Title: The Awakening of Ren Crown
Author: Anne Zoelle
Series: Ren Crown #1
Ren Crown knew her place: beside her extroverted and popular twin brother, Christian. Until the night he dies violently, leaving her alone with questions no one hears, let alone answers. Then another inexplicable assault, followed by powers she never expected to exist and a world where raising the dead isn’t just a thought experiment but something that’s actually possible. Now Ren has a new goal: getting her brother back. No matter what.
This is a bit jerky, although some of that is definitely because Ren is getting jerked around from one thing to another, and a lot of the worldbuilding that would smooth things out is stuff Ren has no way of knowing. I would have liked a little more worldbuilding details, since Ren was going to some of the engineering classes on the sly, and a little less “getting drunk at a party” common college type scenes.
I do like how balanced Ren is between art and engineering. This isn’t someone who pushes the superiority of one side or the other, or even someone who is good at one but has no aptitude for the other, but is someone who can engage and enjoy both dimensions. And the fact that painting counts as a substance abuse charge was funny. As much as I was curious what she might paint without limiters, it was amusing to see how other people responded to what they see as a heavy abuser.
The other characters were generally good as well, although Christian never really worked for me. He came off initially as someone I disliked, and even though Ren thinks the world of him, I never really bought why he was so good (it wasn’t really necessary to understand her obsession, though). It was interesting to get a character who’s got some kind of magical sex attraction going and Ren not only isn’t even interested, but engages him purely in a business associate relationship. I hope that doesn’t get twisted in the future to create a weird love triangle. It was also very interesting to see Ren recognize her crush is nothing but a fantasy, and admit the real guy is not someone she wants (although the cynical part of me says they’ll probably end up as a couple anyway).
Overall, this is a mostly solid start to a series I wouldn’t mind continuing. Hopefully the next book will open Ren’s legal opportunities a bit more so she can dig into things on a normal level. I rate this book Recommended.