(TWO GRAVES is a short novella, about 70 pages. It is volume #1 in Zoe Kalo's psychological suspense "Retribution" series.)
A Dante-ish descent through a sinister world of decadent shadows and woeful souls…
Seven years ago, he shattered her life. The town eventually forgot the headlines and the nightmares. But 23-year old music student Angelica hasn’t forgotten.
For the past seven years, she’s contemplated payback with as much intensity and unwavering faith as she puts into her violin playing. Finally, all the pieces are in place. Over the course of one night, disguised for a masquerade ball, Angelica orchestrates a journey of revenge.
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Being that this is a novella, it's a pretty quick read, for that reason alone, if you're into psychological stories I'd recommend picking this one up. That being said, I wasn't as in love with this as I hoped when I read the blurb and signed up for the R2R. I'm a big fan of Dante's Inferno and was really looking forward to seeing how that made it into this. I'm not sure how I got it into my head that there'd be some form of romance in this, but there definitely is not. That's not a deal breaker for me, at all, just something worth mentioning in case there are others out there who are looking for that. The blurb also makes it clear that the main character, Angelica, is currently 23, and that the event she's seeking revenge for happened 7 years ago, however, while reading this get's a bit confusing. Honestly, even though it's retold in the story itself, the constant back of forth of the timeline makes her age confusing. She doesn't seem like a young teen in the beginning, and she would be 16. I'm also not sure she would be doing her college interview/audition at that age. Usually it's junior year when things like this take place and she would be on her way to turning 17. Of course, she could be a 16 year old who's a junior in high school, but if that's the case (and I think it is) that needs to be clarified. Because it isn't, it's hard to get into the flashback aspects of the story. I spent too much time struggling to picture her as a sixteen year old, especially because (and this is somewhat of a spoiler, I suppose so you're warned) her son is at least 3 years old already. I say at least because I'm pretty sure at one point in the beginning it's mentioned he's 4, and then later he's mentioned as 3. This could just be my mistake, and if so I apologize, but the point is she had to have had him at an even younger age than 16, and I don't get that feeling from her. Add in the overly zealous mother, the wacky tired grandmother, and the ex who did something (we never find out what, but I assume it was abandon them) who wants to get back into their lives, and it's just a bit much for something less than 100 pages. And that's just for the flashbacks.
When we aren't in flashback mode, we're in the present where she's now 23 and it's been 7 years since this horrible thing happened to her (another event we never really get clear details about). As the story progresses we understand, vaguely, what happened, but nothing is definitively spelled out, which I found very disappointing. We keep being told that her target is a monster, yet we rarely see it. Instead, we see all these other crazy people acting like loons and even a boy who slits his own wrists. Right in front of her. What does she do? Not call the cops. I understand that would ruin her plan for revenge but, let's be honest for a moment, what plan? Because she didn't have one, not really. Unless her plan was to get completely turned around and lost in some crazy old guys giant house... By the end, she pulls the gun out and that's it, she doesn't even care there are cameras. If that's the case, she could have just shot him at any one of the rehearsals she had to sit through with him before this story even started. It would mean there's no novella, but it would also make a hell of a lot more sense for her. Which brings me to the happenings at the party in that mansion. Very little of it made sense. I was often times more confused about what was going on, where the hell she was, and what she was seeing. Because of this, it was really hard for me to follow, or even care, about the story. By these points I wanted to resume the flashbacks because at least they were straight forward, even if they rarely gave us useful information. She moves through the rooms way too quickly, and the descriptions about how all of the guests are acting are rushed and muddled. I understand this is a party with drugs and, apparently, sex in random places out in the open, but that should be explained from the very beginning. When I think of a production like the one they put on (they seem like professional musicians, even though it's mentioned they're still in school) and a mascaraed ball after I think elegance and high society. Basically, I think of people trying to appear prime and proper, but this is not that type of party, and I would have liked to be told from the very beginning. It's so complicated, with all of the different rooms and the house that is basically then like a maze, that I never knew where Angelica was supposed to be. It was obviously then very obvious she was following her target so how she thought she could keep that from him is beyond me. Again, not very stealthy. Going back to that one scene where a guy kills himself in front of her...It felt so forced. What should have felt like a thrilling, and sad, desperate moment, fell flat. I felt like by that point everything else was so confusing that now she was hallucinating him. And then when she wasn't (at least I think she wasn't) the information she got from him was something that could have been gained a different way. It wasn't even that shocking, and it should have been a shocking reveal about her target. Instead, I would have liked to see her figure it out on her own by being sneaky. She's had seven years. What has she got to show for that? She got her gun license. Wow. Good planning. And that ending...Not enough was explained. Almost nothing was explained, in fact, just eluded to, which for me wasn't enough. Unfortunately, the story I was interested in was the actual act that caused her to go on a seven year long revenge plan, and then also a story involving an actual revenge plan. I didn't get either of these things. And her hallucinations? Not necessary. In fact, they only served to confuse me more, especially because by that point it's been so long and she's been planning this so long I feel like she'd have gotten past that stage already. Or, at the very least, have been experiencing it the whole time. If we were told she's spent the past seven years hallucinating, which has made it impossible for her to move on, then I would have bought into it. That would also explain why she's acting so manic and insists she has a plan when she obviously does not have one.
All that being said, you're probably wondering why I gave this novella 3 stars. That's why. Because it's a novella. If this was a novel, it would be amazing. Not even, add another 30 pages and I could see this being ten times better than it is. That's because, as stated above, everything in this was rushed. Because of that it was confusing, hard to follow, and hard to connect with. I could feel bad for Angelica if I actually got to see/know, in detail, what happened. I could understand that she's seeking revenge and yet doesn't actually have a plan if I saw how she's been dealing the past 7 years. Like, what ever happened to the father? Or her mother? Or her grandmother? How are all of them dealing? We don't know, and because of that it's hard to care about them during the flashbacks. If Angelica is going to have that many issues in her past, they need to be given to us in smaller doses, not all at once, so that we can connect with her. If this was a longer work, that would be possible. It would also then make describing the many rooms (the layers of hell from Dante's inferno) less of a hindrance on the reader and more of an eye catcher. As it is, because it's so much being packed into so few pages it's way too hard to follow and the descriptions are boring, confusing, and makes the rest of the story drag. So, basically, I gave 3 stars because of the idea behind this, and the potential I think this story has. As this is part of a new series that's coming out, I hope that the next book will be better explained, and contain either less meaningless description or more meaningful pages. I would still read the next installment because of how much potential I can see in this story.
Title: Two Graves (Retribution Series #1)
Author: Zoe Kalo
Genre: Dark Psychological Suspense
Audience: New Adult/Adult
Word count: 18,000 words – 70 pages (short novella)
Launch date: October 1st 2016
Purchase on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Graves-Novella-Zoe-Kalo-
About Author Zoe Kalo
A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading
led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her
classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy