My Reaction: Three stars for the actual quality, plus one star for my own personal bias.
This was a very difficult book to get through. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad reasons. The book doesn’t shy away from anything, not mass graves or rape or brutal beatings or anything else. (Except, to my great frustration, menstruation. Apparently that’s still off limits.) It’s more than willing to present you with a very gritty war-torn land that is heart-rending at times.
At times. It wasn’t heart-rending all the time because the book was far too dense for me to connect to anything going on. So much was thrown at me, and I didn’t get enough space or quiet moments to sit and process it or care about it. “Here’s a gritty thing. Now, without any transition, here’s another gritty thing.” I didn’t feel like I cared for any of the characters, because they were too busy running halfway across a continent in the space of a sentence.
The style of this will certainly please some people. It’s a very plot-driven book, and the plot of it is quite good. The writing is a bit stilted and high-handed, but it produces some very beautiful quotes and moments. The characters are distant and disconnected from the readers, but they’re fascinating characters nonetheless. It’s a book that I can see being very divisive, because every point that makes one person happy is sure to annoying someone else.
Highlights: • Have you ever sat with a group of people who are all friends, but you’re new? And they tell stories to each other, but leave out information because they assume that everyone in the group already knows it? So you sit there, mostly following along, but still with the ever present knowledge that you’re missing out on something? Reading this book is a lot like that. Important plot points are brought up, then talked about as if we have background knowledge of them. I was able to follow along in retrospect, because you can put the pieces together after the fact, but in the middle of reading it was very frustrating. • There was very little attempt to ever set the scene in this book. When the party arrived in a new place, we didn’t get to see it. When fights started, they just started out of nothing. One crucial scene started with the phrase “a blazing hell,” and then all of a sudden there were soldiers there to fight. Where were they fighting? In a street or field or city or castle? Who knows! And was the fire literal or metaphorical? Well, you’ll have to wait several pages to find out that it was literal, and then several pages more to find out just what, exactly, was on fire. • There are quite a few plot holes in this book. The most glaring being when certain people get a fatal illness…and then the plot goes on as if they got cured somewhere in there. I don’t know, maybe the book mentioned it in half a sentence and I just read too fast. That happens a lot, too. Major plot points and movements will be tucked in, and if you blink too fast you’ll miss them. • A lot of character motivations got the same treatment as the last of scene-setting. People will just all of a sudden decide that so-and-so is out for blood, even though so-and-so is a friend, or that there’s a fight about to throw down, despite no evidence of such. • When the book does slow down enough for character moments, they’re quite beautiful. • I was fascinated by all the characters. Granted, it was rather in the way one is fascinated by a historical figure, since they were inaccessible most of the time, but I still really enjoyed learning about their stories. • The plot was right up my alley. It was just downright refreshing to get a sweeping, epic book that delivered on its promise to be all about saving the country.
This book had a lot of potential, but it needed a lot more spit and polish to make it shine. The plot and general idea of the book appealed to me a loThis book had a lot of potential, but it needed a lot more spit and polish to make it shine. The plot and general idea of the book appealed to me a lot; I love fantasy stories like this. New worlds, high magic, poor farmboys girls finding out they have awesome powers, princesses, political machinations, intrigue, AWESOME! It's the kind of story that has very familiar bones, but you don't care because the rest of the dressing can be made interesting in a million different ways. The dressing in Sworn to Raise, however, was a bit sloppy.
The setting felt cobbled together, with a lot of things sticking out of place. There were modern amenities (like keypad locks and video phones) that were handwaved away as being powered by magic, which is fine, but they still looked and functioned as normal keypads and phones. In a pseudo-Medieval world, so many of these things just felt lazy and awkward. They didn't fit in the world, and there was very little attempt made to disguise them. Other things were too-clearly "inspired" by other iconic fantasy books, or borrowed from real-world cultures that were different enough to seem awkward when thrown together.
A lot of things weren't explained well enough to avoid confusion and plot holes. The basic gist is good -- Ciardis gets picked to go to magic companion school and learn how to be, basically, a courtier -- but when that process was described, I became very confused about the order of events that was supposed to go on. She has to...train, and then get a patron, and then train more? Maybe? The exposition was stretched out over many short conversations and contradicted itself a few times, which made things really hard to follow.
