Redemption - C.J. Barry (I got this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Redemption was an interesting read in more than one way, dealing with themes that left fewer room to complete black and white thinking than what appeared at first.

The notion of free will permeates it, and from beginning to end, the characters remain able to make their own choices--no matter how wrong those might be. I appreciated how Reya, for instance, didn't try to force her views on Thane, knowing that whatever he chose, he had to do so himself, or it wouldn't be worth much in the eye of the universe. Thane's desire for revenge plays right into this, and leads to questioning oneself: would we seek revenge, too? Are we so sure that our motives are "pure", and not fueled despite, our best intentions, by less than stellar deeper feelings? Personnally, I found such questions interesting to delve into.

I also liked the system behind the reincarnations: souls are the ones who choose which next life to give a try to, along with a goal to fulfil, but as they're sent into these lives without memory of what they themselves decided, they find themselves 1) ignorant of whether what they're doing is the right thing or not, and 2) feeling like they don't have free will, when in fact they had all along. This is a bit of a conundrum to wrap one's mind around, but one that is definitely thought-provoking.

The writing was okay. Not particularly brilliant, efficient in some places, yet somewhat dull in others, with a little too much telling. On the other hand, it remains efficient throughout the story when it comes to bringing in new information, and avoids the pitfall of numerous exposition paragraphs.

The main problems I had with the book were the lull in the middle (it took me some time to pick it up again at some point), and the large scope that eventually made things difficult to follow. I got the bigger picture, but in several parts, the narrative seemed to jump too quickly from one event to the other, in contrast with slower moments that could've been scrapped to leave more room to explanations. I think I'd also have wanted to see more of Reya's job as a Redeemer (so many imperfections hidden behind her perfect physical facade, and so many moments when she could just stumble and fail in this life), of Thane doing his job as a kind of vigilante instead of a regular cop. The overall plot could've easily spanned over two books without dragging, considering what kind of scale it unfolded on, so it wouldn't have been impossible.

I'm not 100% sure I'll pick the next book in the series, but I can't tell either I wouldn't. I'm right in the middle with this one.