Rating – 3 stars
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
It’s not everyday that you get a story that is told from the perspective of a shadow and its precisely the reason which made me request an ARC via Netgalley of the Pentrals. It did not turn out to be what I had expected, but I am not complaining, there is certainly no disappointment.
Crystal Mack’ debut offering – The Pentrals, is based in a city Talline, a metropolis of mirrors, where shadows and reflections are more than they appear to be. They aren’t just a part of you, they are individual sentinel beings called the Pentrals. Divided into four classes, these Pentrals have duties assigned to them as befitting their class. Though it has yet not been stated how the Pentrals came into existence or how they are divided into shadows and reflections. And while there is practically close to zilch info on the reflections, we do learn shadows are assigned classes based on the severity of their crimes as punishment. A class one pentral is assigned to any random object which, is basically a way to drive anyone crazy, a class two pentral is assigned the duty of being the shadow of a person. To perform any mistake while on duty may result in serious consequence to the Pentral concerned.
Antares’ a class two pentral, is the assigned shadow of a girl known as Violet. Needless to say Antares, has been with Violet from day one and has performed her duties to the best of her abilities.
At age 17, an incident causes Violet to spiral out of control, as she hits rock bottom. When Antares, who has always been the silent spectator of Violet’ life watches her destroy herself she cannot take it. Antares always found Violet a lovely girl and has been proud of her artistic abilities, of watching her grow each day into a talented young woman. She cannot mutely resign and allow Violet to throw away her life.
An incident finally allows Antares to voice her opinions to Violet, when they switch places and Antares finds herself, her essence/soul in Violet’ body as Violet takes her place and becomes the shadow.
What I had expected was a plot where Violet finally realizes how her self-destructive behavior was ruining her life, even a love triangle (quadrangle) of sorts.
What I had not anticipated where the themes Mack has used which become clear slowly page by page. And I must admit it definitely took me by surprise.
In a world that is obsessed with looks today, and especially with every girl trying to be as skinny as possible. oft-times at the cost of her health, Mack has woven the ill-effects of these body image issues by depicting not only shadows as sentient beings, but reflections as well.
While shadows suffer in the mute lost in their darkness, the reflections wreak havoc in The Pentrals, portraying grotesque monstrous images when anyone looks at their own reflection.
I have seen a few cases where image issues have led to depression as well, which is what Mack touches upon next in her book, as people start relying on drugs which are sold freely called Lift!, to help them tackle their anxiety and depression which stem from their body image issues.
Slowly but steadily, Mack reveals how an entire city is enslaved to the deviousness of one person.
Personally when it comes down to it, I prefer good old stories of wizards and witches, over anything sci-fi since it is kinda associated with my childhood. I love reading about dragons, wizards & witches and all sorts of fantastical creatures, over reading about aliens and stuff. But every once in a while I do get an urge to tread the road less taken, when the subject of a book, grabs my attention.
Having said that I am happy, that I gave a chance to the pentrals.
Though I have my share of grievances. To name a few – Violet’ annoying way too-clingy boyfriend Thomas, Antares repeating time and again how she has felt lonely. Not that I dont get it, but that thing is repeated one time too many. Also whenever Antares and her love interest Ben have any sort of physical contact it results in sparks. Literally. They have a connect and are soul mates, I get it but literal sparks really?! Mack could have chosen a different approach in this regard to establish a romance between the characters. An approach which did not involve them zapping each other and leaving the reader utterly flummoxed, which should have been based on depicting the potential these characters have to become & make it as a couple.
The story is a slow burn, people looking for a pacy book will be disappointed. But if you can stick around and don’t mind the time ‘ The Pentrals’ is a unique read, which could be worth a shot.
I was provided an advance readers copy for reviewing courtesy of Apologue Entertainment via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review of the book. This review is in no way influenced and is solely based on my opinion.