Just to make you all aware, I received an Advance Reader Copy of this title from the author, prior to its release, in return for an honest review.
Cradles the Brain comes from the mind of Alyanna Poe, author of Eaten, and its sequel Void. Unlike those titles though, Cradles the Brain is a collection of short stories, a few poems, and even a couple of tales that could have been released quite happily on their own. In fact, the two-part story Conductivity has been released separately, so you are getting a large and varied amount of content here. Not only are you getting the inclusion of Conductivity, but the multi-part story Vitality comprises almost half of the entire book, and could easily have been a totally separate release. To have it included in here is a real treat.
The amount of content does mean that I’m not going to go give each work its own separate rundown, and will give a review for it in its entirety.
Firstly, I’ll start with the negatives.
At times, the writing can feel a little clumsy in places. Alyanna’s youthful inexperience does show, and there are moments where the text can be contradictory.
For example, there is a point where a characters lips are described as being plump, yet also thin. I think I get what the author was going for; suggesting that said lips were indeed full, and plump, but that the owner of them had pulled an expression whereby those lips became drawn in a tight, thin line. However, the way it was written, did feel a little out of place.
Similarly, there are times where past and present tenses are used together, that doesn't quite feel right, along with moments where the text doesn't quite fit together smoothly.
That being said, there are a lot of positives here that make those things easy to forgive.
You can tell that Alyanna writes from the heart. More than that, she often lays her soul bare with her work, and you can tell just how personal a lot of her work is. There is an honesty to it that feels genuine.
The horror elements generally lurk at the edges, as it does with most things in real life, but they add an undertone that permeates the stories. I would probably describe the majority of her work as supernatural romanticism. Witchcraft crops up often, as does an idealistic, and sometimes fatalistic romantic quality.
There are moments of angst and the indecisiveness of youth that many readers in their teens or early twenties will definitely relate to. Those days are long gone for me, those moments of confusion, of not knowing your place in the world and the sense of loss and loneliness that can come with those feelings, long since faded from my ageing memory.
Or at least, that’s what I thought. Reading Alyanna’s work brought some of those doubts and insecurities, or at least the memory of them, flooding to my mind. And that is her greatest strength. She can engage emotionally, and for me, that is what writing is all about. Sure, at times I found moments that didn’t really grab me, the second part of Conductivity being one of them, but when it all comes together, and you can feel her emotion, her heart, in her writing, it works very well.
There is a lot here to like, and a few things to dislike, but for the right person, a lot of these stories will speak to them personally.
I’m impressed with how Alyanna hasn’t been afraid to share her self-doubts, and personal issues with the reader, particularly in Without a Cure. This was a (presumably) factual piece that normally, wouldn’t really interest me – I prefer fiction and want to be entertained by that, rather than a true account of someone’s life, but she wrote it so well, that I felt her emotion on the page. It was surprisingly powerful and emotive stuff, that actually made me care.
Even with its flaws, her work will definitely resonate with many readers. As I mentioned earlier, I feel that readers of a certain age will find her work speaking to them, more than it did with me, and this title is something that I think my daughter would enjoy reading in a few years when she gets a little older.
I hope that Alyanna continues with her work, because she has real talent, even though she would certainly benefit from the help of a good editor, to help her polish out the rough edges.
Then again, don’t we all have a few rough edges?
You can also find Alyanna on goodreads