By Mary Weber
Genre: Youg Adult Fantasy
I read this one awhile ago, and like most of the YA books I read these days that receive a lot of hype, I expected to like this book. Like really like it and want to pick up the next book immediately. (And take a look at that cover, cool right?) But sadly, it never really captured me.
From the get-go, I had a difficult time connecting with any of the characters in this story. We are supposed to feel sympathetic for the main character, Nym, but that feeling was supposed to occur because of her tragic past. As an “Elemental” slave, she’d been sold fourteen or fifteen times, slightly over once year since she was five and she killed her parents. Therein lies the issue: I am supposed to feel bad for her because of those facts alone. Sadly, it didn’t quite happen for me.
At the root of my problem connecting with these characters was what I hate to call “overly dramatic writing.” Every scene was so emotionally charged that I was unable to connect with Nym when there was a truly emotional moment occurring. For example, “My stomach erupts in starvation as Breck forces me out into the wide walkway and, with a tight grip, proceeds to lead me down a maze of hallways and back stairwells.” Erupts? Forces? Really? Just say she’s hungry. Just use “pushed.” But little spots like this litter every page, every paragraph of this novel to the point where these turns of phrases, which would be excellent if used in a high-emotion moment, create such a constant state of high emotion in the reader that those actual emotional moments are eclipsed by them.
Caring for any of the characters was difficult when we saw them all through Nym’s over-dramatic words. Not only that, but there was very little to wonder at throughout this novel, as everyone that appeared evil to the reader, was actually evil. Not until the final quarter of the book did some twists occur that perhaps weren’t guessable, but even those were dimmed by the lack of feeling I had for the characters at that point. One, possibly two main characters die in this book, and I felt nothing for them.
The character arc of Nym is likewise weakened because of her constant over-emotional state. She’s broken, I understand that, but being broken doesn’t mean you recognize that you’re broken. Nym’s character arc would have been much, much stronger had she not realized how broken she was at the beginning and been hardened to her emotions like most broken people are. Instead, she is so pained and alone and walled off through her own overly aware actions that her acceptance of this and return from it at the end of the novel feels not that far from where she started out.
My biggest complaint of this book is simply the style of writing. I wanted to like the novel, and I think if the angst was downplayed, it would be a great movie–which is probably why it was published in the first place. After all, it seems that most popular books these days translate well into movies, and this one would probably be better as a movie, i.e. with the overwriting removed.
Many people have enjoyed this book, evident by the plethora of laudatory reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. But it failed to deliver for me, and I wouldn’t read another in the series.
Rating: 2/5 ❅❅
What the writer in me learned: A character arc is vital to have a believable character; A character shouldn’t always be in a high state of emotion; When writing fantasy or dystopian, etc, world-building is vital.