Bookbub bargains: Ghost Bird: The Academy series
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Well, I had looked at this series before, as many have told me it was the real introduction of Reverse Harem into mainstream. I love a good YA romance, and I wanted to see what people considered the pinnacle of slow-burn reverse harem, so I read a sample before purchasing.
I didn't like it.
I thought the main character sounded kind of Mary Sue, the guy was too good to be true, and it didn't hold my attention in the first few chapters. I set it aside.
Then the 4-book omnibus came up as a Bookbub deal.
I knew this was my sign, and I was still curious, so I went ahead and downloaded it. I told myself I would force myself to read at least half-way into the first book and see if it got better.
Now, before I get into the review, I will say: This Bookbub did its job, at least for me. I read the freebie, and went on to buy the rest of the series. This is the first one (of the few I've read and dozens I've downloaded) that did it. I spent roughly $30 buying the rest of the currently available series. Apparently there are eight more books due, and the last came out a year ago. :|
Okay, now on to the review:
The series is about a girl who has been neglected and abused by her parents, moves to a new town, and is kind of adopted by a rambunctious group of seven (incredibly hot) guys who are total geniuses, amazing at everything, and did I mention hot? Also chaste, very, very chaste with our Mary Sue of a heroine. As the stories go on you find out there are actually two more, 'older' guys at 19, and they are part of a team that owes it's allegiance to a mysterious 'Academy' that basically sounds like spy school.
I'm going to give my thoughts on the entire series, since I basically binged all twelve books in a week.
I love the guys, and the relationships. A lot of the story is very visceral, the description intense and colorful. I felt for the main character and her issues with her family, and I sympathized with her and wanted her happiness. I love the slow build-up of sexual tension (although, spoiler, some of it is unrealistically slow... there's not even kissing for several books, and by the end of book twelve there's not even second base, despite the excessive amounts of cuddling, bed-sharing, and bath-sharing...and one very sexy scene in a hotel room). I love the concept of the Academy, the mystery surrounding this spy team and what they do, the variety of action played against some great moments of them all just being teenagers.
I want to emphasize that I went ahead and bought all of the books, because I really felt a connection to the characters and I wanted to know how the story progressed.
The not so good:
Some of this stuff is too over the top. I just can't get on board with all these people coming out of the woodwork to attack this previously invisible (but apparently incredibly hot) girl for no real reason. Also all the guys are incredibly hot geniuses, like a 19-year old doctor, a 16-year old piano prodigy/computer genius, and super-well-built jiu-jitsu master, at age 16.
Speaking of unbelievable, this girl apparently has been a total shut-in and is afraid of literally everything, trembling at a slight breeze. But when her guys are in danger she's suddenly a master ninja, punching people in the face and jumping off balconies with nary a scratch, only to return to a trembling leaf the second the bad guy is kicked. Oh, and she can't defend herself to save her own life, completely losing her shit whenever someone comes after her (which is often). Also she has apparently been feeding and taking care of herself for years because her mother is mentally unwell, but once her mother is in the hospital she needs the guys to take care of her, preparing her food and making sure she eats because she's forgotten how. Sure.
I don't like that at book 12 we still don't know what the Academy really is, or what the principal is doing that's so shady, and we know literally nothing about Volto, who is some sort of evil genius supervillain that knows everything, is everywhere, and yet doesn't hurt anyone and saves Sang's ass more times than we can count but doesn't want anything from her.
I don't believe in the unnaturally slow pace of the relationships. You can't convince me that in six months of sitting on laps or taking baths, cuddling, sleeping together every night, and now making out, not one of these guys has gone for a boob grab? There's 9 of them (one of which has yet to kiss her).
The other thing that got me were some aggravations.
1) So much time spent on describing clothes and brands, etc. The author makes a point of saying this girl has only ever had second hand clothes and doesn't care about clothes and doesn't know brands...then she proceeds to rattle off the brand of every item of clothing the guys are wearing, instantly recognizing the difference between Lee and Levi's jeans, Calvin Klein vs Armani shirts, etc. How?
2) Glaring inconsistencies: On one page in the first book she points out that the guy has Nike shoes and hers are off-brand. On the next page she says hers are Sketchers. The whole series is riddled with dumb mistakes like this.
3) Repetitive, lazy writing: In so many paragraphs all of the sentences start the same way - ie: Gabriel did this... He did that... He did this... On top of this, there are lots of places where she uses a unique phrase and then must have thought herself clever because she used it again a few paragraphs later - ie: 'My heart melted like the snowflakes on my cheeks' - Literally used three paragraphs apart, twice.
4) As we get further into the series, the books get progressively worse in terms of story believability, but also editing. The scenarios get wilder with no apparently direction or resolution. The twelfth book was terrible with missing words, incorrect word usage, and there were formatting issues in the omnibus that were hard to miss. At one point several chapters were centered instead of block-style like the rest of the book, for no apparent reason.
5) This is just a small one, but I was surprised to see the actual individual book covers after I went through the first two omnibuses, which clearly have new images. The individual books are all made with cheap, mis-matched stock photos, featuring multiple different girls with different hair colors, lengths, and body types. It just looks very amateur for a series about one specific girl, especially one that is apparently a USA Today bestseller. The author should get on her game and revamp all the covers.
So, my rating for the first omnibus is 4.5 out of 5 *s, but the series overall rating is 3.5 out of 5 *s. I read the entire series, because I enjoyed the relationship building and really like the characters, for the most part. However, for the poor editing and continued downward slide of believability I had to deduct points. If it doesn't take too long for the next one to come out (it's already been a year) I may read it, and I will hope she got a professional cover designer and editor, and has wrapped up some mysteries in addition to giving us some more movement in the relationships. If it falls in line with book 12, I'm going to call it quits.