(cross-posted from the blog Wading Through Electronic Ink)
Natalie hates her birthday, and she doesn't expect her eighteenth to be any better than usual. In fact, if anything, she finds that it's worse. Her nightmares are stronger than ever, and she and her family and friends keep finding themselves in mortal danger. And her best friend Jackson never seems to be around when she needs him. But the weirdest thing of all is the new boy Pierce, who started school just a few weeks before graduation with a story of his long lost love - with the same name as Natalie. Does he know what is going on with her strange powers? And if so, why isn't he letting her know?
Spiral has a unique mythology where the characters are unicorns who primarily have healing magic. As far as magic types go, healing is on the less-interesting-but-more-useful end of the scale, and I think Spiral does a good job at demonstrating why it's pretty cool. Especially since the unicorns can also use their powers offensively, though this seems to be somewhat frowned upon.
One (kind of weird) thing I love about Maddy Edwards's books is that her characters have such delightfully normal yet uncommon names. Maybe a little old-fashioned but in a good way. I feel this way about both Natalie here and Charlotte, the main character of Paranormal Public. When I was reading both books and found out what the narrator's name was, I was pleasantly surprised.
I found the mythology of Spiral kind of confusing. We get the story from two different
viewpoints - Natalie, who knows nothing about unicorns or magic, and Pierce, who knows everything. The result of this is that I feel like the reader never gets a clear explanation of how things work. Like, we know there are clans of unicorns, and there are other supernatural beings called Watchfuls and Visioners. Eventually we do get Watchfuls explained, but I still have no idea what a Visioner is. Except bad. They are very bad.
By the end of the book, there are a bunch of other things that I'm also not clear on, like why Natalie is special. We know that she is special, and we get some hints as to why, but I'm unclear what the overarching meaning behind all these things is. It's possible that we're not supposed to know at this point? Because I think there's a lot going on with the overarching plot that Pierce doesn't know about. And the ending is kind of cliff-hanger-still-in-the-middle-of-things. I'm hoping that the later books make some of this stuff clearer.
In the first chapter of the book, Natalie hears Pierce tell the story of his Natalie, the girl who was his best friend in childhood and who he believes is his soulmate. A few chapters later, we see things from Pierce's point of view and are shocked to find out that his Natalie is also OUR Natalie, who we've been reading about. She has had her childhood memories erased, and Pierce has been forced to stay away from her. Clearly these two people need to find each other and see whether the spark they had in childhood has lasted these many years apart.
But! Natalie has not spent her whole life pining after Pierce because she doesn't even remember him. And so she has a crush on her best friend Jackson, who seems to have no romantic interest in her whatsoever. Honestly, I kind of want to be on Team Jackson, since he has been there through all her troubles. But he really gets the short end of the stick. Not only does he have no chapters from his point of view, but he's never around. So the love triangle aspect kind of falls flat. Which I guess is okay because Natalie and Pierce are clearly soulmates.
Will I read more?
After 6 solid books, Maddy Edwards definitely has a place on my reading schedule whenever she should happen to come out with a new book. As of right now, I think I like One Black Rose better than Spiral, but there are still many things to discover about the world of the unicorns that may make me change my mind.