One Way Fare, first book in the Null City series, is really difficult to review, because it’s sort of 3 or maybe 4 different books. The first half of the book seems like a YA urban fantasy with strong romantic elements. And the second half is pretty much like that too – except that the story makes this extreme leap and becomes a completely different YA with strong romantic elements. Plus there are two authors telling two different POV’s in alternating chapters. So I’m…confused.
OK, here’s the very basic version of the initial premise. Gaby is a young accountant. She is good with numbers because she has a supernatural gift which allows her to see patterns in things. So she can look at a pile of papers and make sense of their contents. Gaby is the older sister of twins who also have powers, and she is raising the twins because their parents were murdered. Gaby ends up working for Luic, a rock star, who helps her when she and the twins are attacked. All this is happening in Seattle, in 1972.
Meanwhile, in, Provence France, in 2012, eighteen year old Leila is visiting France from America because her birth parents have left her a whole heap of stuff including jewelery and a chateau. It turns out that the chateau comes with a protector, Thomas, who says he has to protect Leila or he will die. Cue attack attempt, and Leia and Thomas flee onto a Metro train. This is no ordinary Metro train – it takes them to Seattle in 1890.
What we know, at this point, is that some people are born with supernatural powers. Beware, because the publisher’s description is misleading – they don’t spend any time in Null City, and they aren’t very superhero-ish. Null City is a secret place where people can go to live as regular humans. There is a war taking place between supernatural factions, and anyone with powers is being attacked. In Null City, they are safe, but they have to give up not only their powers but also all memories of their life that are related to their powers.
So here’s where we are at about halfway through the book: Gaby and Luic are in love. They send the twins to safety and they escape to 1891 Seattle to try to find Leila and Thomas. They have to find them, see, because Leila and Thomas are part of a pivot point that could determine the outcome of this supernatural war. I read this part several times and I do not understand it at all. If anyone has read this book and understands this pivot point business, let me know.
So anyway, up until this point, I thought the book was very good. It was funny, it had enough pop-culture references to be entertaining and relatable but not so many that it took me out of the story, and the couples had good chemistry.
Then the book goes completely off the rails.
I am now about to spoil every last detail, so prepare yourself.
(Look at all this space. Instead of whiting out the text, it's been moved downwwwwnnnnward. Be ready for spoilers!)
(HERE THEY COME!)
The twins get sent off to safety and even though they were the central thing in Gaby’s life for her entire lifetime, they are not found again. Thomas goes to another supernatural location to train, so Leila doesn’t see him for one hundred years (five, from his POV). Gaby and Luic are killed in an explosion. Gaby and Luic are actually not dead, or maybe they are, I don’t know, it got confusing. They go to different after lifes or something, and they each think the other one is dead, and we don’t hear from Luic for another hundred years.
When he shows up he’s a bad guy, no wait, he’s a good guy. Anyway Gaby and Leila start up a coffeshop while they wait for the hundred years to pass until Leila can be reunited with Thomas. Gaby falls in love with Thomas’s grandfather (who is her age) about five seconds after meeting him. Even if Luic is a good guy, she’s totally over him because she decided they don’t fit. Complicated plot stuff happens and we’re set for a sequel.
So – what was that? I mean, the plot was a little wacky all along, but it goes so far off the rails once Gaby and Luic have their, umm, accident that it’s really a completely different book. Everything we care about is pretty much wiped off the map. And not in a good way, like a great twist that makes you say, “Holy shit, they just killed [insert Game of Thrones character here]. Its as though they really just started writing a whole other book – one that doesn’t make any sense, and one in which people live a hundred years without maturing even a teensy bit. I have no idea what happened here. Nothing makes sense in the plot, nothing makes sense with the characters, it’s just all bizarre. I kind of need to go lie down now (although that my be less to do with the book and more because I’m writing late at night).
I knew this book wasn’t a romance novel so I’m OK with the concept that not everyone stays with their first love interest in the book. But huge leaps in any kind of logic, or any way that people actually would think, or feel, or experience time – this was crazy. And the way people experience love was crazy. People are faithful when it seems unlikely and they fall into new loves when it seems like the most blatant plot contrivance. Leila and Gaby are not only the same at the end of one hundred years as they were at the beginning, but they are still having the exact same conversations. I’d give this book a solid B for the first half and I don’t know what to give the second half. Too bad we don’t have a grade “WTF”. That would be a letter grade, technically.