**spoiler alert** I wanted so much to enjoy this book. I think the fact that I read 360 pages before skimming to the end is a testament to how much I**spoiler alert** I wanted so much to enjoy this book. I think the fact that I read 360 pages before skimming to the end is a testament to how much I wanted to love it.
Except I didn't. At all. It was arse-numbingly boring.
I might be too angry at the moment to express myself coherently, but I'll try.
This book had SO MUCH potential to be great. A Phantom inspired story? Awesome! An opera house boarding school setting? Fantastic! A twin-flames romance? Sign me up!
Except just about every element of this story fell flat for me. Firstly, the premise quickly lost all sense of reality. The key to a magical-realism story is at least a touch of realism that's believable, to give your heightened element some contrast within the narrative. This thing was a nonsensical mess. Why is there an all-American musical boarding school in the middle of France????? Why do they only have 50 students - who are all from the US? Why does this building seem monumentally unsafe and inappropriate to house children? Oh, also, there are only juniors and seniors there. Convenient for a YA. Why are there mutant woodland creatures running around the grounds, and how is this part of the plot relevant to anything? What about hidden labs next to underground lakes? All on campus?? Also, the school is called RoseBlood? Seriously???? How about a random secret weirdo that invites underage kids to drug induced night clubs via medical wrist band invitations, only to return them to their beds before 8:30?...I think it was supposed to be a cool tripped out, gothic club scene, but it read more like a cheesy kids haunted house. I mean...it was probably still light outside by the time they left. Oh, and our characters can hypnotize people...just as a quick plot fix to iron out any holes.
Honestly, did Howard forget that she wasn't writing about Alice in Wonderland anymore? Because this whole plot smelt like crazy.
Speaking of plot.
I found it info-dumpy from the first chapter. Maybe it's the authors writing style...I've always felt (with previous books of hers) that she was a very visual storyteller and that her books would often times be better served as movies. Maybe the same is true here. But seriously...there's only so many descriptive passages without any actual plot content I can handle. I enjoy flowery prose as much as the next literature graduate (although I'm not a huge fan of Howard's writing style in general - I find it mostly complicated and confusing rather than evocative), but this was way too much. I seriously feel as if the plot of this book (in terms of events) was THIN. I can think of...five scenes that mattered. Five. Most all of the plot detail came in giant, info-dumpy paragraphs, or historical flashbacks at periodic intervals of the story, and all of them seemed forced. Don't just slot plot details into backstory randomly throughout the narrative, without a thread of continuity to keep the reader engaged. Also, please don't give us 10-15 pages at a time of subplot explanation out of the mouth of a character - no one talks that way, and it's sloppy writing. It reminded me of the villain in a 007 movie explaining his entire plan to James Bond so that he has the chance to escape and "miraculously" foil him. Oh, and another thing - the pacing of this novel was WAY-off. One scene would get a minuscule fine-detailed play by play, and then weeks would jump by in a single sentence. It's as if Howard came up with the premise of this book and had fully formed, colorful, detailed vignettes in her mind of certain scenes and how they would play out. Those were described to us in MINDLESSLY intricate detail, while the rest of the plot was just brushed over without any effort put into the content.
Then there were the characters and relationships. I had a really hard time relating to the protagonist - while we learn plenty about her, I never actually felt anything for her. She wasn't really very likable. Then there were her friends. The insta-friends she makes without doing anything to deserve them. She's not even friendly. I don't get how the author expects us to buy into her worries about making friends and then disregard all the valid reasons for her...probably not deserving any. She's new, she's starting mid-way through term/semester (don't get me started on her school curriculum), she's (like I previously mentioned) not really that likeable...and she randomly bursts into operatic arias at a moments inappropriate notice and steals every other persons thunder?...and everyone just accepts this? Yeah, not buying it. She instantly falls into a crowd, but really her friends are pretty quotidian. Also, was Jax supposed to be part of some kind of love-triangle type dynamic? Is that what the author was going for? I can't tell because everyone's interactions were so damn forced and unnatural. **I'm going to insert here the fact that one of her 17 year old, insta-friends who wants a career as an opera singer has a tattooed face. Yeah, I know.**
The romance was...uuugh. Definitely the only element of the story that kept me reading as long as I did, but mostly because I was desperately hoping the book would improve. Even in the most emotionally heightened moments when I'm confident I was supposed to feel *all the feels*, I felt...barely anything. Show don't tell, Howard, show don't tell. Stop explaining to me how deep their connection is and actually give me some meaty interactions with depth. They barely said a word to each other before I reached 3/4 of the way through the damned book...
