“Truth Seer” feels like you’re reading the fantasy love child of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. In it, Moody creates a world where people now have, essentially, a super power that they can learn to use and hone to perfection to help them in a future career. Everything from tasting the weather, to feeling wounds in order to heal them with something more than a doctors touch, to seeing people’s emotions, including if they are telling the truth. Enter the main character Imara, a truth seer who uses her ability—or hila—to see when someone is lying. She wants to use her gift to help the police during interrogations, and she is THIS CLOSE to getting her dream job, when a terrorist organization, based in her hila school’s city of Egypt, crashes the graduation party and takes several people hostage—including Imara’s older sister Naki. Now Imara must use her hila to see through the lies—the illusions—that are keeping her away from her sister before anyone gets hurt.
Moody creates a really interesting world and I loved the fresh take on science-fantasy with hila’s being a form of evolution, plus I really liked that this took place in Africa. Granted, this isn’t an “own voices” book, but I still appreciated that the setting wasn’t European and that the author included so many diverse characters in her novel. Honestly, if you enjoy a kind of dungeon crawl vibe as Imara and her team of rescuers go through the catacombs, disabling traps and narrowly avoiding danger (although not always) then this is 100% the book for you. But that’s also what the vast majority of the book is: going through the catacombs and facing different illusions and puzzles. Sure, along the way there is interpersonal conflict between Imara and the people she’s with, when you can see everyone’s emotions it’s impossible for that to NOT lead to problems. But the pacing of the book could have been so much faster and so much more tense had some of the illusions been removed so the meat of the plot and story could have been gotten to faster.
Additionally, there is a lot of dialogue vs. exposition in the book—and lots of pulling of the neck hair on Imara’s part (lol). This made the characters feel a bit flat and put a lot of pressure on the dialogue to be spectacular, and it wasn’t always there. There are decent character arcs, but it got frustrating at times as it took close to 80% mark of the book for the “true colors” of the characters to present themselves. Then things wrapped up really quickly, again through maybe one or two conversations between a character, and I felt like those resolutions needed more time. In fact, it takes until about the 60% mark for the book to get really interesting, which is a shame because, again, the uniqueness of the world and the different hilas was so well thought out that I wanted more of that and less dungeon crawling.
Now, all that being said, once things got moving in “Truth Seer”, they really got moving and I enjoyed the book, which is why I’m frustrated by the things I previously mentioned. I enjoyed the end so much more than the first half of the story. Still, overall, I did enjoy “Truth Seer” and I would absolutely continue on in the series. I mean, I HAVE to know what happens next to Imara and if she and her love interest will make it. There is some violence and the romance is very tame, but cute, so this book is on point for a YA audience, especially if they like a bit of science with their fantasy. The first book is a complete story while setting up the next books in the series rather nicely, and I appreciated that the author managed to do that. Still, with how much the reader is told about the characters rather than shown, the slow pacing through the first half, and my frustration around some of the character arcs and dialogue, I’m giving this book a 3.5 star rating. I really did enjoy the book, don’t get me wrong! There were just some things that kept me from truly adoring it. But thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review!
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