Hi friends! I’m here to review a book I was extremely excited for, but unfortunately didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
I’m so thankful to the wonderful Wednesday Books for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.
When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.
Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.
I was excited to read this for three reasons:
- The idea of magical propaganda is such a powerful thought, and has potential to be an excellent parallel of the real world.
- I instantly fell in love with the cover.
- The author is an activist for survivors of sexual assault, so I was curious to see if this would reflect that.
And there were some redeemable aspects to this book. Firstly, the concept? Fantastic. I am obsessed with this idea. And personally, I loved the themes and messages discussed. The author dives deeply into a world marred by severe poverty, classism, sexism, and “government” control. The entire narrative held notes of several important conversations and was dealt in a very subtle way.
This book sets up a nice framework for a sequel. The writing is simplistic, and allows the reader to fly through the pages easily. In the end, there is enough intrigue and information to expect the sequel to be full of potential.
Unfortunately, I had a few issues with this book*. Shae is an obnoxiously dull character. Well, not dull exactly. She’s extremely single-minded, basic, lacking in the character depth I’ve come to adore and appreciate from books. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her stupid but my gosh. An answer would stare her in the face for a solid half a chapter and then suddenly PLOT TWIST that thing we all assumed was so obvious it didn’t need to be blatantly stated? Yeah, our dear main character just realized it. So um… clearly I didn’t like Shae. However, I did like the unreliable narrator moments that the author incorporated.
*aren’t you proud of how articulate i am today? instead of “asdfghjkl i really didn’t vibe with this sis”. i’ll be back with that tomorrow.
My other big qualm is that I genuinely didn’t feel like this was of a caliber I’ve come to expect from published works. Maybe I’m being too strict (especially considering that this is the author’s debut after all!) but this entire novel was disappointing in the basic book critieria. Writing, plot, and characters: none of it stuck out.
- the writing was very plain, and a lot of “tell” rather than “show”. not a single line stayed with me because it was all extremely unmemorable.
- plot-wise, i definitely expected more. it was fast-paced to the point that not a single plot point got its due time, and so everything felt shallow and underdeveloped. almost every twist i could see coming a mile away.
- I ALREADY RANTED ABOUT SHAE SO UM YEAH.
And then. The sickly sweet, sugar coated icing on top of this mess of a cake: the romance. It didn’t play the biggest role in the plot but still. From the moment Shae meets a certain character, she instantly forgets about this boy she’d (a) been friends with her whole life and (b), had just talked about how much she adored him. Like, what??? And then she has the audacity to tell him later that she likes him and This Character* is rightly like “uhh…you shouldn’t be feeling like that”. Mostly because they’d had maybe three conversations in total before Shae decided to confide in him. Goodbye.
*bless his little unnamed soul
So that’s it! Hopefully I didn’t sound too salty, because I do believe that both this author and this series have fantastic potential. I’m just not sure if it’s worth investing in for me though. Talk to me in the comments!