Review: Earthcore Book 1: RotoVegas

Anira thinks her family’s trip to Rotorua will be a typical vacation. She’s prepared herself for a week of grudging participation as she fights off a latent phobia of volcanoes. 

But this place has far greater and ancient secrets than she could ever have imagined. For its springs hold a hidden power—one that transforms those gifted by the spirits of the land. 

Now Anira finds herself gifted with abilities she has never known. And there are others like her—both good and evil…

RotoVegas is the first book in the Earthcore series, and was my first introduction to the “taniwha” folklore of New Zealand.

RotoVegas is the first book in the Earthcore series, and was my first introduction to the “taniwha” folklore of New Zealand. Within Maori legend, this creature is a mystical being similar to a dragon (it also reminded me of the “thunderbird” of Native American culture). The local flavor of this legend adds character to the story’s mythology, and by extension, I learned a lot about New Zealand and Maori culture (the Maori language itself actually forms an essential plot element).The book contains many scenes with vivid descriptions of the local geography, flora, and fauna. New Zealand is a country I personally know very little about, but now I might want to visit it some day. 

The book is quite readable, written in simple language that flows well and avoids choppiness. The story falls into the young adult genre, but I liked the fact that it breaks the standard YA trope of all the main characters being in the same age group—some of them are actually full-fledged adults with adult responsibilities. The book nevertheless maintains a very “comic book” feel throughout, and will definitely appeal to fans of Marvel or X-men style storylines. I actually think it would be interesting to see it adapted to graphic novel format—I had an impression of bright, vivid colors and imagery throughout the narrative. 

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The story is built upon two central mysteries that are revealed gradually: one is the source of the newfound abilities of the protagonist and her friends, the other being the identity of the antagonist. The use of two mysteries as opposed to one is both a strength and a weakness. Suspense and point-of-view is used to great effect, and it was fascinating to follow Anira’s mental journey as she discovers the things she is able to do as well as their link to a geothermal spring. On the other hand, the fact that the villain is concealed for so long hampers his impact upon the narrative. I can understand the reason for this, however. This book is the first installment in what looks to be a very extensive series, so I would expect a far greater amount of stage-setting than the sequels. I do also feel like there were a number of loose threads at the end, but I would attribute this to the same reason. The one other issue is that the pacing can feel a bit slow at times, but the author does well in introducing a variety of elements to hold the reader’s interest. 

Do we use our abilities to help others or to benefit ourselves at others’ expense?

RotoVegas contains no profanity or sexual content, and I also appreciated its theme of moral choice regarding “gifts”. Do we use our abilities to help others or to benefit ourselves at others’ expense? All in all, I would recommend it as a fun, clean read to both adolescents and adults. 

Available now at $2.99 for Kindle and $11.98 for paperback.

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