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So, I think the Porcelain Doll intends to be horror, but even after reading it, I am not exactly sure.
Joseph, the protagonist, is a ceramic artist/teacher who's just had his heart broken by his superficial, slutty girlfriend, Hillary. She goes back to her sugar daddy lover and leaves Joseph a complete mess. He has his first ever art show to prepare for, when suddenly he starts having nightmares about Hillary. It turns out they are really premonitions. Carlos is another man Hillary left in the dust, and his life is also falling apart because of her. Carlos is a Santera and starts using his dark powers to destroy Hillary. And somehow Joseph becomes connected to Carlos, and is the only one who can stop him. Though I could not tell you why Joseph would give a damn - she is pretty awful.
First off, the book is completely and utterly predictable. The foreshadowing is obvious from the very beginning. Betancourt makes no attempt to hide who the villain is from the moment he is introduced, leaving the reader bored and wondering how the hell the protagonist cannot figure it out. The characterization is weak - there are unnecessary descriptions that keep the quick read from moving along, yet a lack of description when needed to actually improve characterization. You don’t' really care about the characters or what is happening to them. The only one you have any emotional attachment to is Hillary, and that is because you hate her, which I think is the point, so kudos there.
I am assuming the various nightmare segments scattered throughout the book are meant to stir up the terror, but the scenes come across more silly than scary. With horror, if the gore is lacking, then there must be suspense and tension. These scenes have neither. And as the nightmares are being described, Betancourt switches to the villain and his spell casting, pretty much spelling out the meaning of the dreams as you are reading them.
Then somewhere in the middle of the book, it turns into a crime drama. But those characters are only, and obviously, used to cause foreseen trouble for the main characters. Then they are just swept aside once their usefulness expirers, leaving the reader pondering why the hell there was so much information on them in the first place.
All in all it comes across like a high school senior’s first attempt at horror novel writing. It is not horribly written, but nothing at all comes as a surprise, or makes your skin crawl. It may be a good read for youngsters that scare easily yet feel the need to experiment with the horror genre.
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