The characters were alright, but glanced over and summarized with far too much telling. An entire rivalry between two characters was shortened so much that, when they were in the same room together, we didn't get a single line of dialogue between them. Just "they bickered until forced to stop." Bickered how? What did they say?
The book had a king in charge of an empire. Just straight-up fail there. A few more weird mistakes like that should have been caught early on by an editor and weren't.
On the whole, it had potential, but it just didn't hold my interest enough to make me forget about the problems it had....more
This book certainly had style. It was fun and fascinating and kept my attention throughout. The first-person narration had a very snarky, Buffy-speak-This book certainly had style. It was fun and fascinating and kept my attention throughout. The first-person narration had a very snarky, Buffy-speak-esque-ness to it that was a hoot and a half to read through, and a lot of the magical items and images were both unique and vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Having said that, I can't quite decide if it was a good book or not. It feels more like one of those books that either you love it or you hate it, and I was fortunate enough to love it. The narration is fun and flippant, but there's times where it goes too far. For instance, things are described through funny similes most of the time, using comparisons one wouldn't usually think of. And that is in the book's favor sometimes, but falls horribly flat at other times. There is one instance where a character is said to cross the room "like a teacher about to take glue from a kid who sniffed it one too many times." Um...so, frantically? Annoyed? Fearful of a lawsuit? Taking her time and hoping the kid finally croaks and leaves her alone? It's a funny line, but it doesn't actually tell me much.
Also, leave Chekhov's Gun at the door when you read this book. There's a lot of detail in here, and 90% of it is just set dressing. There were plenty of things in here that were dwelled on so much when first introduce that I was sure they'd make a comeback, but they never did.
And then there's that ending. The majority of this book is a straight-up revenge plot, with Stark trying to kill the guys who sent him to hell. Alright, awesome, I'm on board! But in the last 60 pages or so, suddenly we veer off into a plot to save the world evil not-angels. Uh...okay. It was fair enough scene and certainly interesting, but it was the ending of a completely different book than the one I'd bee reading. For all it was exciting in its own right, I found myself getting bored because I wasn't invested in that plot. I was invested in the revenge plot. At least we did get back around to that one, as well, so the side-track into save-the-world was just a minor detour.
If those few things I mentioned wouldn't bother you, then Sandman Slim is definitely worth checking out....more
Oi, vey, what a snooze fest. This book is 500 pages of pure exposition. NOTHING HAPPENS. The 'climax' of this book is just the two main characters hanOi, vey, what a snooze fest. This book is 500 pages of pure exposition. NOTHING HAPPENS. The 'climax' of this book is just the two main characters handing out Halloween candy before getting ready to take a trip. Really. That's the climax of the novel. It is the rising action of a better novel, but padded out into 43 chapters of domestic activity.
The whole thing reads like the OCD notes of particularly dull stalker. It followes the main characters through every moment of their lives, every yoga class, every glass of wine, every pointless activity to waste time. There's pages and pages of backstory and 'cute' banter and descriptions. It's fluff. It's all pure fluff and filler. There's very little that actually happens in this book, and what does happen is pretty head-bangingly stupid. The 'villains' in this novel read about as nuanced and intelligent as Captain Planet bad guys.
The cliches are so overwhelming that they physically hurt me. And tucking in between all the failed worldbuilding, bullshit history, and descriptions of clothes, there's a chuck-ton of misogyny. If you want a detailed description of exactly why this book is so awful, there's a chapter by chapter review on my blog. If you can get through it. Even in summary, it's just so dull....more
Seraphina is…at once enjoyable and disappointing. And the only reason it’s disappointing is because it should have been more enjoyable, and I can’t quSeraphina is…at once enjoyable and disappointing. And the only reason it’s disappointing is because it should have been more enjoyable, and I can’t quite figure out why it wasn’t. All the right elements were there. Everything that should have had me panting and coming back for more. In spite of that, though, I found it very easy to convince myself to do other things when I should have been reading. It just…didn’t quite come together.
