Book Review: Cynetic Wolf by Matt Ward - a YA dystopian novel

Book Review: Cynetic Wolf by Matt Ward

Title: Cynetic Wolf

Author: Matt Ward

Publisher: Myrmani Press

Publication date: March 22, 2020

Genre: Science fiction, YA, Dystopian

Summary: It starts simply enough: something with six claws killed someone. While out hunting for the six clawed thing, wolfish Raek discovers a startling secret about himself. Half animote (human-animal hybrid) and half cynetic (human-machine hybrid), he’s something of a freak, and the key to gaining power for the underground animote movement.

I’m not a big fan of YA, but I was intrigued by the human-animal hybrid component. It sounded like a far cry from werewolf, which made me happy. I was drawn in by the dystopian setting and the fact that the description mentioned a mysterious professor. I like that word, mysterious. So, I thought this would be a fun and interesting read. Well, it’s full of action and adventure, but turned out to be way too violent for my tastes.

The Characters: Quite an Interesting Bunch

The main character is Raek, a teenage human-wolf-cynetic, meaning he’s part human, part wolf, and part machine. How he got to be that way, I have no clue. Apparently, a lot has changed on Earth in the future. Anyways, I liked Raek at first. He was a typical teen with a sense of adventure and wanting to do something good. He had great friends and family who were willing to join him. Unfortunately, he found himself alone far too soon and in the company of one of his professors. About halfway through the book, I started to take a dislike to him. I understand he was a teen being thrust into a very adult role, but he annoyed me because he and the other characters always made him out to be super important and almighty, even though he’s still in the middle of his teen years. Half of him felt like an entitled teenager and half of him felt like an uncertain adult, so I couldn’t quite figure out why so many people wanted to follow him and let him lead with basically no advisors.

The professor, though, I loved that professor. He was indeed mysterious and it took just about the whole story to learn about him. For reasons I will not state here, he doesn’t get much face time, but his life is explored here and there and I adored getting to know him. Not only did he paint a better picture of the world and society, but he provided an anchor for Raek, which was nice.

There were several other characters, some more interesting than others. Still, they each had unique personalities that worked well together and provided a real sense of community among them. It was fun and I really liked them. What I wasn’t so keen on was the inevitable romantic interest. It felt like it was just there, though I can see why it was useful in terms of plot and character development, but it still felt weak to me. I suppose it was really just run of the mill and nothing terribly exciting. Just something to help move to the story and Raek along.

The Setting: Intriguingly Dystopian

This book is set on Earth, at some far point in the future. A new world has been laid over Earth, so it was both familiar and alien. I did find it rather intriguing, especially when the society was expanded on and the reader is introduced to people from every subspecies.

What I really liked was that the book starts off small. The reader is introduced to one small town, and it feels quite innocent and might have been provincial were it a different sort of book. Instead, it felt quite dystopian, and equally intriguing. And then the author takes the reader to other, further flung, parts of the world. It’s not terribly well-described, but I still got a nice sense of place and atmosphere. It was somehow both beautiful and oppressive.

The society itself was rigidly laid out. There are separate subspecies that create a segregated world. Each has different attributes, and, gosh, are they different! I was very intrigued by them. The reader does get a bit of how each came about, which is just enough for the book to make sense without overwhelming a non-scientifically inclined reader (like myself), so I very much appreciated it. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the society or the world more.

The Plot: Um, Explosive?

As much as I’m not a big fan of YA, I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Of course, it had many of the usual tropes: a teenage chosen one with super special skills he didn’t even know about, going on the run to train, an older more experienced master leading him along the path, and the push to become the leader of a rebel group. It was actually kind of fun despite all the overdone tropes and familiar Hero’s Journey. I quite liked how the book opened and introduced the conflict between the subspecies. It was high action and involved quite a bit of travel and secrecy. It all felt very fun and full of adventure despite the danger lurking around every turn.

However, I felt like the story became too overburdened trying to do too many things at the same time during the second half. It changed direction too many times, almost as though the author couldn’t quite decide how to solve the problem, but always fell into a predictable pattern of things starting to work and then explosions. Literal explosions. There’s a ton of violence in the second half. Probably most of the second half is violent. People were dying left and right. By the time the last person died, someone whose death should have shaken the reader to the core along with Raek, I just didn’t care.

I did appreciate that the story moved at a good pace. It was very action-packed. Something was always happening or about to happen. I really do appreciate that the author skipped over detailing all the boring talks. But it always seemed to leap into explosions.

Still, I think there’s a lot of potential for this story. Clearly, there’s a second book. This first novel was a nice introduction and setup, though perhaps a little too explosive and gory for my personal tastes.

Overall: Action Packed

There were things I liked and things I didn’t like. I wasn’t overly fond of Raek by the end, but still found myself feeling a bit bad for him. As I stated, I’m not much of a YA reader, so I found it difficult to appreciate the YA tropes and elements, like the teen becoming the leader of a group of people who are mostly far older and more experienced than him. I felt Raek was often thoughtless and self-important, which made the story often tedious to read. Though I appreciate that the story was always moving and full of action. Overall, not exactly my cup of tea, but I think someone who enjoys YA and explosions might enjoy this.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 should do

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Thank you to the author, Matt Ward, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Check out more of my book reviews, or stop and enjoy my review of another book written by a different Matt(hew) Ward. The fact that they are posting on the same day is a complete coincidence. Though, what a neat coincidence!

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