Book Review | Caged in Darkness
Title: Caged in Darkness
Author: J.D. Stroube
Caged in Darkness by J.D. Stroube is an interesting new take on the origins of witches as told through the story of Savannah, a now sixteen-year-old witch whose adopted family took her in after she escaped living in a cage in her biological parents’ home at the age of nine. Short journal entries at the beginning of the novel recount the horrors that Savannah faced growing up in the presence of dark witches and the uncertainty that she faced as she made her way to the coven to whom her parents had once belonged.
As Savannah’s ascension day approaches, the day when she comes into her full powers, a handsome witch named Liam from a neighboring coven inserts himself into Savannah’s life. Liam has no interest in Savannah but is following through with his mother the High Priestess’s wishes to seduce Savannah into joining their coven once she is of age. Meanwhile, Ash, the boy who Savannah grew up with and thinks of as a brother, is suspicious of Liam and is working through his growing attraction for Savannah. Will Savannah be seduced by the darkness she fears has always been within or will she choose her own path?
Paranormal fiction has always been my favorite genre. Because I have already read so much of it, it’s often hard to find a book that stands out among the rest. Unfortunately, Caged in Darkness stands out to me for all of the reasons that I wish it would not. Yes, I enjoyed the stories and the characters. Yes, I want to immerse myself back in their world and find out what happens next. But those are not the only elements that make a book a good read for me.
Grammar/Punctuation. I have read other reviews on Caged of Darkness and of the ones I read, only a few reviews touched upon the editing but did not go into great detail about where the book went wrong with this. On nearly every page, there was something that had not been done correctly, whether it was a word used incorrectly, words missing, a comma or semi-colon used in place of the other, or standard publishing industry rules not being applied (since this is a self-published book, I’m offering a little bit of leeway on this). The word ascent was used to describe a nod in one sentence. After looking up the dictionary definition to see if there was an archaic definition for the word that would make it fit in this instance, I didn’t find one. Acquiescence or agreement would have been a better fit. In other places, I noticed bared being used incorrectly as well. Using a semi-colon instead of a comma in inappropriate places can really throw off the flow of sentences, and this happened frequently throughout the novel. In a few places, semi-colons were also used where colons should have been. As far as publishing industry rules go, the one I noticed most of all was numbers being written rather than spelled out. Since this was a self-published novel, the author may not have consulted the grammar guides authors seeking traditional publication use.
Structure. There are three first-person narratives used throughout the book and a few of Savannah’s journal entries spread out between them. The journal entries did not seem to add too much to the novel for me, though. The voice in the journal entries were not all that different than Savannah’s present day narrative. At the very least, the entries did serve the purpose of explaining Savannah’s childhood and her relationship with her parents.
Action. Sadly, most of the really interesting things happened offstage, which is one of the drawbacks to using a first-person narrative. Specific characters aren’t necessarily going to be present in every scene. There were a few places where I really felt that I’d missed something important, so perhaps the transition between narratives was a bit rocky or I just had not read carefully enough.
Pacing. Savannah’s childhood feels very rushed through, as if perhaps the author was eager to bypass that part of Savannah’s story and get on to the present day. The beginning of the novel wasn’t as well written as later parts of it. This was definitely more telling instead of showing because it read more like a story outline than actual story.
I see a lot of potential in J.D. Stroube and her Caged in Darkness series. But for her and her writing to make the best impression that they can, she needs to go through more revisions and hire a professional editor. A friend is credited for helping her edit the book in her Acknowledgements, but her friend’s skills are unfortunately not at the level they need to be for a polished novel.
Note: I read the first edition of Caged in Darkness. J.D. Stroube has since released a special edition of Caged in Darkness which has more scenes in it. That there is a second edition of the same novel is further evidence that the original release needed more revisions and solid editing before publication.