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Kara Ford
The Serpent Bearer
Kara Ford, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Breathe. Just breathe. Sometimes that’s all it takes to wipe away the bad memories. Other times, the swallowing darkness lurches Dani awake in a cold sweat, the bloodcurdling screams still echoing in her ears…

But this year will be different—it has to be. This year Dani will lead her college lacrosse team to a championship and get into med school—and what’s wrong with having a little fun to keep her grounded?

Except it’s not so simple when the painful memories keep threatening to destroy everything she has worked so hard for…

Dustin, Dani’s student mentor, is in his final year of medical school. He has enough weight on his shoulders with family concerns and the pressure of his upcoming graduation—the last thing he needs is a rambunctious mentee who doesn’t take her studies seriously. Is she even worth his time?

Dani and Dustin are determined to conquer their own trials; however, nobody sees the tumultuous, cataclysmic storm of events brewing on the horizon.

And amid such an unprecedented storm with no clear skies in sight, not even the strongest walls can stand for long.

Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 6 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.25 out of 10


Plot: A solid primary story arc about building self-esteem and self-forgiveness through the support of a romantic partner trips over facile overlays of sexual abuse, PTSD, racism, and the coronavirus pandemic. The family drama here is resolved too superficially to feel realistic, but the heavy topics in the background block the feel-good parts of the romance.

Prose/Style: The prose reads smoothly and is expresses the story’s ideas well, but dialogue expressing conflict can feel stilted and the slow reveal of the trauma in the protagonist’s background through snippets of flashback feels contrived to keep information from the reader for too long. The novel would benefit from a paring down, as readers may feel frustrated with the length, digging through its slow pacing to get to the happy ending.

Originality: Romance in the age of coronavirus is an interesting take, and the author leans into it in some ways (the romantic interest and his mother are medical professionals, and the mother becomes ill), while ignoring it in others – there’s little masking in the characters’ daily lives. But this novel would be improved by more attention to the classic beats of romance stories.  

Character Development/Execution: Although the protagonist and her romantic interest are appealing and exhibit growth, most secondary characters, especially those in antagonistic roles, are unidimensional. The characters are college and graduate students, but their social behavior and relationship to their parents feels immature and more typical of high schoolers.

Date Submitted: April 20, 2021