Starving Review: Heart of Earth (The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek Book 1) by Mark Laporta

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Heart of Earth (The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek Book 1) by Mark Laporta (Amazon, Goodreads)

One of my long-time favorite menu items, science fiction will never get old for me.  As I started my sci-fi binge at a young age, it was heartening to see more young-adult focused science fiction still being put together in literary kitchens across the world.  Of course, the proof is literally in the pudding (sweet, sweet pudding) so let’s pick apart the menu for this YA sci-fi meal, Heart of Earth!

Before we get to the main course, let us never forget the Starving Review rules:

  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

As nice as it would be to be able to peel back my memories to the start of the book and take it by the numbers, that is not to be in this case.  Let me be upfront, my literary foodies, my tastebuds are of two very different minds in regards to this morsel and my review will reflect that.  I just didn’t want you lovely people to think the Starving Reviewer had descended into hunger-induced madness as I bounced back between praise and criticism.  As I strive to be positive, let’s start with some praise.

Many would argue that the core of any literary meal is the cast of characters and Mr. Laporta seems to take to that well … at least in terms of his protagonists.  Certainly what I would consider the core three characters are well-thought out and quite relatable, even the alien one.  Unfortunately, the antagonists, such as they are, don’t benefit from the same blend of herbs and spices, being particularly one-flavor creatures.  Darnit, I told you this might seem disjointed … already bouncing to criticism!

To try to stay positive for a bit longer, the chef of Heart serves up a solid core writing experience and brings a certain wry humor to the entire experience.  Solid stylistically, Heart went down smooth, remaining an easy read throughout.  Also, Heart‘s menu certainly strives to be imaginative and for the most part succeeds.  The sci-fi elements certainly have the marks of creativity on them, especially in its willingness to make aliens more than recolored humans, something that definitely deserves a nod of appreciation for having a new flavor!

Here’s where my evil twin has to take over though, because there are some problems in the menu.  You have already noted where the main antagonists get the short end of the characterization stick above, and this weakness extends to the conflict and plot themselves.  With only the most generic of motivations, it takes a certain something out of the drama of the plot, something that is already weakened by a scattered narrative that rarely connects all the dots to make it work.

It’s like baking a pie with an incomplete crust.  You can cut a piece but have half the filling pour out where there isn’t the form of the crust to give it substance.  There are multiple times where events happen, even critical ones involving the climax, where the reader isn’t told or shown why something happened or how.  It just … happens.  Some of the rationale behind these vital events are lightly implied, but as they sometimes involve the sci-fi elements that are never fully codified, drawing the right implication isn’t easy and often confusing.  Several times I had to backtrack chapters to try to piece together the narrative, breaking the flow of the book and straining my suspension of disbelief.

That’s really the rub of things.  There are things I loved about Heart of Earth and things that wanted me demand a refund for my meal.  As measure of pure mathematical sums, I want to give this an average rating, but I also must put these provisos on it:  This is a good read if you prioritize characters highly over plot.  Likewise, if you consider the plot more important, avoid this as it will madden you.  If you lie somewhere in between, you might want to consider giving this a read, but simply be aware that you are walking into a mixed bag of nuts.

FINAL VERDICT: *** (Flavorful characters and imaginative sci-fi with a half-baked plot!)

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