I could be done, but I'm not. Let's talk about some other problems I had with this book:
-Bad guys = hideously ugly, good guys = beautiful. Also, love interest is miraculously, incandescently handsome...and he wears a phantom mask becaaaaaause....oh, that's right. Dramatic effect. Gag me please. -Also Etalon is a super creeper and lurks in vents watching Rune sleep. Um..that's not romantic. Stop teaching your young female readership that stalking is romantic. -Virgin/Slut tropes - like...all over. Don't make me highlight the slut-shaming Howard, just don't. -Racism...stop using the world 'gypsy'. Stop talking about "cursed gypsy blood", over and over. Just stop. It's a racial slur, and it's not OK, no matter what your heritage. -And then there's the real humdinger of this whole, painful premise. THIS BOOK IS ABOUT ENERGY VAMPIRES. Yeah..you heard me. Just let that sink in. Energy. Vampires.
Grrr. I won't talk about the plot itself too much, partly to avoid spoilers, but more so to avoid the giant quagmire of idiosyncrasies and plot holes that make the story...frankly, pretty weak.
I'm just so disappointed with the potential squandered here....more
Ok, let me start by saying this. Not all 5 stars are equal. Yeah, I know, I know - "Sara, how does that even make any sense?" I hear you ask, but hereOk, let me start by saying this. Not all 5 stars are equal. Yeah, I know, I know - "Sara, how does that even make any sense?" I hear you ask, but here me out.
If you pick up what you know to be a YA urban fantasy about a demon love triangle (I mean, aside from the cover art being a glaring clue, it's right there in the synopsis guys...please don't play the whole "I didn't know it was a YA or what it was about," card, cuz I ain't buying it), and then give it 2 stars for not being Jane Austen?? I've got zero symp for you, dear reader.
Can we be real here? This book was what it was. Aside from the aforementioned details, it was written by a young, self-published author, and I'm confident this was her debut novel. The writing started out a little shaky, but she quickly found her stride and hit on the tone she wanted for the remainder of the story. I read one review that (amongst many other scathing and sarcastic comments) talked about the authors problem with pacing discrepancies - I have to (politely) disagree! I felt the story kept a solid pace throughout, and I never felt rushed, or on the flip side, bored by the details or plot points she chose to include.
I mean, sure - it was a love triangle. A YA love triangle. A supernatural YA love triangle involving two incredibly hot (or so the protagonist liked to remind us...a lot), incredibly powerful daemons that could destroy her as soon as look at her but instead decided they wanted to help her/flirt with her shamelessly for 300 pages. I get it. It's been done. But, in this case, with this story - it worked. It was a fun romp. Ash was everything you would expect from a young, hot, troubled, uber-dangerous-daemon-of-the-underworld type. Lyre was cute, funny, and only a little bit rape-y...yeah, ok, I'm obviously in a good mood right now. On a bad day there would be a whole paragraph about Lyre's ability to coerce women into bed with his magical powers. Maybe a different day.
Here's the rub, peeps. I went into this book knowing what to expect (and maybe more importantly, what not to expect), and without a whole lot of expectations on quality, and came out at the end entirely satisfied! You know what - I'm about to start the sequel since it's a snow day and I'm "trapped" inside my house (aren't snow days the best?), so I might even go so far as to say I really enjoyed it! Not every book has to be nominated for a Man Booker prize. There is a place for all kinds of fiction on my shelves, including this kind. I totally admire this authors determination to follow her dream, and to be true to her vision for the story.
Is it perfect? Far from it. Is it full to the brim with YA paranormal romance clichés? You betcha. Did I enjoy it anyway? Sure I did!
What a yawn-fest. Thank goodness it only took a couple of hours to read. It's basically an entire novel of pointless, uninteresting minutiae. No excitWhat a yawn-fest. Thank goodness it only took a couple of hours to read. It's basically an entire novel of pointless, uninteresting minutiae. No excitement. No tension. No romance, either. Disappointing....more
DNF. I really wanted to like this book. I really really tried hard. I am a significant number of pages in (over 250)...and I just can't do it. There wDNF. I really wanted to like this book. I really really tried hard. I am a significant number of pages in (over 250)...and I just can't do it. There were flaws from the beginning. Those flaws turned into irritations. Those irritations turned into glaring off-putters...and then the whole thing just stopped making any semblance of reasonable common sense. I'm going to bow out gracefully. Or maybe not so gracefully, after I compose my full review....more
"Do not refuse me because I am dark and shadowed. As I am the end, so my lover is the beginning. I encompass the whole work of creation, and all knowl"Do not refuse me because I am dark and shadowed. As I am the end, so my lover is the beginning. I encompass the whole work of creation, and all knowledge is hidden in me..."
Oh, how truly amazingly wonderfully brilliant this book series was. I have heard some mixed reviews about the last book, but save for a couple of minor complaints, I felt like this book series was as close to perfect as it gets...Full review to follow....more