A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This kingdom has tried to banish or kill all those without magical powers and continues a campaign of misinformation to justify their actions. Readers can compare these tactics with how world governments in the past and even today terrorize ethnic minorities and spread misinformation about them.
People are made stronger and more resilient through hardship. The kingdom's brand of discrimination is shown as evil and worth fighting against. On the negative side, no one questions a contest where people die for others' amusement.
Positive Role Models
Paedyn is a thief by necessity, but also brags about her skills. Violence she commits seems to be okay with her as long as the person makes her really angry first or it's for revenge. She mostly avoids killing, but never backs out of a fight. Kai is wed to his role as an Enforcer and often talks of how his father the king trained him to be this way. He's always so surprised when he shows a little mercy and thinks it's a weakness. Despite hating his father the king, he never questions him and mentions how he tortured and killed someone in the dungeons without any remorse.
A handful of minor characters are described as having darker skin: Paedyn's best friend Adena; Gail, the cook; Jax, Kai and Kitt's adopted brother; and contestants Braxton and Sadie. The fight against discrimination -- those with magic abilities and those without -- is central to the story.
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Violence & Scariness
It's hard to keep track of how many times characters are dripping in blood or blood is streaming out of wounds caused by swords, daggers, throwing stars, spears, brutal fist fights (with at least four broken noses), explosions, fire, magical powers, snakes, wolves, rock slides, and arrows. Some are magically healed and some die from their wounds. Beyond all the blood, there are scenes of torture where one character dies a very painful death and another is branded with a sword. A wound is stitched closed. A boy is whipped for stealing, a family is banished to die in the desert. A panic attack and talk of the use of suicide capsules for resistance fighters who are caught. Much talk of a devastating plague years before and the banishment and killing of those without magical gifts that followed. Talk of Paedyn's mother dead from a fever while she was young and her father killed with a sword when she was 13 years old.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mild kissing but plenty of touching and tension leading up to it. Characters fall asleep curled up together twice.
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Moderate language -- "bitch," "ass," "hell," "damn," "s--t," and "bastard."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heavy drinking by Kitt and Kai who are in their early 20s includes a drinking game and Kai is hung over after. Drinking of wine and champagne at balls and dinners.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Powerless is the first book in a romantic fantasy trilogy by first-time author Lauren Roberts. With Purging Trials that mimic the Hunger Games, expect lots of bloody action, though, here, some injuries are healed with magic. It's hard to keep track of how many times characters are dripping in blood or blood is streaming out of wounds caused by swords, daggers, throwing stars, spears, brutal fist fights, explosions, fire, magical powers, snakes, wolves, rock slides, and arrows. Some die from their wounds before they can be healed. Beyond all the blood, there are scenes of torture where one character dies a very painful death and another is branded with a sword. Romance sticks to mostly light kissing and a lot of touching and tension between the leads. Drinking is heavy by two princes in their early 20s and regretted when one wakes up with a terrible hangover. Language is moderate ("bitch," "ass," "hell," "damn," "s--t," and "bastard") and not constant. The main characters are often driven by revenge and anger and justify their violence as part of the trials they are competing in -- that they volunteered for -- or as part of their training on the streets or under the tutelage of the king.
Is It Any Good?
While this story works okay as a star-crossed romance, it falls flat as a fantasy, borrowing too much from popular tales and going for gore over substance. What works is that Kai and Paedyn are opposites, that they are in impossible situations together, and forced to come together under duress in some dramatic scenes. It follows the formula well and entertains. But speaking of formula, these Purging Trials are way too much like the Hunger Games -- right down to the resistance element waiting in the wings. And the last trial is the last task in the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: the mazes move and everything. The biggest difference is that when people die in these trials, it's not for any reason other than entertainment for the crowd or one of the contestants got so mad at another contestant they decided to kill them, and oh well. There's some gravitas missing there. Also missing sometimes: a sense of what's in the scene beyond the mooning main characters. During one trial in the woods, Kai and Paedyn fall asleep next to each other after nursing each other's injuries. Well done on the romance front, but hello? They are in front of a campfire with bloodthirsty contestants out in the woods somewhere that could sneak up at any moment. And neither one of them thought to keep watch. Here's hoping that in upcoming installments the author shows more vigilance and originality in her fantasy elements.
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