written with a strong and courageous personality. Yet whenever she would try to do the right thing or be the heroine I felt she was meant to be, she would usually only make things worse and end up stuck in some damsel-in-distress situation where someone, usually Dorian, had to come save her. Then when she finally does get her chance to shine and save the day, she's not really given credit for it by the other characters. True that during said event, from all outer appearances, it was someone else being the hero but if it hadn't been for her, said person wouldn't have been able to do it. All of this made it hard for me to connect with Oriana at first, but I found that during the last third of the book, I was finally able to form a solid connection with her. Now to Dorian. At the very beginning I found myself very interested in his character. Sadly this didn't last and I slowly began to find myself becoming a bit indifferent towards him as he failed to really develop much from that point on until the very end. The romance between Dorian and Oriana ignites almost instantly and then it just fell flat leaving much to be desired in the chemistry department and I found that I never really could quite understand what the actual attraction was built on. Oddly enough, it turned out to be the supporting characters such as Azura, Liam, and Finley that I found to be really good characters. Azura felt more relatable to me emotionally than Oriana and I think her and Liam would have made great lead characters. Then Finley, I don't know, there was just something about him that grabbed my attention where Dorian failed to do so. Another great supporting character was Tor's wise and loving mother, Falda. So yes, the characters were less than stellar but I still liked them well enough and loved how there was such a wide variety without there being too many to keep up with.
The idea and concept behind Oriana's Eyes was borderline brilliant. I especially loved the whole creative process behind the Great Oak and it was so elegantly depicted. While I didn't find the plot to be as thoroughly executed as it might have been, the story was still suspenseful, imaginative, and powerful. One thing that prevented this book from achieving it's maximum potential was the inconsistent pacing. The first third of the book jumped right into the action and though very exciting, this aspect also made the beginning feel rushed with everything passing by too quickly. The synopsis lead me to believe that more of this book would take place with Oriana at the University than what actually did and I would have liked to have seen a little more back story incorporated into the beginning. Now to the middle third of the book, which was slow in comparison to the first part. This portion wasn't as exciting however it is where the informative history of the Winglet and Finlet people came in. I have to say, the culture and world of the Winglets and Finlets was very unique and beautifully imagined. That being said, it was the last third of the book where everything came together perfectly. The story became fast, but well, paced. I got a little more back story as well as lots of action and a firm connection with the characters. Despite some issues, Oriana's Eyes did prove to be a very compelling and thought-provoking story.
Simone's writing style almost had a lyrical quality about it and was so luminously done with a keen use of imagery! Honestly it was the lovely writing that really surprised me most about this book as I was not expecting it to be so expertly crafted. One thing that I do feel the writing could have benefited from though would have been a little dab of dry humor thrown in here and there. Oriana's Eyes is definitely a serious book so the dry humor would have suited it best and kept it from feeling so heavy and weighted at times.
The ending was by far the biggest redeemer of Oriana's Eyes. Everything, from the characters, to the plot, to the writing, was at it's very best in the last part of the book. The end was brutally honest yet hopeful in it's portrayal of how when there is something critical to be gained, there is almost always going to be something, or someone, lost to achieve such an important and life-altering goal. It was bittersweet through and through and wonderfully and appropriately done. Not to mention I nearly cried at one time, proving my emotional connection to the characters had grown stronger.
All in all, Oriana's Eyes did have it's flaws but it also had some outstanding qualities as well that truly made it a refreshing and worthwhile read! I can honestly say that I've never read anything like this book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different than the usual fantasy. Though there aren't a lot, the majority of the ratings for this book on Goodreads are five stars so I wish to encourage you to read some of the other reviews there. At only 24, Simone has plenty of time to polish and perfect her skills so as to reach her maximum promise and potential that I can tell she as much of as an author. I look forward to seeing her grow as a writer in the second book of the Great Oak trilogy.
1st in Trilogy: C+
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Thursday, December 23, 2010
Oriana's Eyes by Celeste Simone
Posted by ~The Book Pixie at 12/23/2010 07:22:00 PM