Review: Bitter Orange by Marshall Moore

Book info:

Form: pdf, e-book
Genre: urban fantasy, contemporary fiction
Target audience: adults

I got a copy of this novel from the publisher free of charge in return for an unbiased review (thanks, Ellie Wong!). That fact didn’t influence my opinion in any way.


Seth Harrington, a thirty something guy, lives in San Francisco and studies psychology. His life has gone nowhere since 9/11, it seems he’s been simply drowning in his own ennui because he lost his partner. Now he tries to carry on as well as he can: he sometimes goes out with Elizabeth, a friendly tattoo artist he met while vacationing in Spain, he shares his flat with Sang-hee, a Korean-born linguistics student. An ordinary, middle class existence if not for one thing: one day Seth finds out he suffers from an oblique form of invisibility or rather the  terror of invisibility he can’t control and doesn’t know what to do with.

His super power is unwanted, unexpected and unpredictable. He can turn imperfectly invis­ible in morally grey moments and he doesn’t know why.  It’s worse than you think – it’s isolating and there are no rules. Is he a one-time aberration? A freak of nature? Something more?  What if he were to turn invisible—really and truly invisible—and get stuck that way? He didn’t ask for it. He doesn’t want it and he doesn’t like it. What to do?

Soon enough Seth starts experimenting with the help of his Korean flatmate: what can he get away with? Theft of several bottles of wine? No problem. A fake movie ticket? Nobody notices anything strange. Underpayment for overpriced bever­ages in a few coffee shops? A piece of cake. Paying for Sang-hee’s new iPod with just a few small bills? Done once again. After those local tests he sets out for Portlant and then for Las Vegas to find his limits and his true goal in life because slot machines and roulette tables cannot be duped. Will his charm or gift still work? Will he fall apart again? How long will he need to go on testing it? Hasn’t the time come to stop, and just accept it for what it was?

My impressions

I admit it was difficult to get into this one at first – I was reading and thinking that everything in the story was being weirdly normal, almost painfully so – Seth, his ordinary life, his friends and studies. Fortunately the narrative style was good enough to keep me going – it was even, sometimes very funny, with hardly a whiff of that annoying emotional drama ups and downs some fantasy authors are so fond of, confusing them, I suppose, with enthralling romantic story arcs.

After a while I found out I actually liked the main protagonist and I was curious what he would do with his unusual gift and where it came from. Moore kept me and his main lead guessing about just how and why a man becomes accustomed to supernatural powers and whether the problem Harrington thinks he has is literal or figurative. On the one hand Seth’s conscience told him that something was wrong. On the other hand he was intrigued to say the least of it. Let’s face it: who wouldn’t like to be invisible from time to time or pay for your merchandize with just a few one-dollar bills, no matter what their actual price tag is? Then the whole plot was given several twists and suddenly I landed straight in an urbanfantasyland. 

Then I understood why the author started the book in such an inconspicuous way – the contrast really was interesting. I liked Seth even more when he wasn’t lured by the easy crimes he could have committed using his gift. The ending was a kind of cliffhanger – now I would like to read the continuation of the story.

I  also had some regrets: I did hope for a better development of the Elizabeth’s character and I wish there were more females included and not all of them were evil. I also think that the pacing of the novel could have been improved, especially the slow beginning. Still I have to tell that the digital copy I got was flawless – no mistakes, a perfect editing job. It is such a treat to read a digital book which is so polished and refined.

Final verdict:

An original story told in a very good way and properly edited. I do hope the author will continue it any time soon.
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4 Responses to Review: Bitter Orange by Marshall Moore

  1. Blodeuedd says:

    Women that are evil, how original of him

  2. Well, women are evil. Look at my reviews 🙂 Just not all of them (look at yours ;p)

  3. I do like original stories, but don't think this one is for me. But I will support the author in spirit! 😉

  4. Thanks for your comment Tasha :).

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