In The White Oak, the first book in the Imperfect Darkness series, Cora Alexander falls through a sinkhole and enters the underworld still alive. Her living presence threatens the tyrannical rule of Minos and the infernal judges who have hijacked the afterlife and rebuilt it, trapping human souls in a mechanical, computer-controlled city that lies at the core of the earth. To survive, Cora must rely on her untrustworthy guide, Minotaur, an artificial intelligence built by Minos. She is helped by a mysterious voice, and by Sybil, underworld librarian and author of each person’s book of life. Sybil’s collection holds the key to humankind’s intertwined life stories. When Cora’s own book is destroyed, Sybil gives her a magical golden pen and sends her to the underworld city to write her own destiny. Along the way, Cora finds the ghost of her dead brother, Lucas, a genius programmer who alone is capable of finding the chink in Minos's armor. But will he be able to get Cora out alive, or will they both fall victim to the underworld trap?
I was rather excited when I found out that I was approved to review this book on Netgallery last month. I loved the concept of a story taking place in the Underworld. There are quite a few Persephone retellings out there but this isn't one of them, and that made for a good change.
The White Oak starts out very quickly and from there the pace is set. It follows Cora Alexander who has just fallen into the grave of her father while attending his funeral. She is then thrust into the strange and dark Underworld where she makes it her mission to locate her brother, who suffered the same fate. Kim White's take on the Underworld is a new and intriguing one. It is very different from what might be called traditional, and it took me awhile to fully grasp the setting. But from then on I really enjoyed the new take on it and I think it makes a good change to what one expects from an Underworld story.
I also enjoyed all the different characters Cora encountered. I loved the character of her brother, Lucas, and I was rather skeptical of her guide Minotaur. Cora herself is a great main character but I felt she still needed much developing. She wasn't very complex or very much in tune with her feelings. I think it would have helped the story considerably if she was more rounded and share more of her thoughts with the reader.
Overall, The White Oak was an enjoyable read for me. I was excited during some parts and apprehensive of others but I'm happy I got the chance to read it. I'm interested to see where the story goes in the next book and I will definitely look out for the rest of the series.