Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth. ★★
Cogling is a stand alone YA fantasy novel with steampunk elements. It suffers from a number of issues, most notably poor world building and an ill developed lead. The end result is a clumsy story.
When Edna Mather’s tears a pocket watch away from her brother, he crumbles into a pile of clockwork. She soon learns that her brother was replaced by a cogling, a changing left by the hags of the forest who steal children to work in their magic factory. Edna finds Ike, a street thief who knows the way to the hag’s swamp. Together they head off to the swamp to rescue Edna’s brother and stop the hags.
Edna is supposed to be fifteen, but she feels twelve at the oldest. She’s incredibly naive and immature, and her thought process does not read as a teenager! I think it was primarily Edna’s immaturity that made this read like a middle grade novel. At least until about half way through when all this weird stuff about virginity and sexual assault popped up, mainly surrounding a character named Rachel. Slight spoilers up ahead – Rachel ends up in a mental hospital where the doctor in charge forcibly kisses her and threatens to rape her. All of this was unnecessary. What’s even more mind boggling is when they get Rachel out by replacing her with some nameless homeless girl they kidnap off the street! Seriously?
All that aside, the world building was probably the biggest problem with the book. It feels like a whole bunch of different elements were thrown in with no regards for how they fit together. The world building feels superficial and clumsy, an effect only heightened by the gratuitous info-dumping at the beginning of the novel. For instance, there’s this race of avian people called tomtars who are all enslaved to humans. Why are they in the book? What do they add? How did they get enslaved? Do they have their own culture? None of these questions are answered. Similar lack of thought is given to the development of other areas of world building. Elizabeth Jordan created a religion for Cogling – Edna worships the Seven Saints. However, we are told nothing about them even though Edna is constantly thinking that they’ll protect her and so on. Unfortunately, a large part of the plot ties directly into the clunky world building, i.e. the conflict between the humans and the hags (and their male equivalent, ogres).
The plot itself felt underdeveloped and stuttery, like it was constantly stopping and starting again. According to Goodreads, Cogling is only 285 pages long. However it took me much longer to read than other books of the same length, mainly due to the abysmal pacing and my continued boredom. One of the ongoing plot threads was the “evil” inside Edna. This one had potential, but it was brought out way to late in the novel and basically felt like a deus ex machina.
I wouldn’t recommend Cogling. It’s possible that it could be fixed up (and might be better served in the middle grade market), but as stands it is not a book I can recommend.
I received a free ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.