‘Struck’ aka ‘Storm and Stone’ (Struck #1) by Joss Stirling

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

After I received a review copy of ‘Stung’, the second book in the ‘Struck’ series, I decided to read the first book before the second one. I’ve been told that they are more companion novels than continuing novels, but I think it’s always good to have an idea of the story before you start in on a sequel.
‘Struck’ (known as ‘Storm and Stone’ in paperback book, and ‘Struck’ in eBook format) is a crime/mystery YA novel, set at the private school of Westron. Raven Stone is a scholarship student at the school, having started there after going to live with her grandfather, the caretaker, following the death of her parents. At the start of the new school term, Raven notices a lot of the pupils are acting oddly; accusing her of stealing things and attacking her in the sports changing rooms. As well as being cast out by all of her peers, her best friend, Gina, hasn’t returned to school, so she’s worried about that as well. Meanwhile, Kieran Storm and Joe Masters are new pupils to the school, a young Sherlock blessed with the power of perception and a charismatic smooth talker respectively. The boys are at the school on a mission, investigating a link between the pupils parents and some widespread government corruption around the globe. Kieran and Joe are both members of the YDA (the Young Detectives Agency), a secret organisation that trains teenagers to become investigators of crime, but how can Kieran juggle his work with his developing feelings for Raven?
The first half of the novel is depressingly slow. I understand that the set-up needed to be well explained and explored, but it just seemed like it was dragging more than it was moving. Raven and Kieran obviously both have feelings for each other, and the first half focuses on their ‘will they/won’t they’ relationship. Normally I don’t mind a bit of a conflict of whether the main characters will end up together, but when a book has both of their last names in the title, a relationship just seems like a given.
Furthermore, Kieran and Joe’s investigation is very slowly developed during the start of the novel. We find out that they are investigating a manor that is near the Westron site, where pupils can stay if they don’t want to go home during half terms. The manor is advertised as a sort of spa vacation, with lots of leisure activities, but it’s only the kids that are returning from the manor that are acting strange and are changing. The idea of brainwashing was quite obvious to me, and once the boys have decided on their course of action being to go to the manor themselves, it takes a while to get from deciding to go to actually getting there. In some ways I appreciated the fact that there was a jump, because it would have been unlikely that they would have decided to go on the manor course just as another one was starting, but on the other hand if you know where a book is going it’s good to get there as soon as possible, rather than dragging it out.
However, the last half of the novel is attention grabbing and nail biting in the best kind of way. Once the boys have gone off to the manor, we can see quite quickly that Joe is being taken in by the brainwashing course, but Kieran is completely immune to their attempts. Getting to see inside the manor, including the torture chamber where they keep Kieran in an attempt to break his resolve, is written so well that it actually sent shivers up my spine. The action sequences towards the end of the novel, where Raven and Isaac, leader of the YDA, break into the manor to rescue the boys, were a bit rushed but were also pretty solid. The second half definitely saved the book, but it was just disappointing that it took so long to get into a rhythm and to hook me. Recently I’ve been reading a book in two days, but this one took me a bit longer because I had to keep taking breaks because it just wasn’t interesting me anywhere near enough.
I’d recommend this book for you if you’re not looking for a quick read, and you’re looking to get more immersed in the story before you get any action. I have quite a low attention span, so this wasn’t the best book for me, but if you enjoy your character development you’ll definitely rate this highly. Similarly, if you’re a fan of Sherlock (the character in any format) you’ll definitely enjoy Kieran, because his first scene with Raven, when he pieces together her entire personality just off of the clothes she’s wearing,  carries an essence of the character without being overly copied.
The second book in the series is a lot shorter, so I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy it more, but I’m a bit apprehensive after the slow burner that was this novel. 
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