Starving Review: The Twisted Spiral by Arlene Cabus Poerio


The Twisted Spiral by Arlene Cabus Poerio (Amazon, Smashwords)’

The literary world is filled with fusion.  Oft times the best way to spice up a tried-and-true recipe is to mix in a dash of an extra genre.  Mixed in the right quantities, these new ingredients can create fantastic new literary recipes.  Today’s treat mixes ingredients of fantasy, history, and science fiction to try to deliver something with some pizzazz.  Does it hit or does it miss?

Before we dig into this dish to find out, let’s take up the Starving Review Creed:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.

Let’s take this recipe from the top and examine the core ingredients: characters and plot.  First off, it is obvious the chef has spent her time researching the historical ingredients well.  Many have touched on the ‘modern man thrown back into the past) and Ms. Poerio tackles this well.  Our modern protagonist’s development and adaptation to her new world is handled fantastically and the rest of the cast in ancient Egypt feel like they come from a past foreign culture.  Spiral has a very strong core of main characters, providing a fantastic base for the mix of this particular cake.

The plot itself is also strong.  Again, the attention to detail is wonderful in recreating the ancient world the protagonist finds herself in and no punches are pulled in that regard.  The twists and the overall build to the climax are well-cooked and there is at least one scene that was quite heart-wrenching to read through, no matter how well-foreshadowed it was.  That kind of emotional impact speaks to the skill with which our chef has crafted this tale.

The sci-fi and fantasy elements are, for the most part, integrated fluidly into the mix.  There are a few chunky sections of exposition regarding these elements in the last third of the book, elements that I think could have been broken up and revealed over time during the book, yet it is nothing that marks off significantly against the overall narrative.  The wrap-up of the book, connected strongly to these elements, is handled particularly well, bringing the book to a satisfactory close while still leaving the door open to future adventures.

If there is any real failing of Spiral, it is in a certain lack of focus when it comes to the point-of-view of the writing.  Ms. Poerio progresses in a sort of third-person omniscient style, which isn’t an issue in and of itself, but there are often sudden jumps into the heads of characters mid-scene that I found to be a bit jarring, especially when it bounced to a minor character to show something that was all ready obvious from the character’s actions.  However, for the most part, the PoV is fairly focused and the chef has a strong enough respect for the integrity of the plot that none of these PoV shifts reveals the coming events outside of some nicely laid-out foreshadowing, unlike some other books I have reviewed that use their PoV to completely ruin the true plotlines.

At the end of the meal, I found The Twisted Spiral to be a truly wonderful read, with some creative takes on mixing time-travel, fantasy, and historical fiction, with only a few off-notes to prevent it from being a perfect meal.  I look forward expectantly to more from this author, as the second course can only improved upon this great first showing!

FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A wonderful sci-fi/fantasy/historical time-travel treat, with only a few minor stylistic foibles!)


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