Review: “The Pentrals” (The Pentrals #1) by Crystal Mack

Title: The Pentrals
(The Pentrals #1)
Author: Crystal Mack
Language: English
Source: Netgalley
Courtesy of Apologue Entertainment
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Sci-fi.

Picture your life without free will.

No choice. No voice. No personal direction.

For 17 years, it’s the only path I’ve known. Always a follower, never in control, I am an afterthought, burying my impulses as I bend to the whims of another. I dream of someone taking notice-of falling in love and being kissed. But I probably never will.

My name is Antares. I am a Shadow.

Deep in a secluded canyon lies Talline, a metropolis of mirrors filled with forces called Pentrals that outline our very existence. Antares, Pentral Class Two, took an oath to act without influence—to echo without opinion. But in a cruel twist of fate, she must watch as Violet, her person, encounters a tragedy that will change both their lives forever. When Violet starts making careless choices, Antares can no longer remain a silent silhouette. She won’t allow lost friendships, broken hearts, or those mysterious menaces looking out from the glass to tear apart Violet’s very being. In doing so, Antares unknowingly crosses forbidden boundaries and ends up illuminating a darkness much deeper than her own.

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Violet Rayne does not know it, but there is someone who follows her constantly. She looks at her and try to understand her thoughts, unable to do anything for 17 years. She is her shadow, Antares, a Pentral Class 2, who has been entrusted to her since her birth and who has never abandoned her, forced to deal with lights and shadows. Antares’s task is tough: observe her Person and replicate her in a complicated web of geometries. But it is also something that she did not choose and against which she can not rebel, because its penalty could be worse than the one she is currently serving. And after 17 years, her Person is now grown and she is now living experiences that she does not share. Antares feels anger for her, who is missing out control of her life, and although she does not really know her, she cares about her and, in the end, even to her life as a shadow.

“I look up at her face, so gentle and loving, and feel thankful to have her in my life. We ended up together by chance, but I can’t help but think it was fate. Not everyone gets to spend her days with someone so full of warmth and creativity, someone who shares so many of the same passions. When I look at Violet’s face, I see a version of myself, and it makes me proud.”

I must confess that the first part of the novel is perhaps too static and slow not because the narrator is Antares, a Shadow forced to not have a life and to play all the movements of her person, but because of too many descriptions and very little action. I struggled to get interested in the story from the first pages, but passed this first hurdle, the action improves the storytelling and everything seems to flow better.

“Antares is the name I gave myself after visiting a botanical garden with Violet and her mother more than a decade ago. An antares flower blooms only at night, revealing layers of bright red petals when the sun goes down. Being a creature of darkness myself, I liked the idea of something beautiful finding its place in the night.”

Despite her condition, Antares appreciates what she does – because create shadows for her is an artform – but looking at Violet’s live, her friends (The Alliance, as they call themselves) and her ex-boyfriend Thomas, she always asks herself how it is to be actually a person.
Violet, however, wants to escape from reality, because her best friend Mary Kelly is now in a coma and she believes that it is all her fault. And, even though Thomas has tried in every way to maintain their relationship and make her understand how all that were not true, Benjamin, the brother of Mary and other members of the Alliance, continues to accuse her and make her feel guilty. So soon Violet is in a destructive spiral, using the Lifts!, a popular drug among young Talline people. It will be during what appears to be an accident that Antares is found to take control of her person and Violet becomes her shadow.

“Why? Why would you do this?”
“Do what?”
“Shadow! Follow the commands of some all-seing beings? Why? Why do you shadow?”
“Because I used to be a Person, just like you.”

The action comes alive in this exchange and the narrative takes a different rhythm, thickening of mysteries: the reasons why Antares is located in the body of Violet, the monstrous reflection of Violet/Antares, the diary of Mary with her strange formulas, secrets hides by the non-official spokesman of Talline, Celestia Sky, and finally what happens when Antares touches Benjamin.
Antares discovers more of herself playing the part of a Violet different from that of the past few months. Rebuild the lives of her person, restoring all her relations, trying to get to the bottom in the affairs that affect them closely and ending with falling in love.

“The Pentrals” is a good first novel that lays the basis for a series full of mysteries. I recommend it to those who liked “What’s Left Of Me” by Kat Zhang, because reading the story of Violet and Antares reminds me that of Eva and Addie.

