Book review: Red by Kait Nolan

I’m not a fan of paranormal romance, so please take that into consideration when I tell you that Kait Nolan’s book, Red, is one of the best novels I’ve read this year — and without question the best book I’ve ever read by an “indie” writer.

If you’ve ever read the Twilight saga and wondered what it might have been like if a talented writer had written it, then Red is the book for you. In Nolan’s hands, I bought everything — the werewolf mythos, the teenagers who are meant to be together, the forces which kept them apart, and the inevitable happy ending.

It all worked together so well, I had to go back and read it again to marvel at the skill it took to make this book look so easy.

If I have to quibble (and I must, else what’s a reviewer for?), I would say that the chief antagonist for Elodie and love interest Sawyer was a little TOO easy to identify for an experienced reader and, in the end, too easy to defeat. But that’s a minor, minor complaint. The villain’s comeuppance was completely satisfying.

The story is told in alternating first-person viewpoint: first, the remarkably likeable Elodie, then the brooding heartthrob Sawyer. Their viewpoints build carefully upon one another, showing how two people can see the same situation quite differently. The characters are almost all well-drawn, with only a couple of truly stock characters (the bitchy perfect high school girl who puts others down is by this point a caricature, but I understand its necessity).

I’m drawn, however, back to a comparison to Twilight, that cultural phenomenon that degrades the very women who love the genre. Here are a few key differences between the Twilight saga and Red: 1) Elodie has a brain, and uses it. She’s not a useless pouting wallflower; 2) Nolan knows just how far to push Sawyer’s obsession with Elodie without it becoming creepy; and 3) There is genuine respect between the love interests for the physical well-being of the other.

In other words, Sawyer doesn’t inflict pain — emotional or physical — on Elodie during their intimate scenes. While many of the relationship scenes in Twilight border on abusive (and frankly cross the line more often than not), Nolan has written a paranormal romance that works precisely because there’s genuine respect on both sides of the relationship. The book is ostensibly for a YA audience, but I think it would appeal to readers of all ages.

Kait Nolan, author of Red

It’s rare for me to meet a writer who makes me want to ask the old cocktail party question: “So when are you going to write something serious?” But Nolan’s work has such craftsmanship to it that it makes me want to go there. Red is put together so seamlessly it deserved a re-read. I know all the parts are there and that they’re moving, working the way they’re supposed to work. It was only on the re-read that I realized how strongly this work was put together. It’s not just raw talent, though Nolan has plenty of that to spare. Re-reading the work, I was able to see the discipline it took to make certain choices in the manuscript, to push just the right buttons to make the reader continue further and further. I read it the first time in two days, and then the re-read didn’t take long either.

This book is an incredible example of what the paranormal romance category can be. Just amazing, amazing work from an author approaching the height of her powers.

And as a bonus: Nolan knows how to put together an e-book. Red was formatted perfectly on my (first generation) Nook. No typos or editing errors. No conversion errors. That’s a rarity, even from major commercial publishers. Indie authors, take note: this is one of the ways you can mark yourself as a serious professional.

Go HERE to read an excerpt of Red, as well as find links to buy a copy for your e-reader. Seriously, why are you still here? Click that link. You’ll be happy you did.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any form or fashion for this review. I paid for my own copy of the book, and it was money well spent.

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