THE GOOD Our main character, Seraphina. Oh, I really enjoyed her. I think a lot of her awesome came from how understated it was. The text didn’t set out to shove her in our faces and say “LOOK, SHE’S BADASS,” she just went about her life, being awesome. Ya know, like you do.
The side characters were great. They managed to convey a lot of humanity (even the dragons!) in a matter of a few lines or scenes, and of course, the secondary characters got even more space to be fleshed out.
The racism! I know, odd thing to praise. But I enjoyed (well, hated, but I was supposed to, so I enjoyed that?) how the managed to convey the frustration and stubbornness of this situation. It’s not directly applicable to real life – the breadth and nuance of our own racism is hard to portray – but the emotion of it is captured fairly well here.
In fact, I really enjoyed a lot of the setting in this novel. It was fleshed out and had a real sense of life and passion to it. I’m not sure I’d grant it the adjective of ‘original,’ as it actually felt pretty familiar to me, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t excellent all the same. It managed to feel three-dimensional without getting bogged down in details and infodumps. The wonderful details were woven into the story.
The romance wasn’t (quite) an instant thing. Seraphina had quite a few interactions with her love interest before she even started to think of him that way, and they had some real warmth and chemistry between them, a slow building of an actual relationship. Bravo! Sadly, my love for that subplot only lasted about halfway through that.
Plots! Politics! Machinations! Assassinations! Intrigue! Spies! Pretty much everything you need for a solid adventure story.
THE BAD All the elements of a good plot were there, but it never felt like a plot. It never felt like we were building up to anything, or like Seraphina had any actual goal or drive or desire throughout the book. Stuff just…happened. Awesome stuff, but still, it felt like “A Really Sucky Day in the Life of Seraphina.” There wasn’t a continuous thread to connect the book from beginning to end. In fact, most of what happens at the beginning gets dropped for new intrigue that gets picked up in the middle. Which, frankly, is pretty realistic. But not everything that’s real makes for a good novel.
I have to admit: I skimmed and then straight-up skipped the last few pages of this novel. Once the climax hit and the major points were wrapped up, the last chapter was just gush and semi-philosophical babbling and pointless backstories. Honestly, it was quite a break in tone from the rest of the book. At least it didn’t get in the way or replace something more important.
The ‘saints’ in this novel that are the basis of their religion…uh, felt more like gods to me. Maybe small, low-powered gods, which is kind of what you get when you have a large pantheon, but all the same. The term annoyed me.
There were a couple plot holes that nagged at me. Like: why did the knights get banished? We’re told that they were all banished at the end of the dragon wars, but not the reason. ‘Knight’ isn’t like ‘vampire;’ you can stop being one if you’re no longer needed. We don’t take our armies at the end of ever war and make them go live on a deserted island. There’s some reference to someone influencing that decision, but no word on what form that took.
The ‘intellect vs emotion’ theme introduced with the dragons bugged me as well. They claim that emotions are ‘irrational’ and just get in the way of study, but 1) that’s been clichéd for decades and 2) that doesn’t even make sense. If dragons really are that interested in studying the snot out of everything, hey, why don’t they study emotions? The book seems to imply that emotions are mysterious things that just pop out of people at random, but they follow patterns enough that we study them, so why not dragons? (And don’t you need at least some degree of passion to become a really accomplished scholar?)
The second half of the love story. For all we got that nice, slow build up between the two lovebirds, as soon as any feelings are mentioned at all, it’s a matter of jumping straight into ‘love.’ Seraphina knows the boy for less than a week, and she jumps straight from “I think I might have squishy feelings” to “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I’M IN LOVE, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” Girl, calm down. Add up all the time you’ve spend together, and it’s only been like a day. This is just another flavor of insta-love with a delayed onset.
