REVIEW | Chilling Effect | Valerie Valdes | Chilling Effect #1

I am absolutely obsessed with the cover of this book. It has the perfect vibes, my favourite colours and a tagline that is straight-up irresistible. Unfortunately, CHILLING EFFECT did not live up to my hopes and I was a little disappointed and frustrated that it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. I was hoping for something like THE LEFT HAND OF DOG or the Becky Chambers series, but that’s not what I got.

	Character - 5
Atmosphere - 6
Writing - 5
Plot - 4
Intrigue - 5
Logic - 5
Enjoyment - 4

Rating: 4.86 / 3 stars
Rating: 4.86 / 3 stars

About the book:

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

What did I think?

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really, really, enjoyed the first half of the book, and then it completely lost me by the end. There were two very abrupt time jumps, and while the second one did make sense for the narrative, the first one? It felt completely random and didn’t really serve the story. It might have worked if it had driven character development, but it didn’t. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrative was fun to listen to, and the narrator did a fantastic job at matching the energetic tone of the story and fitting the silly sci-fi vibes. Silly sci-fi is one of my absolute favourite forms, but unfortunately, this book was let down a little bit by the inconsistency of this tone. The writing was very immersive, most of the time, but when it wasn’t? It really wasn’t.

I mentioned character development earlier and unfortunately, that was one of the things I found lacking in this book. If I’d loved Eva like I wanted to, I would have enjoyed this significantly more. But ultimately, I found her kind of shallow. In theory, I love the idea of a bad girl redeeming herself, and then being driven back to her past to try and save someone. But it didn’t really work here. The book kept telling me that Eva was a badass and had this terrifying reputation for doing something awful in her past. But what we actually see is Eva being fairly naive throughout the whole book and applying zero common sense to any of the situations she gets into. She also spends a lot of time talking about her crew being her family for someone who spends the whole book lying to them.

I think ultimately, I’d have liked this book a lot more if it was smaller in scale, more on par with Becky Chambers, with Eva and her crew taking on smaller-scale jobs. Instead, it felt like the book was aspiring to be a huge, sprawling space opera, but this didn’t match the fun and silly tone. On top of that, there was so much going on in this book. There were too many giant antagonists, I could barely track who I was supposed to see as the big bad. Also, and this is a little niggling point but really annoyed me, if you’re going to put ‘psychic cats’ on the cover, and fill the first chapter with psychic cats then you have to have the psychic cats be a part of the story! Instead, there’s twenty of them in the first chapter and then one of them does nothing but be a lap cat for the rest of the book. They’re psychic cats!!! Why were they side-lined, they’re the coolest part of the promo for this book?!

There’s a lot of Spanish threaded throughout this book. Usually, I absolutely love this, with different languages being included casually in the narrative. Cemetery Boys did an incredible job of this, and I’m currently reading One for All, which includes French incredibly smoothly. I like it especially when the author is including their mother tongue, with characters being casually bilingual and readers getting to learn scraps of language as they read. In CHILLING EFFECT, though, it kept pulling me out of the story and breaking my immersion, because there was so much of it that I definitely felt like I was missing out on nuance to the plot and humour. There weren’t enough context clues for me to be able to get the gist of what the characters were saying so I was missing out on dialogue entirely.

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Release Date: 17th September 2019

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