Hamartia: Raquel Rich
Adult Science Fiction Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book and am leaving a voluntary review. This opinion is entirely my own and is in no way influenced by outside parties.
Hamartia blends an interesting concept with extraordinarily well-developed characters to deliver an engaging, emotional read. It’s another step into the Sci-Fi genre for me, and another positive experience. In Hamartia, Grace Dartmouth makes a horrible discovery: her nine-year-old son, Jordan, is dying of metagenesis, a sort of spiritual cancer that rips the soul from one’s body. To save her son, she must travel back to Las Vegas circa 2000 to find a soul she can clone. Throughout her time-warping journey, she encounters familiar souls behind unfamiliar faces, and makes a series of hard choices with devastating consequences for those she loves and humanity at large.
As always, I’ll analyze style/prose, pacing, plot, consistency, and character development.
The prose is a mixed bag. Raquel Rich expertly ties emotion and internal conflict into every scene, and her portrayal of it is vivid and authentic. She’s a master at making you feel what her characters feel, and much of it is done with in-depth descriptions of Grace’s fears, hopes, and regrets. At other times, though, the prose is overwritten and wordy. It’s not absurd, flowery language. It reads simply and efficiently, but if she had been a little more judicious with some passages and tightened her language, the story would have flowed even better. The paperback was 335 pages, and I think the story would have been a blistering read at 275-295 pages.
Additionally, some things are over-explained, and I wish there had been more left for the reader to infer. It’s a shame, really, because these bits are set up so well, revealed and teased out with wonderful subtlety, only to be bluntly thrown out into the open on the next page, sometimes more than once, to make absolutely sure the reader gets it. The same thing happens with the dialogue- while most of it is great, sometimes a character is a little too honest, says a little too much, and goes on a long speech about *exactly* what’s on their mind. A lighter touch would not only keep the reader fully immersed, but improve the pacing by avoiding redundancy. Still, it’s a fast, compelling read. The first and last thirds are total page-turners, and though the middle third drags a bit, it’s nonetheless interesting. Think of it as a slow burn rather than a bore.
From here on out, I have nothing but good things to say. The plot really shines. There are numerous twists and turns throughout, and of the three biggest reveals, I only guessed one in advance. Two little “Aha!” moments at the end totally caught me off guard, too. The time-travel is well-explained, and consequences play out logically. The worldbuilding (little details about the future, the concept of souls and reincarnation, how and why metagenesis happens) is really cool, too. There was always a question, a sense of mystery, and always a satisfying answer at the end of that question. Everything is tied up neatly while allowing a perfect opportunity for a sequel.
The book is very consistent from in-world rules to characterization. Despite dealing with multiple people traveling back through time for different reasons and on different occasions, it all fits cohesively. It’s really rather impressive.
On to the Hamartia’s biggest strength: characterization. Every character, even one who speaks mostly through voicemail messages, is phenomenally developed. From odd little mannerisms to broad strokes, every character is distinct, interesting, and real. Even smaller characters feel like they have a personality. Raquel Rich taps into the emotion and relationships in every scene and brings the characters to life, which invests the reader in the story that much more. There were times when I actually hated Grace, because she does some pretty awful and selfish things. But you understand why. You feel her pain, you empathize with her, and you root for her to make the right decisions. That’s skillful writing.
Overall, I very much enjoyed Hamartia. Aside from some minor issues with long-winded, on-the-nose explanations, this was a great read full of genuine mystery and emotion. A well-balanced blend of Sci-Fi and suspense with a hint of romance, readers who like genre mash-ups will delight. A solid debut from Raquel Rich.