THE UGLY I can’t think of anything I found actually ugly in this book....more
This book was about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a brick. Nothing was handled with tact or skill or any amount of nuance. Badass characteThis book was about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a brick. Nothing was handled with tact or skill or any amount of nuance. Badass character is an orphan? Well she's not JUST an orphan, oh no, she's got a history of child abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, really just every kind of abuse you can imagine. Because being an orphan isn't sad ENOUGH, nope, we've got to make sure that there's not one single, solitary piece of comfort anywhere in her life. Balls-to-the-wall angst, people. Religion replaced by a so-called secular Church? Well, that's not obvious enough, we've got to make it absolutely, unequivocally clear that this new Church is hypocritical. Like, full-on Inquisition era insanity and total control over the government and everything. And totally not secular and completely missing the definition of 'faith.' "You don't need faith because there are no gods! Now, believe us when he declare acts to be moral or immoral, or else you'll go to hell. Proof? Psh. We say it's the truth, you believe, but don't worry that doesn't count as 'faith!'" Not painful enough? Don't worry, here's a few pseudo bible verses to hammer it home.
So much of this world just wasn't handled well. We're told that ghosts suddenly popped up 23 years ago because...hey, they just popped up, and so did magic. Reasons be damned. Chess is a drug addict who never gets affected by her drugs. Seriously, this chick will pop pills and snort lines at least once a chapter, usually two or three times, and she'll go days without sleeping or eating, and absolutely none of this has any effect on her thoughts, decisions, actions, or feelings. She runs around just like any sober character, with very little variance between coked-out-of-her-skill and near-sober. It's like the book couldn't actually make her ACT high, so it substituted in lots of snorting scenes to remind us that she's an addict. Since it's so easy to forget otherwise.
I really wanted to like this. I really did. There's some good stuff buried in the mess. But it was just a chore to slog through, and the good parts couldn't carry me through the rest of the annoyance. ...more
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It had a few problems, like the really uncomfortable "blame the girl for getting raped while she was drunk" uI was pleasantly surprised by this book. It had a few problems, like the really uncomfortable "blame the girl for getting raped while she was drunk" undertones at the start, but most of its faults were restricted to poor research and writing. Even then, there were only a few. The event which supposedly kicked off the war? Happened at the same time as the kicking off of the war, so I'm not clear on how the two were supposed to be related. By the time Jonas gets around to doing anything about his brother's death, we find out that things are already in motion, but we don't get a real good sense of what did set things off. It's like a puzzle where all the pieces look like they should go together, but the shape is just slightly off. Also, people in this book tend to give speeches about their motives. It's a shame, since until the soliloquy moments, they're decently written. Also, I think this author is seriously confused on what a siege really is.
But again, those are technical problems, there were only a few, and they didn't get in the way of my overall enjoyment of the book. Falling Kingdoms was a fun, quick read that had enjoyable characters and plenty of plot. It was a nice set-up for the sequel that didn't feel like just a draw-out prologue; it has its own story. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment. ...more
Not bad. It felt more like three very short books that got rolled into one, as opposed to a single flowing narrative, but I enjoyed all three parts, sNot bad. It felt more like three very short books that got rolled into one, as opposed to a single flowing narrative, but I enjoyed all three parts, so it was only minorly annoying. The writing was decent, the worldbuilding was fun, if not very detailed, and the characters were passable. Very standard and unsurprising, but nothing objectionable. There were a few points that made me side-eye, like when Tier quite clearly forces a kiss on Seraph, and it's presented as a "well, of course guys have to force a girl, because she's not going to admit she wants it until after he's already snogged/fucked her" feel to it. One of those scenes that I think snuck in there from the author's subconscious, but then again, subtle scenes that get passed without objection are how cultural trends spread and take root. But if you keep an eye out for that stuff, the rest of it isn't bad....more
I wanted to like this book. I really did. It started out so good that I couldn't put it down at bedtime. It had interesting mysteries and characters,I wanted to like this book. I really did. It started out so good that I couldn't put it down at bedtime. It had interesting mysteries and characters, and the main protagonist was actually intelligent and figuring things out on his own.
And then, about halfway through the book, it's like the author just gave up. There was no story anymore, just pages upon pages upon pages of characters sitting around and talking. It wasn't even interesting talking. They were trying to figure out how Danny's magic worked, but instead figuring it out they just spent several pages at a time expounding on theories that had no bearing. Theories which couldn't be proven one way or another and which, even if true, wouldn't have affected Danny's ability to do magic. It was just hundreds of pages of an author showing off that he was oh-so-smart and could come up with cool ideas, even though he couldn't make those cool ideas relevant to the story.
