key of f book coverSo this week’s independent review isn’t a new release.  In fact, The Key of F by Jennifer Haskin was published on May 8, 2018.

Last month, Ms. Haskin asked me if I’d like to review a copy of the book, to which I gladly agreed.  It’s taken me a bit to get around to it, though. She requested that the original review go up on Amazon, so what follows is the review as it appears there (or should shortly once approved by Amazon – NOT AN AFFILIATE LINK).

“I don’t normally read Young Adult Fantasy, so The Key of F by Jennifer Haskin is a little outside my usual selection.  My review is going to reflect that, simply because it’s just not quite the same as the epic and dark fantasy or horror that makes up my normal fare.  Still, I do have some grasp of what makes a good YA novel as I do read them from time to time.

To that end, there were a couple aspects of The Key of F  that continuously put me in mind of The Hunger Games, not the least of which was the way that the country of Algea is divided into districts with very distinct caste systems. The chosen-one archetypal protagonist is another.  There’s also the blending of science-fiction with something of a fantastical setting.  Finally, there’s the love triangle.

In a nutshell, The Key of F is Book 1 in the Freedom Fight Trilogy.  It’s the story of Fale, a hidden princess and well-kept secret who may well turn out to be the one to end the Control Agency’s totalitarian regime.  Fale’s visions lead her to discover that she’s something of a well-kept secret and quite possibly the one to save the world with the help of her friends Izzy, Keron, and Lisle.

When it comes to world-building, Haskin does a spectacular job of setting the scene.  The world that Fale lives in is quite richly imagined and I was able to get a solid sense of what was at stake.  To be honest, it’s a pretty horrific vision of a world where people are set to jobs that can easily get them killed or maimed, survivors of any such accidents are forced to spend the rest of their lives indebted to the government in repayment for artificial replacements while being reclassed as sub-human, and dissenters to the Control Agency’s laws are treated with extreme prejudice.

Similarly, in terms of style and mechanics, Haskin does a good job in this area.  Her writing style is clear and to the point.  The language isn’t overly complicated or formal and hits just the right spot for the genre.

Unfortunately, though, it’s in this general area where I ran into the first issue.

Believable and genuine dialogue is an incredibly important part of any story.  It moves the story forward, makes the reading come alive, and is one of those areas where it’s easy for writers to miss the mark.  Personally, I found some of the dialogue to be a bit clichéd at times and just unnatural at others.

The next problem is with Fale herself.  She starts out quite strong but ends up losing that independence in her relationship with Keron later in the book. She bounces back and forth between claims of being capable of making her own decisions but terrified that her decisions will make Keron reject her because she needs him to feel complete.  A genuinely strong character doesn’t need someone else to make them whole.  They may need support from time to time (as do we all) but they shouldn’t feel the incomplete due to the lack of a significant other.  And while I realize that Fale is an orphan and that’s going to create its own set of emotional baggage for her to deal with, I feel like there may have been better ways to express her insecurities and doubts than through what felt like a codependent relationship with Keron.

In the end, I did enjoy reading Haskin’s The Key of F even though it’s out of my usual wheelhouse. Too, we’ve only just been introduced to the world and the characters in this novel.  Since this is the first book of a trilogy, Fale has plenty of time to sort out her inner conflicts and relationship issues and develop into the strong character that the first part of the book sets us up to expect.

So, my final verdict?

Definitely worth the time to read.”

Now, tell me—have you read Haskin’s book?  I’ve love to hear your thoughts on it!