[Curious Reader Beware: Spoilers Lie Ahead]
I really wanted to love this book. The premise was intriguing and the world’s lore was so beautifully illustrated (need I mention its cover art!). It’s very different from other YA novels that I’ve read. My main motivation to continue reading was learning the intricacies of the culture the book created.
But I didn’t love it. I don’t hate it but I would be remised to say I liked it.
I blame my own jadedness. The characters and the dynamics between them were real sticking points for me. I couldn’t really like them or find them engaging. I did root for them but only because that’s what you’re supposed to do in stories like these where the motivation to fight for family, love, and identity was noble and refreshing.
What wasn’t so refreshing was the catalyst for the plot. Alex hates an integral part of herself (her magic) because she perceives that it has caused nothing but hardship and misery for her family. She’s the most powerful of her kind and she rejects her gifts. Something about this bothers me especially since she uses magical means to fix the problem (and it unsurprisingly backfires). On its face, nothing is wrong with this premise but the way it plays out soured the rest of the story of me.
Another real sticking point for me was the dynamics between Alex, Nova, and Rishi. The way they interacted with each other was just—it was so riddled with clichés and there was nothing fresh there. I mean, for Alex and Nova, I know they’re teenagers and I know Nova’s good-looking but I could do less with the “My God, those PECS!” observations. I was having New Moon flashbacks every time Alex brought up his bare chest and the ways his tattoos were perfectly drawn over them. Otherwise, they’re bickering (granted in the “I’m suspicious of you yet trust you and kind of like you” sort of way) and when Rishi, Alex’s best friend, enters the picture, she’s bickering with Nova too.
There is one slight saving grace and that’s in LBGTQA representation but even then I’m still a bit jaded. I’m sorry to say that the Alex/Rishi pairing that ultimately comes out on top left something wanting. I caught the bond between them throughout the story (it was a breath of fresh air when highlighted) but I feel like it could’ve been developed better. Rishi felt a bit shoehorned into the narrative in the middle after the reader barely gets to know her in the opening chapters. I wanted a better sense of their relationship before the plot took over (which is mostly told to us repeatedly by the characters and story). Again, the jadedness in me.
It’s these reasons that I had to give the story a lukewarm three. I really, really, really wanted to like it more but I just couldn’t. I recommend it based on its world-building alone. It is a truly wondrous read from that standpoint.