**spoiler alert** I loved the first book so much, but as the series progressed, everything became a little tarnished for me.
One thing I loved about t**spoiler alert** I loved the first book so much, but as the series progressed, everything became a little tarnished for me.
One thing I loved about the first book was there was a legitimate reason that the people from Fourline needed the help of someone from another world, and it didn't seem to be rooted in some Special Destiny. Over the course of this book and the previous, it turned out that Nat was part of a Special Destiny.
Thematically, I am really uncomfortable with the Nala being pure villains that need to be exterminated. With the first book, there was at least the possibility of the Nala becoming more nuanced, but nope, they remain monsters that need to be exterminated like cancer. Or AIDS.
The series ended up being ridiculously heteronormative. And some of the romance was just unnecessary and felt almost aggressively heterosexual. Emilia spent 7 years imprisoned and tortured, and her brother thought she was dead. But instead of spending any time at all on her relationship with her brother Estos, we get this weird so-called "romance" with another character -- the brother of her dead husband -- who is possessive and grouchy and clingy, and I really don't see how he does anything positive for her mental or emotional well-being.
Then you have Estos and Annin. The king and the duozi -- a victim of the Nala loathed by most of the country due to a disinformation campaign by another villain. We barely get to see them interact -- Estos is barely a character, to be honest -- and then, at his coronation ceremony, he outs her as a duozi without talking to her about it first, telling the crowd "duozis are victims and not evil." An important sentiment to express, yeah, but why on earth would you do that to the woman you love without talking to her about it first? It's completely disrespectful.
Also, let's talk about how Emilia -- a female ruler and victim of a coup -- was like "I failed to protect Fourline and am giving power to my brother."
Let's talk about how Nat's boyfriend is the one to behead the Nalaide, her ultimate enemy.
This series is full of complex female characters, which is great. And Nat is certainly no passive damsel in distress. But even so, the structure of the narrative subtly reinforces the idea that men are the ones with power, that it's a man's world and women live in it. Straight cis women. No queers here. No explicit racial diversity, either; the whole thing drips with whiteness.
I can't say I understood the book at all, but once I got past the first chapter or so, that didn't really matter. The characters were compelling enougI can't say I understood the book at all, but once I got past the first chapter or so, that didn't really matter. The characters were compelling enough that I kept reading even though I didn't understand a single thing about the plot....more
A very compelling read, well-written with lots of twists and turns. Sad, though -- not a book to read when you want to feel like there's justice in thA very compelling read, well-written with lots of twists and turns. Sad, though -- not a book to read when you want to feel like there's justice in the world or you like seeing people be happy....more
**spoiler alert** This was a tough book to put down -- but in the end, I found it a little disappointing.
The plot twist at the end was basically ident**spoiler alert** This was a tough book to put down -- but in the end, I found it a little disappointing.
The plot twist at the end was basically identical to the twist at the end of the first book -- what seemed brilliant in Illuminae felt hackneyed here.
I'm glad that Ella, a brilliant character with severe physical disabilities, didn't actually die, but seeing several death scenes for her was still frustrating. In a world with decent disability representation, what's in this book would be just fine, but that's not the world we live in, so I found it rather problematic.
But the real source of my disappointment is the romance. It's the most stereotypical love triangle between Hot Smart Badass Girl, Bad Boy With Heart of Gold, and Hot Boyfriend Who Is Secretly Awful. It's pretty much every possible bad YA cliche. The only reason I didn't suspect Hot Boyfriend of being Awful is that the previous book hadn't indulged in this kind of cliched romantic bullshit; I expected the same genuine emotion and realism that Kady and Ezra's relationship had. If I'd known I was reading Cliched YA Bullshit, I would have seen it coming from page 1.
And since I absolutely hated the romantic plot lines, all it did was serve to remind me that there hasn't been a single queer character in the series, as far as I recall. Considering that the books have done a relatively solid job with racial and gender representation, this kind of surprises me. Also annoys me.
My hatred of the romance doesn't mean I hated the individual characters. I found Hanna very compelling, Nik entertaining, and Jaz's emotional arc interesting.
But I am not blown away like I was in book one. I'm definitely going to buy the next book to complete my set, but this book doesn't leave me as excited for it as I felt after finishing book one. ...more
I really enjoyed this. There was a genuine believable reason for the MC to be dragged into a rebellion in another world; the relationships and charactI really enjoyed this. There was a genuine believable reason for the MC to be dragged into a rebellion in another world; the relationships and character dynamics were all believable and compelling. The ending seemed a little abrupt, and representation was a bit of an issue....more