Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
Self-published books often get a bad reputation. When I tell someone that I just finished a self-published book, their first response is usually some iteration of “Oh, no one wanted to buy it?” But this stereotype that all self-published books are Big Publishing Rejects is false. A lot of great ones are out there, with authors behind them that are talented, dedicated and determined. One of my favorite self-published books I’ve read recently is Paul Ikin’s contemporary-fantasy diptych novel The Other Side of Eve. Ikin’s novel, written with elements of classical fantasy and magic realism, is an exciting adventure featuring fascinatingly imaginative characters and tight world-building.
The novel tells the story of Evelin Boots, a thirteen-year-old girl suffering from severe anxiety. A social outcast, she relies on the company of her father Robin, her friend Milton and her new kitten BC. Imaginative, she has daydreams of monsters eating her classmates and a man in a white suit who controls the weather. The other half of the novel tells the story of Princess Belleny Vera, a sensitive girl who refuses to leave the safety of her castle. When a series of events and dark forces force her out of the castle for the first time in years, she sets off for an adventure that sets her life in Mare-Marie and Eve’s life in the real world on a collision course.
I loved the fact that this book was two-sided, although at times it felt like Evelin’s story was overshadowed by Bellens’s. Still, to see the story evolve through the lives of these two very similar, but different girls was a joy and I found that I was able to relate to both. The other awesome thing about having both of these stories in one book is that the story offers something for lovers of both fantasy and contemporary novels. Also, the way that Ikin brings together these two strands of the same story is so powerful, but since this review is spoiler free, you’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself.
The characters were one of the best parts of this book. All of them were so quirky and strange this book almost felt like a Tim Burton film reduced to pages. I loved Evelin’s imaginative mind and dedication to her cat and aquarium. I loved her Dad’s quirky house and love for dumpster diving. I loved the strange creatures, the Orphans and Bateau, from Evelin’s world and his evil creatures that fight in the north. Each character had its own distinct qualities and together, they formed a fun cast.
I also loved the dynamic that existed between Evelin, Cory and Milton, although I would have liked to see this developed a little bit more. That was an issue throughout a lot of the book. There were so many interesting facets, but because there were so many, each of them didn’t get all of the page-time that they deserved.
However, this book is therapy and mental health positive, both in Evelin and Belleny’s stories. Through therapy or exposure, both the girls learn to conquer their inner demons or in Belleny’s case, learn to fight real demons too.
Another slight trifle that I had with the book was that it needed a good copyedit to get rid of some minor typos and comma splices. The pacing was also a little off in the middle and it should be noted that this book is long, so if you’re used to reading a book in a day, you’ll need around a week for this one.
Overall, despite these minor issues that were easy to overlook in an otherwise brilliant book, The Other Side of Eve was a great read that made me laugh and cry. It was a good story, with imaginative elements and lovely illustrations done by the author, that had a wit and vibrance that’s difficult to find. Give this self-published book a chance. You won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: It should be noted that I helped edit a chapter of this book, but that in no way influenced the honesty of my review.