By Saundra Mitchell
Available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR
Read my review of Shadowed Summer
I enjoyed Saundra Mitchell's debut SHADOWED SUMMER, and I've always meant to read her new books but never quite managed. Thus I haven't read THE VESPERTINE or THE SPRINGSWEET, the companions to THE ELEMENTALS.
I've been told the first two books stand very well on their own, but I wish I had read them before reading THE ELEMENTALS. There is a reasonable amount of background, but the villain is entirely motivated by events that happened in one of the earlier books, which I could merely make educated guesses about. I feel like there would've been more of a sense of something building if I was familiar with the characters and their relationships.
The main characters of THE ELEMENTALS are the children of the main characters of the first two books. Kate has been raised all over the world, always partying, never working. Her dream is to become a Hollywood director, and it becomes far more possible once she finds her muse. Julian has been raised on a farm, where he does the chores that don't tax his bad leg, lost to polio. Both of them also have a power: Kate can stop time for thirty seconds and Julian can raise small animals from the dead. Inevitably, the two meet.
I feel like there were glimmerings of a more interesting, more complicated novel. For instance, there's Kate's relationship with her muse, a girl who is the consummate actress and determined to get her way, qualities Kate notices but doesn't comprehend until too late. Saundra Mitchell is terrific at creating characters who don't fit the normal mode, but the plotting isn't quite there. What carries THE ELEMENTALS is the writing. Mitchell's writing is wonderfully atmospheric, from Europe to the farm to summery Los Angeles.
The simple plot might've worked if not for the ending, which is quite rushed. It makes a vague sense with the themes of the novel and the rules of Kate and Julian's power, but there's no time for consequences. How do Zora and Amelia and Emerson and Nathaniel, fairly important characters at the beginning of the novel, react to their children's actions? It felt like the actual fate of the families was left hanging.
I enjoyed reading THE ELEMENTALS, because as I said before, Mitchell could write. But when the book ended, I was left with the nagging sense that part of the book was missing. I feel like this one could've used another round of polishing. All the same, I still want to read the first two books and I'm interested in reading future books from Mitchell.