Rating:

La giovane Violet Rayne non lo sa, ma c’è qualcuno che la segue costantemente. La guarda e tenta di capire i suoi pensieri, non potendo far altro da 17 anni. È la sua ombra, Antares, una Pentral Classe 2 che le è stata affidata sin dalla sua nascita e che non l’ha mai abbandonata, costretta a confrontarsi con la luce e le ombre. Quello di Antares è un duro compito, osservare la sua Persona e replicarla in un complicato intreccio di geometrie. Ma è anche qualcosa che lei non ha scelto e contro cui non si può ribellare, perché la pena potrebbe essere peggiore di quella che sta scontando. E dopo 17 anni la sua Persona è ormai cresciuta e ora sta vivendo esperienze che lei non condivide. Prova rabbia per una ragazza che si sta lasciando sfuggire dalle mani il controllo della sua vita e, nonostante non si conoscano davvero, tiene a lei e, in fondo, anche alla sua vita da ombra.

“I look up at her face, so gentle and loving, and feel thankful to have her in my life. We ended up together by chance, but I can’t help but think it was fate. Not everyone gets to spend her days with someone so full of warmth and creativity, someone who shares so many of the same passions. When I look at Violet’s face, I see a version of myself, and it makes me proud.”

Devo confessare che la prima parte del romanzo è forse fin troppo statica e lenta non tanto perché la narratrice è Antares, un’Ombra costretta a non avere una vita per riprodurre tutti i movimenti della sua Persona, ma per le troppe descrizioni e la poca azione. Ho faticato ad appassionarmi alla storia sin dalle prime pagine, ma, superato questo primo scoglio, l’azione migliora la narrazione e tutto sembra fluire maggiormente.

“Antares is the name I gave myself after visiting a botanical garden with Violet and her mother more than a decade ago. An antares flower blooms only at night, revealing layers of bright red petals when the sun goes down. Being a creature of darkness myself, I liked the idea of something beautiful finding its place in the night.”

Nonostante la sua condizione, Antares apprezza ciò che fa – perché creare ombre è per lei una forma d’arte – ma guardando la vita di Violet, i suoi amici (The Alliance, come si chiamano tra loro) e il suo ex-fidanzato Thomas, si chiede sempre come sia essere davvero una Persona.
Violet, invece, vuole scappare dalla realtà, perché la sua migliore amica Mary Kelly è ora in coma e crede che sia tutta colpa sua. E, anche se Thomas ha tentato in tutti i modi di mantenere il loro rapporto e di farle capire come tutto quello non fosse vero, Benjamin, il fratellastro di Mary e altro membro della Alliance, continua ad accusarla e a farla sentire in colpa. Così presto Violet si trova in una spirale distruttiva, usando la Lifts!, una droga famosa tra i giovani di Talline. Sarà durante quello che sembra essere un incidente che Antares si ritrova a prendere il controllo della sua Persona e Violet diventa la sua Ombra.

“Why? Why would you do this?”
“Do what?”
“Shadow! Follow the commands of some all-seing beings? Why? Why do you shadow?”
“Because I used to be a Person, just like you.”

L’azione entra nel vivo proprio in questo loro scambio e la narrazione prende un altro ritmo, infittendosi di misteri: il motivo per cui Antares si trova nel corpo di Violet, il riflesso mostruoso di Violet/Antares, il diario di Mary con le sue strane formule, i segreti che cela la portavoce non-ufficiale di Talline, Celestia Sky, ed infine ciò che succede quando Antares tocca Benjamin.
Antares scoprirà di più se stessa interpretando la parte di una Violet diversa da quella degli ultimi mesi. Ricostruirà la vita della sua Persona, ristabilendo tutte le sue relazioni, tentando di andare a fondo nelle vicende che le riguardano da vicino e finendo con l’innamorarsi.

“The Pentrals” è un buon primo romanzo che getta le basi ad una serie colma di misteri. Lo consiglio a coloro a cui è piaciuto “What’s Left Of Me” di Kat Zhang, perché leggendo la storia di Antares e Violet non ho potuto non richiamare alla memoria quella di Eva e Addie.

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