Author: VE Schwab
This was my #RockMyTBR read for March, and my first Victoria Schwab read outside of her Shades of Magic books. Naturally, coming off of my Conjuring of Light high, this book didn’t quite measure up to the epicness of that one but I wasn’t expecting it to. Still, given the high praise that this book has received, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that it took me well over half the book to actually get into the story. I shouldn’t compare it to Shades of Magic because obviously they are completely different worlds and stories, but it felt like that spark, in both the characters and the world was kind of missing, the plot was slower, I just didn’t feel like the stakes were high enough for most of the book, the first two parts of the book were basically just build up until we got to the good stuff at the end. The last two parts of the book did redeem the first two slower parts for me though and did get me interested enough that I will read the next book, despite having lukewarm feelings about this one. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
So I’m going to start off with my biggest bug bear with this story, which really surprised me actually because it’s one of the things that Schwab is best at in Shades of Magic, which was that I found the world building really lacking. The premise of the world in itself is really cool, dystopian type world with different kinds of monsters, yes sign me up, but we weren’t really given much explanation as to how Verity came to be, the monsters aren’t really developed all that much beyond their basic traits, we don’t really get too much of the background of the grudge between the Harkers and the Flynns, it just felt like we were dumped in the middle of this world with not much of an explanation for anything really and that disappointed me so much because I’ve seen how good Schwab can be at world building.
The characters were fine, though they definitely lacked the spark of the Shades of Magic gang. Kate is cruel, cold, calculating, just wants to impress her father and acts out in order to hide her vulnerabilities. I usually like female characters like this and at first I did, I was like ooh cool, here’s this fierce, confident, kind of awful but owns it girl, but I never really connected to her. Aside from wanting to rebel against her father, she didn’t really seem to have any reason to act as cruelly as she did. August was cute, but kind of bland (though he did have the occasional great sassy moment) and I don’t know, I was just hoping for the monster to be a tad more monstrous? I mean I get that he wants to be human, but I would have preferred him to be more morally grey that totally vanilla. Both of them could have done with a tad more development, we got somewhat of a glimpse into Kate’s background, which was good but none at all into August’s. I did like their friendship though, I felt like that was well done, despite not really feeling much for either character individually! I actually felt like some of the side characters, Ilsa, Leo, Kate’s father were more interesting than the MCs, particularly Ilsa, I actually would have preferred if she was the monster MC as opposed to August because she seems like a much more interesting character!
I liked the music theme running through the book, listening to music is one of my favourite hobbies aside from reading, so I liked that it played such a big part of this book, it was really cool that each part was “a verse” and that the book had a “prelude” and an “elegy”, I thought that was really cool.
It made me very happy that this book had no romance! Kate and August are literally just friends, see it can be done people! Not even a whiff of a romantic interaction is in this book and I loved that. Male/female platonic friendships for the win people!
There were a few occasional typos in this book (not a big deal but I do find it a little jarring). I also felt that the writing wasn’t quite up to Schwab’s usual standards, there were some very pretty descriptions here and there but it did feel kind of simplistic as compared to her prose in the Shades of Magic books. That could be down to the fact that this is YA rather than adult, I don’t know as I haven’t read any of her other YA books, but I doubt it.
There was an awesome bit where Kate was in self defence class and their teacher is teaching them SING (Solarplexis, Instep, Nose, Groin), a self defence technique and all I could think about was the bit in Miss Congeniality, where Sandra Bullock’s character does this for her talent portion in the Miss United States Pageant. I may have got a tad annoyed that Schwab referred to the S as Stomach rather than Solarplexis, but I think that just shows how many times I’ve seen Miss Congeniality!
The action scenes were great when they finally appeared, it just took so long to get any and by that point, the pacing was all screwed up, because the first half was so slow and then the second half was all action, so it felt kind of rushed, even though the scenes themselves were well written.
I also found the twists kind of predictable, I worked them out ages before they were actually revealed, the only things that surprised me in the entire book was what happened with Ilsa, the thing with Kate’s medallion and the ending, for the most part I worked out what was happening before the characters did.
Essentially, it was a good concept but not executed as well as I know Victoria Schwab is capable of, though I will admit, I might have been more impressed with it if I hadn’t just read the perfection that was ACOL right before it! I did think the ending redeemed the slow start and I am looking forward to the next book, and hoping that the world development and character development that were desperately lacking from this book are more present in that one!
My Rating: 3.5/5 (It would have been 3 but I added an extra half for the last two parts)
My next review will be of The Invisible Library and you guys will actually get it very soon as I just finished reading it!