And there is so much snark in this book. Everyone person in here is a snarky character, and they all snark in exactly the same way. And they spend pages and pages doing just that, and for no reason. Again, just to show off that the author could write it. I'm really not impressed by an author who can write stuff but can't find a good narrative to put his stuff in.
The ending was rushed and weak and obviously a set-up for a sequel. The whole book could have been edited down to several hundred pages less and used as the first act of a much better book, rather than stuffed full of padding in order to make a series. Such a shame for a book that started off so well....more
I wish Sullivan had let his skills mature a little before putting this book out. It's pretty close to something really good. I was drawn in by the proI wish Sullivan had let his skills mature a little before putting this book out. It's pretty close to something really good. I was drawn in by the promised plot, but let down by the execution. The story can't decide if it's too big or too little. There are things that are obviously set up to be dealt with in another book, but they are obviously set up. The entire middle of the book is dedicated to introducing a character who then just wanders out of the plot. When they do get back to the point of the book, it's a very straight-forward "Evil Adviser tries to steal throne" plot.
I couldn't tell the two main characters apart, mostly because they both talk exactly the same way. Every single line from either of them is just 'witty banter,' even in situations where talking like that would be inappropriate. There is no tonal shift in the dialogue between a scene where there relaxing in a pub and a scene where they're actively fighting people. It's just exactly the same, the whole way through, and that really grinded on my nerves after a while. Also, there's a very simple formula for telling who is being truthful in this book: it's always the second person. Any time these boys are told one thing, then contradicted by another person, the second person is always right. And the boys always believe that second person, no questions asked. You'd think after being lied to that many times, they'd learn to disbelieve everything, but nope. Kidnap the prince for his own good, let the wizard out of prison, and I'm sure that guy just had a trustworthy face or something.
There's some very basic research fails done in this book. Like: no, you can't sheer through another sword with a rapier, it has no edge blade; no, you should not leave a saddle on the horse even if you're just stopping for a couple hours, the time you save in being lazy will be lost later when you're horse drops dead of exhaustion; no, you can't muster that many men in less than a day, and also large armies do not march that fast. Just so many little things that threw me out of it.
The plot was poorly paced, as there were several sections in this book that were just page after page of recap. Just one character talking at another and telling them everything we've already read through. I guess in case we missed it the first time? There's also points where one character will explain very basic things to another character, such as the several pages dedicated to explaining religion to someone who's lived around that religion his whole life. I can understand not knowing the finer points of this or that denomination, but if everyone worships the same set of gods, why would you need the very pantheon explained?
The battle at the end only ended when the prince did what he should have done to start things off, and there's no good reason why he didn't do that first. He cries that soldiers are dying, but even knowing that they'd been tricked into this he doesn't give them a chance to surrender? Why not?
Why have a death trap that elaborate just to kill one person and make it look like an accident? There are much smaller, but still fatal, accidents that someone could gave, and they'd look much less suspicious.
BUT, as always, I'm a very picky reader. Even though I found a lot to be annoyed at, the book isn't really too bad. Sullivan is very easy to read, and his side characters were entertaining. There's a lot of moving parts, which is handled in an alright fashion, and it does promise even grander fun to come if you enjoyed this book. ...more
This book had a lot of really good, really interesting, really clever details. And it's going to tell you all about them. No, seriously, all about theThis book had a lot of really good, really interesting, really clever details. And it's going to tell you all about them. No, seriously, all about them. It's going to make you sit there and listen while it tells you not just the clever detail, but also the backstory to the clever detail and all the related clever details. And you're going to just have to sit there and take it.
The whole book was a weird combination of really good things that were simply too aggressive to come together into a well-paced story. There's too much clamoring for attention, too many characters and too much worldbuilding. And while each thing individually is well-done, nothing can back off long enough to let the story breathe. The plot moves in fits and starts, with the second half the book consisting of little more than Toby running around in circles and get various injures, until she suddenly stops doing that and has the answer to the mystery suddenly handed to her.
