I've seen Kelley Armstrong’s name around for years, but this is the first time I’ve picked up one of her novels, and I have to say I was left with mix...moreI've seen Kelley Armstrong’s name around for years, but this is the first time I’ve picked up one of her novels, and I have to say I was left with mixed feelings about it.
I thought the premise was interesting – a fantasy world where the spirits of the restless dead are ritualistically put to rest, but after a sort of spirit revolt, the world is about to be thrown into chaos. But at the same time, the structure of the world wasn't explained in great details, so I kept wondering what the real significance was for putting these spirits to rest and why they might have the need to fight back. It was a super important and revered part of the world Armstrong created, and I had no clue why they were really doing it. Who were the spirits fighting against and how did they get the power to do it? But I did like the idea of talking to spirits, the encounters with epic mythical creatures and the journey across a wasteland – with danger almost literally around every corner – in an attempt to save the day. This book did not lack excitement or action, which definitely helped raise the bar for me.
My main issues came from the main characters: Twin sisters who had the rare power to talk to spirits and the responsibility of putting their souls to rest. I thought I was going to really enjoy the twin perspective. I’m always curious when I read a story about twins, especially because I am a twin myself. But I think that also influences the way I react to twins in novels, because I found myself a little let down with Ashyn and Moria.
If it had been explained from the start that these two sisters would have radically different personalities – because of their power and positions – I think I might have looked at them differently. Instead we get an opening glimpse of Moria, the warrior twin, sparing the life of an exiled thief who is about to be sent into the Forest of the Dead, and theoretically sent to his death. Curiosity is definitely spiked, you’re left wondering just who or what Moria is and why she saved the thief. Jump forward four months and we meet twin number two, Ashyn, the gentle twin, about to be sent into the Forest with a small party from their village to quiet the restless spirits of the exiles. The way these two sisters mirrored each other in look, but clashed in the way they acted shouldn’t have been a problem for me. I spent most of my childhood trying to explain to everyone that just because I was a twin, didn’t mean I was an exact copy of my sister – and when I meet new twins, I don’t look for their similarities, I’m constantly looking for differences. A way to see them as their own person. But while we’re given obvious differences between Ashyn and Moria, I wasn’t impressed with the roles they were placed in. We get little real explanation about their powerful position in society. Ashyn is the Seeker, the one who must go into the Forest – without her twin – to calm souls. Moria is the Keeper, supposed protector of the village. That’s it, that’s all the information we get. And while Ashyn's position seemed to be the more important one, it was Moria who had the town's respect and who drew all the attention.
My Twin-loyalties came into play almost immediately after discovering there were twin lead characters for this book. It’s hard not to compare my own twin experiences with theirs – and maybe that’s why I had so many problems. I thought I was going to identify with Moria, as the younger twin, but I found myself aligning more with Ashyn. Not necessarily because I felt like I was more like her, although I guess that’s part of it, but mostly because I got so angry at Moria and the way she seemed to be favoured throughout the whole book. I just couldn’t like her. (NOTE: I was not a forgotten twin. I did not identify with Ashyn because I was pushed aside, but because I liked her better. My sister and I grew up on equal footing and I made my own way. I'm not harbouring unresolved twin issues and taking them out on Moria because she's the favoured twin)
Moria was basically a tough fighter chick. She prided herself on her supposed fighting skills. Children flocked to her because of her outrageous stories and dagger throwing prowess. She apparently drew the attention of all the boys, even when trying to push them away or after her sister made it known she liked them – and she saw her sister as weak and in need of protection. I’ll admit, Ashyn did come off as someone who could use a few sword fighting lessons, but the way they all treated her as though she was the lesser twin, and that Moria was the one in charge, annoyed me.
On many occasions, both girls would be standing in a room, both girls would have a direct impact on the events to come, but Ashyn was ignored, forgotten or pushed aside to allow Moria to take the lead. Ashyn’s thoughts and feelings were pushed aside as though they were of lesser importance, even when it wasn’t a physical problem at hand, which was just about the only time I could see where Moria would have the upper hand. There was one particular scene where Moria is held at knife point and asked to answer whether their travelling party would head into the city to deliver an important message. Moria refused to answer, so Ashyn spoke instead, only for the man holding the knife to sneer, turn back to Moria and ask “Does your sister speak for you, Keeper?” – It was fine for Moria to speak for the entire group, but heaven forbid Ashyn do the same.
And it wasn’t just the “dominant” twin thing that seemed to push Moria into the “most important twin” role. A special notes from the girls’ father that was specific to Moria when left for her, but twin-generic when left for Ashyn. Both male leads originally fell for Moria, and continue to worry about her emotional stability over fragile Ashyn’s, until one of the leading men settles for Ashyn’s companionship – obviously going to happen because he spent more time with Ashyn, but he was jealous of Moria’s other guy. And then there’s Ashyn, forced to be the damsel in distress over and over again. I just felt like Ashyn drew the short straw too many times. She had her strong moments, mostly when she wasn’t around her sister and couldn’t be pushed aside from the favourite twin.
I guess I can’t put all the blame on Moria though, because Ashyn doesn’t do much to help assert herself, but I still feel like she didn’t really have the chance. Apparently it was a product of their birth, that one twin was going to be stronger than the other, but it shouldn’t mean that they have to stay in these dominant and submissive roles; especially when, from what I could tell, Ashyn had the more important role in their society – putting souls to rest.
Twin issues aside, I am curious to see what happens next in the series, and maybe I’m a bit too close to the characters to look at them with a clear head – I want to give them a chance to redeem themselves and maybe treat Ashyn a bit better. I just hope the next book has a bit more equality between the sisters.
I was so disappointed with this book. The base plot line had so much potential, but Emma was an ungrateful teen.
I wanted to feel sorry for her, becau...moreI was so disappointed with this book. The base plot line had so much potential, but Emma was an ungrateful teen.
I wanted to feel sorry for her, because I can't imagine the amount of pain and sadness she was going through. But she spent so much time claiming she came from a loving family and that families need to discuss things - and then she stomps her foot and says her stepdad is ignoring her and won't let him talk to her.
The story could have been full of battling a controversial topic like keeping a mother alive to let a baby live, or even dealing with the grief or learning to love. Instead, I just found the whole book to be an Emma-attention grabbing book. She was sad, but jealous of the attention other people (mainly the unborn baby) were getting now that she wasn't the centre of her parents' world.
I really did want to like this book, and I'm really sad I didn't. (less)