Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: NAL Trade on August 4, 2015
My thanks to NAL and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil.Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.
Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.
But when the Veil threatens to shatter completely, Claire and Liam must work together to stop it, or else New Orleans will burn…
For some reason I was convinced that THE VEIL was a YA novel, but when the protagonist Claire is revealed as a 24 year-old on the second or third page, that is clearly not the case. My expectations were already slightly off for this one, although it was clearly my own fault. Unfortunately, there were other ways THE VEIL failed to meet my expectations and I ended up being somewhat disappointed with the book as a whole. But as always, let’s begin with the good!
Chloe Neill’s world building in THE VEIL is very strong, and of course New Orleans is always a fun location for an urban fantasy. The blurb actually does a great job describing the basic set up, so here it is:
Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil’s Isle.
I know, kind of an ominous name, right? Well if you lived there, you’d understand. Devil’s Isle is essentially a ghetto for supernaturals and their suspected sympathizers, a place where food and tech is even more scarce than the rest of New Orleans. Chloe Neill did a fantastic job of depicting the harsh realities of life in Devil’s Isle and introduced some side characters there that I hope to see more of in the sequel.
The people living in Devil’s Isle fall into two categories: Paras and Sensitives. Paras – or paranormals – are the non-human, magical beings that came through the Veil and into our world during the war. Sensitives are humans who are particularly attuned to the Veil and affected by magic, and somehow they’re able to use magic. But the human body wasn’t made to use Para magic, so if a Sensitive uses too much magic they’re at risk of becoming a Wraith. Wraiths are little more than killing machines bent on sucking humans dry…at least that’s what the military wants everyone to think. It’s not long before Claire and Liam begin to question whether there may be more to Wraiths than they once thought.
I liked this magic system and thought the tensions between humans, Paras, and Sensitives was realistic, although it’s not exactly an original idea in UF. Where Neill’s originality shines through is in her world building, which I thought was exceptional (and was also my favourite aspect of her Chicagoland Vampires series, of which I’ve read three). Not only does she do an excellent job with Devil’s Isle, but she also shows how much life has changed for people living in greater New Orleans and even in the bayous of Louisiana. There is a militaristic and survivalist slant to things that really upped the tension for me, and added a lot to the overall suspense surrounding the plot.
Unfortunately the characters didn’t work nearly as well for me as the world building did. I hate to say it, but Claire and Liam are just kind of boring characters. Despite the amount of time that Neill devotes to discussing their respective personalities, neither one felt fully realized. After reading THE VEIL, here’s what I can tell you about Claire: she has passion for historical artifacts and likes to tinker with gears and watches, she has no family, and she cares deeply for her friends but keeps them at arms length. That’s it. And all of that information comes out in the first chapter!
Both Claire and Liam just felt very two-dimensional and wooden, especially when it came to their will-they-or-won’t-they romance. It’s hard to create chemistry between characters when they fall flat. Add to that the fact that Liam blows hot and cold every third chapter and you have one forced romantic sub-plot. Some may say that it’s too early to call, but I’m stating for the record that I think a love triangle will emerge in later books between Claire, Liam, and a certain winged Para hottie. I wouldn’t object in this case, since I thought Para dude was way more intriguing than Liam.
But take my thoughts with a grain of salt, since I have seen many other reviewers say that they loved Claire and Liam! What didn’t work for me may work for you – plus there’s always hope for improvement in the sequel. After all, it’s no secret that UF series often take some time to build up steam – and I have confidence that Neill can write a more impressive follow-up.