While none of that is good, it's also not terribly bad either, just sort of annoying. I could easily see McGuire growing out of it as she progresses, if she's the sort of writer to improve her craft as she goes. The book was good enough for me to give subsequent books another shot and see if she gets better.
The only thing I really had a problem with was the character of Dare. We're introduced to her as a 14-year-old with a slight attitude problem, and I do mean slight. She's given the job of guarding the 'front room' and not letting anyone in to see her boss. October even admits that this is her job, and goes out of her way to tell us that this girl doesn't just look 14, she really is 14, and if she's in this place then she's likely also been abused in various ways. So what happens? Dare acts thoroughly unimpressed by October and does her job of not letting the stranger in to see her boss. For the gross crime of doing her job, October repeatedly compares this 14 year-old little girl to a whore. Even after Dare turns into a submissive minion, tucking her tail between her legs and spouting off "Ms. Daye?" every other line, October still calls her a brat and a whore. Even after Dare saves her life, October can only grudgingly admit that shes not so bad. Basically, this character spends five seconds not genuflecting to the MC, and the text spends the rest of the book beating her into a corner and turning her into cowed little fangirl. Her brother doesn't have to go through a similar trial, because he was properly awed by October's awesomeness from the start.
At least this isn't a book where all female characters are handled like that. Dare's treatment is singular in this book, and while there aren't really any stand out women characters that can operate on par with October, most of the rest are at least decent. Which makes me think that Dare's character was another misfire from a green author, not something more hurtful. ...more
I read an ARC copy of this book obtained through First Reads.
While I really disliked this book, I can at least recognize that most of what bothered meI read an ARC copy of this book obtained through First Reads.
While I really disliked this book, I can at least recognize that most of what bothered me is a matter of personal opinion. Style choices and plot points that, while I hated them, others would probably like. If you read through my review and think "Why is she whining about that? It sounds fine," then you'd probably like the book. I cannot, in good conscience, call it a bad book, because it's not. But it's not good, either.
First of all, there are some things I really like about this book. The zombies, for one. Even though zombies are overplayed these days as the monster, Adams gives them a fun twist and actually plays with it. There's no "Our zombies are different, except we're going to treat them like they're not" in this book. I loved that.
The urban fantasy world in this book is delightful. I love the 'magic meets bureaucracy' feel to it, and it's clear Adams put a lot of thought into how her system works. She comes up with some clever stuff. People who have read previous books and liked the setting will not be disappointed.
The characters are engaging, the mystery is suitably mysterious, and while I wasn't shocked by the final reveal of the bad guy, I was at least kept properly in the dark until the right time.
And then we get to the problems this book has. The writing, frankly, feels very childish to me. Celia's narration reads less like a grown woman, or even a fully-realized and developed character, and more like the blog of a hyper 15 year old girl. There are a lot of phrases and word choices that just seem...juvenile. I had a hard time throughout the book imagining Celia as anything besides very, very young. To be honest, through the first part of the book, I thought it was marketed to teens instead of adults.
The pacing in this book is very odd. There's a lot of moving parts in this plot, and they all move in fits and starts. Celia's illness drags on over weeks, and then as soon as it's convenient to the plot, all of a sudden it's an immediate concern that could kill her if it's not fixed right away. Another one of her problems features prominently through the whole book, and at the end is fixed in half a page so that it can be brushed aside in favor of the finale. On the other hand, there are multiple points in the book were seemingly routine things get absurd amounts of detail that grind the narrative to a halt. One section spends three pages on someone feeding Celia while she can't use her hands. Three pages to describe pouring broth in her mouth, an operation that went off without any mishap and then was promptly forgotten. Why was it important enough to get three pages? It wasn't, the pacing is just wonky.
The worst pacing problem of them all: The titular Isis Collar doesn't even get a mention until page 330 out of 384, and even then it barely plays a role in the plot. It's a very interesting concept, and it's effects are hinted at throughout the book (by confusing the cast and keeping them from identifying the main bad guy) but they're never really played with or explored. Considering this object is the title of the book, I expected it to have much more of an impact on the plot and/or characters. (And despite the picture on the cover, Celia never wears the thing. She only even touches it once.)
