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368 pages, Hardcover
First published March 19, 2019
You’re still real enough that I love you.
Reading this book was a big challenge for me. First of all, I deceived myself by believing Never-Contended Things would be similar to The Wicked King. But Never-Contended Things is a story under an absolutely different sauce. It's a tale of two foster kids Josh and Ksenia, who love each other more than anything, bordering on obsession. Faeries are just a side dish to Josh's and Ksenia's story.
Secondly, if you look deeper you'll see a story of codependents and almost-incest, though Josh and Ksenia are not blood-related, it still felt like their feelings for each other were too twisted for the average sibling relationship. Faeries were just an instrument to create a surrealistic atmosphere where everything is a turned upside down reminiscent version of our world, swirling around Josh's and Ksenia's feelings.
I was never a fan of surrealism or magic realism, so I was not able to grasp the concept of this story and to enjoy it fully. I was standing away like a passerby, observing the poisonous circle of lies, love, obsession and redemption, but I was not sympathizing with or feeling for Josh and Ksenia.
The language was lush and darkly alluring, the atmosphere electric with eeriness and magic. Sarah Porter masterly created a world full of magical and psychological references that blend together seamlessly. But in my opinion, it is a story for a narrow circle of readers who will be able to appreciate and understand the aforementioned references. Unfortunately or fortunately I am not that kind of reader.
Verdict: not my cup of tea!
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!
Ksenia and Josh are the odd foster kids who are a little two close for people who are being raised as siblings. When they encounter a Prince and his fairy in the forest where they usually drink and party, they are sucked into a dark and layered world of cruelty. Josh goes missing and Ksenia must pick up the pieces of his leaving. Lexie, their best friend, has to figure out what is going on and enter the dark world of the faeries to save her friends. Never-Contented Things is based off of the poem “The Goblin Market” and if you know anything about that the poem there is sexual fruit things, sister incest, and possible antisemitism. I read the poem for the first-time semester and was scarred by it. Not in a bad way, but I’m still not sure psychologically where I stand with the poem. Never-Contented Things seems to garner the same reaction from reviewers that “The Goblin Market” did with me, but I’ll be honest once I got to Lexie’s POV in this novel I was sold and ate this book as quickly as one who happens upon goblin fruit. I was sucked into this world and its strangely dark oddities. I would categorize this as horror fantasy. It’s on the more adult side of the YA spectrum, but it definitely has some promise to stand apart from the usual YA fantasy. It’s dark and creepy. The writing has a lot of stilted moments. Ksenia’s POV for the first portion of this novel is off-center and made me feel a little uncertain if I wanted to continue reading. I’m glad that I did because as much as I toed the line of DNFing at the first 25% once I got to Lexie’s POV, I saw where Porter was going with this story plot wise and was immediately impressed. Porter has a fantastic imagination that lends to a creepy and horrifying fairy story that will leave the reader unsettled. I was impressed with how once this story found it’s footing it became a stellar and definitely impressive tale.
The characters in this novel seem to be where people have the most problem. Particularly in regards to the representation of certain communities, but as I don’t belong to those groups of marginalized people I won’t speak on their behalf and I’ll be discussing the characters as how I interacted and engaged with them (see OWNvoices reviews for more representation commentary).
Ksenia is an odd duck. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I liked her androgynous character and her ambiguity of gender, but she was not always the most engaging to interact with and then she would suddenly become the most fun to follow. That’s what I mean by as an odd duck. I was going back and forth in a tug-of-war, but once I got to the final portion, I was a definite fan of where the story was going for her.
Lexie is my favorite of all the characters we follow. She has the best characterization and development of plot. I enjoyed how Porter’s writing of her and the plot was gripping. Lexie offers a layer of friendship, loyalty, determination, and love in a story that is wracked with obsession and manipulation.
The Villain-Josh would be easy to brand the villain, but he is a young boy with no comprehension of the extensity of his actions. What he does is despicable and absolutely disgusting in regards to human life, but he is young and it is obvious that he is not grounded in reality which comes from trauma and abandonment issues. I didn’t like him at all. In fact, I hated him, but I also realize that he’s a kid and doesn’t deserve to be hung by his toes (nobody deserves that).
The real villains here are the faeries. Those are some unsettling creatures. No, thank you. They are led by Prince who has a monopoly on the fae people and is obsessed with spreading his world into the human world. He creates changelings out of straw and makes dead bodies to trick people into believing that the humans have died as he forces them to live in his cruel world. We also have a chapter from Unselle, a faerie with high-rank in the Prince’s command. She is unsettling. The villains are definitely creepy and I didn’t want to encounter them. They were kind of my favorite thing about this novel as well as the creepy and unsettling world they inhabit.
This novel isn’t perfect. I think many will be unimpressed and have issues with it. There is a lot of blurred lines and issues, but when I think of how messed up “The Goblin Market” is I can’t be mad. It’s a fantastic twist on the tale and I’m impressed. It wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be and it’s not as bad as most of the people who DNFed it say it is. I’m glad I read it because I had a lot of fun. If you are looking for a dark YA fantasy with questionable morals and horrifying creatures then this one is for you. (It worked for me.)
"But what would we be, my darling Ksenia, if we could not spin love into webs far stronger than spider silk?"
"So we kept wandering, and the night colored blue all over us like it wanted to steal our shapes and paint us into being part of it forever."
"If you let yourself feel how empty the sky is, you know you're always falling into an enormous hole. An oubliette, I think is the right word: a place for things meant to be forgotten. Even starlight forgets the brutal fusion it came from by the time it reaches the Earth, because the sky is just that fathomless."
The story is different now; that’s how it goes. You think you have a good hold on the thread, you think you can follow it, but then it twists and winds and knots in your hands and suddenly you’re on a path you never even knew existed.