Book Review: Mara

Mara by Veronica Bane, Unusuals #1

For years, Mara Tucker has used her power of manipulating flames to punish those who have done her wrong. But things are changing in the town of Jericho. Rampant disappearances have forced Mara to seek out others with special powers. In a story that confronts the violence and turmoil of adolescence, Mara and a group of other "unusuals" like her grapple with new alliances and the villains pressing in all around them.

I have been finishing some superhero books recently and when I went through them on Goodreads I was recommended to read the novella Mara. When I read the synopsis of the book I was more than eager to dig into it. It somehow reminded me a bit to Firestarter from Stephen King. The promise that the synopsis holds for Mara is more than proven true, more than once Veronica Bane managed to surprise by the power of her story, it's far from ordinary. Mara is Veronica Bane's debut novella and features as an opener in the Unusuals series. 

Veronica Bane begins Mara with an very interesting prologue that immediately helped to set the setting right for the story. After which the focus is places upon Mara Tucker a 17-year-old girl who has the power of making flames appear and control them with just her thoughts, Mara has been using this extraordinary ability to get back at the people who have heart her but always choosing to show it in a way that it didn't draw attention. Mara has a dark past, one which you get to learn along the way and which tells just how she would up in the town of Jericho. She wanted to flee her past but now she finds out that the town of Jericho isn't all that good of an escape to have chosen. Strange things seem to happen to several teenagers living in Jericho. By this Mara finds out that she isn't the only on with extraordinary powers. There are others like her that are able to control different elements like that of water or stone. Mara groups up with the others that are like her and they call themselves the Unusuals. As I said, somethings are happening in the city of Jericho which causes that the lives of Mara and her friends becomes rather precarious. And that is quite understated. The Unusuals are being haunted down by the new Government who doesn't want their kind anymore, whereas Mara and her Unusual friends just want to be given the opportunity to live a normal life. Now they are forced into a very violent game, where winning is the only option to get out alive. 

I really liked the story of Mara, I normally don't read that many novella's, I think I can count them on one hand but Veronica Bane wrote a really solid and intriguing story. What some authors aren't able to achieve in a full lenght book: making the story engaging and creating and building characters, Veronica does this to the fullest. From the beginning with Mara you are readily dragged in to the story and later by a different protagonist Miyuki. What people often think (and I actually as well) is that when superpowers make an entry in fiction that you will have only vivid battle between hero and villain. For Mara, this isn't actually the case because the backdrop focuses on many different aspects as well. Social status and acceptance, growing-up and getting by on a daily basis. These different aspects gave the story of Mara the a whole new set of layers; that much more gripping. 

The characters that Veronica Bane introduces in her story of Mara all feel well executed. Though in the beginning it was hard to connect with several. The main protagonist of the book, Mara, is a really strong lead and perhaps a bit too much in the beginning. It directly falls to note that she has a dark past, her life hasn't been easy and isn't going to change soon and these facts create a dark air surrounding her character. But later when you get more explanation around the past events and how Mara has to fend for herself and her other friends it is impossible not to connect. With all that Mara is going through you will be cheering her on. Besides Mara there is one other character of the Unusuals that makes up a big part of the story, this is Miyuki. Mara and Miyuki are literally like water and fire, contrasting when it comes down to personalities and powers. But deep down they both want the same and that is to be free. Mara is very caring for other whereas Miyuki first comes over as only for thinking about herself but she does have a sort of change of heart. I liked the influence of Miyuki's part on the story as it allowed for a much larger background in terms of history of several events. Besides Mara and Miyuki there are plenty of other characters that make a pass in the story like Alex, Terry, Chris and Mike. Though they each had their own role to play, Mara and Miyuki did have more focus on them but this didn't take away that their characters were blend, in terms of secondary cast they were very well fleshed out. 

When you look at the page count of the book, it only stands at 170ish, and already the things that I mentioned above filled up the book quite well, but Veronica Bane does add one thing more. One thing that I always really, really like. Showing the bad guys behind the story. Now this might sound a bit childish when saying "bad guy" or referring to them as evil but trust me Veronica Bane writes about the evil force in anything but a childish way. It really went for me as far as bit of a thriller given the backdrop of the struggle of the teenagers and how they were disposed off. This added another great undercurrent that readily got me more excited and clustered to the pages. 

Though I don't have that much novella experience yet, I know that I liked Mara. As I said it is a short story but packs a lot of power. Veronica Bane does a great job in showing an engaging and relatable set of characters, ones where you will start to grow attached to. Mara is far from a standard story about superpowers and Veronica Bane readily introduces many other different aspects in her world that make the story only come out for the better. If you ever have a few hours to spare I really urge you to pick up Mara. It's one of those hidden gems to be sure.



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