And my final problem with this book is Celia herself. She's not an exceptionally poor character. A little bit bland, but that's par for the course when it comes to main protagonists. (Of every gender and every genre; I'm not trying to pick on anyone here.) No, my problem is that she sails through this book unaffected by the events. There's a lot of trauma going on here, some of it personal and some of it cataclysmic, and yet it never trips her up in any way. At most, her physical afflictions bother her, but we're only every told that she's bothered, they don't really affect her actions. At one point she even sees her therapist -- something we're told is a regular event -- and she breaks down crying and spilling out everything that's happened...in a single paragraph of narration. She talks about how she's 'overwhelmed.' "There was so much seething anger, fear, and pain rolling around inside me that I didn't even realize it until it all came out." Except for one problem. This is a first-person narrative. We are literally hearing all of Celia's thoughts throughout the book. Outside of this single line, we don't hear her talk about her 'anger, fear, and pain.' It doesn't affect her. It doesn't bother her. It doesn't slow her down. It doesn't have any impact at all on her ability to function, solve the case, and save the day. There is nothing there for her to overcome. It's just a throwaway line right before they introduce some new problem that will also not affect her in the least. It's a cheap gimmick mean to solicit sympathy that ends up feeling hollow and, by extension, makes Celia feel hollow as well....more
This book had a lot of problems. And I mean a lot of problems. The pacing was weird, the protagonist was bland or unlikable, depending on the situatioThis book had a lot of problems. And I mean a lot of problems. The pacing was weird, the protagonist was bland or unlikable, depending on the situation, and the romance between her and a man who repeatedly lied to her and abused her was downright creepy. Granted, I did like the male lead, and I understood his actions. I think a romance could have been possible, of only Snyder didn't decide to shortcut through all their problems and just go "yup, they're totally banging now."
But the thing that bothered me the most was the world-building. Or the lack there-of. The world of Ixia seems to be a pseudo-forced-communist regime, with everyone pigeon-holed into their jobs, draconian rules, and a command-based economy. However...the whole thing works. There's quite a bit of time spent with characters talking about how evil the system is how it needs to be toppled, but outside of one very brief example with a farmer, it all works. The economy is (illogically) running fine, everyone is eating well, there's no signs of famine or strife or undue corruption or abuse. It's a functional government that is evil...um, because Snyder said so. I got the very strong impression while reading this that she had no idea why the USSR failed, so she just slapped some rhetoric on her half-assed world and called it a day. I was torn between thinking "Why are they trying to topple this place? It's functioning fine," and "Why is it functioning fine? COMMAND ECONOMIES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY."
Also, we have no idea throughout this book what kind of world it's in. It seems to shift repeatedly between being pseudo-Medieval like so many other fantasy books, Industrial Revolution era, and then back again, with no one even trying to make sense out of it. I couldn't even begin to get into the plot or the characters when I had no idea where or when I was....more
There is absolutely nothing in this book to recommend it. The writing is crap. The author doesn't know how to identify with teens and constantly talksThere is absolutely nothing in this book to recommend it. The writing is crap. The author doesn't know how to identify with teens and constantly talks down to her readers. There is nothing even resembling logic. The plot is all over the place. The characters are flat and dull, when they aren't being needlessly dramatic. Just...in every single aspect possible, this book fails....more
I gave up on this book as soon as Zamia showed up. Well, okay, not as soon as. I gave up after about ten pages of listening to the main character beliI gave up on this book as soon as Zamia showed up. Well, okay, not as soon as. I gave up after about ten pages of listening to the main character belittle her, call her a savage, accuse her of bad manners, insist she abide by his 'civilized' customs, and then make fun of her customs simply because she's from a tribal society. Sorry, but casual misogyny and racism weren't on my agenda for today.
Add that to the fact that the opening was slow as molasses and the characters spent way too much time monologueing? This story had an interesting concept, and I would love to see more books set in this sort of setting, but the execution was just downright painful. ...more