1.0 stars? The faults are mostly/all plot/pacing/character/content, the writing is fine.
50% of this book is characters giving emotional counsolling to other characters, mostly by reminding them to breath or saying ‘it’s going to be okay’
The other half is introducing way too many fucking characters.
Listen. Roanna is super nice, and I have nothing against her, I respect her, I respect her personality and effort. I really, really did not like this book, and it boggles me how universally loved it is.
I’m gonna try and bullet this out with headings.
This might go more in writing, but while there WERE bits of really nice description, good writing, nice tone/mood writing… most of this book is just dialogue, and a lot isn’t explained. There’s a lot of weight put on character emotion, and little on the setting. It all felt like a stage made of cardboard.
The setting itself- an isolated city at risk of falling into fire- didn’t feel particularly ‘real’ either. The main characters spend most of the time in a safe house, and what little details we have about the city just make me confused. The worldbuilding is very fantasy, with ghosts, psychics, superpowers, etc. But it is set in the REAL world. The first time WWI was referenced, I was like, WAIT WHAT. Characters make a few jokes based on things I don’t know they’d be able to know (there is a joke about taking a selfie made by characters who have lived in dystopia hell their entire lives?). How the city functions/still has any clean water/food isn’t really clear, nor is the life situation of anyone besides the main crew.
So. The plot of this book is super slow. I guess a couple dramatic things generally happen at an even pace, but it is slowed entirely by the fact every single character is constantly having long conversations with every other character about their feelings. Beyond the initial action scene, most of the book has the characters in a safe house, and while there’s some bigger plot questions, all of it kind of just happens to them. They don’t have some big plan or thoughts, it’s more like fuckface-mc-plot (hans) makes things happen and everyone has to interact with them. Technically there’s a rescue and family drama and a poisoning and lost memories and a goddamn ghost and…
Technically there’s a lot. Problem: there’s too many plot threads, and they all put to one side for most of the book so characters can tell other characters to breath. The emotional comfort half of this book will get its own section.
Anyways, the last 20% of the book at least has a climax, but action is consistently quite hard to follow, and by the end I would skim most action scenes. I found them hard enough to follow early on in the book, but then the end is in a vaguely defined space we haven’t seen before- and as mentioned, this book suffers from a lack of setting building.
Later in the book, we finally get some insight on the ‘main’ mystery for our ‘main’ character, Regan. There’s a solid two chapters were characters reveal information to other characters, and we start to solve the mysteries. It’s not worthy of complaining, but it isn’t like these are ‘mysteries’: they are things the reader would never be able to guess, as we have 0 information, so it’s a relief when someone finally fills us in.
Who poisoned Hans? What is Major Turret up to? Who is Gabriel? Did Regan kill someone? Who shot Rose (and why)? What is up with Kassandra? Who is Radio Angel? What is Hans’ deal? What is Zilch’s deal? Where is Garrett? Is he evil? Why hasn’t Skyeye just bombed parole and gotten it over with?
There are more plot threads than this, and most of them are treated as if we care. I wanted answers, I like knowing things, but the revelations aren’t that satisfying, and most stuff is left in a vague ending promising ‘more to come’. (And one big plot thing at the end? Hans and Toto? There’s a short story at the end that shows that entire sequel hook had no relevance on the main plot. Cool thanks!)
Oh, and: at a couple times in the book, characters know something we the reader doesn’t, and do plans on their own (Rose and Regan both do this). This is something I don’t love, but don’t mind, and am guilty of. I just laughed, since the editor of this book HATES it and… let it happen in this book? This is more a specific personal note, but Claudie! You took points off GA for the exact thing that happens more than once in this. I’m crying.
THERE ARE TOO MANY FUCKING CHARACTERS.
CHARACTER PART TWO
There are by my count 10 major characters we are meant to follow/care for the entire book, and then a supporting cast of like, 20? Who all come up/are mentioned like I’m supposed to remember who they are. The first few chapters were introducing more and more characters. And then near the end it happens AGAIN. and the ending also promises EVEN MORE NEW CHARACTERS (I know book two follows like five new people please. stop. adding characters.)
Characters show up in the beginning and are never seen again, or referenced way later. Characters are introduced near the end in order to solve a plot question perfectly. Characters come and go, but the book presumes we care about ALL of them. No characters are bad people except the faceless, comically over the top Major Turret. And Hans, who I hate, but the book doesn’t want me to hate.
Now, I know more than anyone books are just an author’s OCs, but CM really felt like an author with a lot of OCs they super loved, and just wanted to share. Oh! I know!! This would be cool, let’s add this. And this. And more. And more.
I know the sequel adds at least three new main characters. I know there’s a goat Regan is also in a relationship with. I know there’s more stuff about this library which we never see. I know there are too many characters.
Seriously. This is my biggest gripe, probably, besides the fact the book was kind of boring (see section next): it is hard enough to get invested in a cast of six, but then you expect me to care about ten characters? and twenty others? Personality wise, some had clear ones: I ended up liking Danae the most, because she was the character least likely to give on-thes-spot therapy. But for a while, I couldn’t tell what most of the characters were like. The book was nice in telling me (Zilch is shy, I hear, but I never saw that), but overall I STILL don’t know what Regan is like.
The relationships were strange too. When Zilch and Regan kissed, I was like, ‘oh ew’. I didn’t really care about either of them, so throwing a kiss on top of that was a bit much. Rose/Evelyn/Danae probably had the nicest relationship, but the son Jack might as well have not been in the book at all.
By 25% of the book, there’s a solid twenty main characters or so, and then you meet even more. As the story. Continues.
HURT/COMFORT WITHOUT THE HURT
I guess people do get hurt in this book, someone loses an arm, there’s pain, there’s crying and getting shot, etc. Still, this book more than doubles down on the comfort side of things. There was scene after scene (at least once, three in a row) of characters sitting down and telling each other ‘everything is going to be alright’ and ‘to breath’. Just over and over again. Any niceness I would have gotten from that wore off fast, and I just got sick of the repetitiveness.
Look, I love therapy, I have mad mental illness, I have wacko stuff wrong with me. I like emotional comfort. I don’t like a book that is 50% emotional comfort without reason. There isn’t character development (Regan changes the most, and is the only one to change, but it’s still a switch flipped from ‘I am scared amnesia’ to ‘oh I remember everything bye guys lol’). Comfort and reassurance is SICK, but it really should be saved for emotional moments. This book kind of… mass produces it and expects me to feel things every time.
Honestly, the book as a whole seems to really expect I care and am invested, and I can’t really do that when I don’t know much about any of these 60 characters, I barely understand how the world works, no one is really changing or doing things, and everyone is in established relationships anyways.
Basically, the same story beats keep playing character wise while the plot chugs slowly forward. It’s really slow, and the dialogue is really boring- a lot of ‘strong, brave, okay, fine, are you okay, power, good, bad’ etc. like…. broad concepts and words.
I feel like everyone gives this book 5 stars because there’s a lot of rep, and I feel like I see that often. Since I mildly revealed my secret identity above anyways, how come **I** never get lavish praise simply for having no straight characters???
Anyways, I guess it’s fine. Diversity matters to me, but I don’t tend to give brownie points for it. Regan’s ace conversation was fabulously awkward ‘hey lady I’ve never felt sexual attraction over the last two days I can remember while I’ve been stressed and on the run, what is wrong with me’.
I also keep noting how ro anna really only writes gay relationships, especially in her poly pairings- Zilch is nb, but was male in last draft and is more masc than fem. And Regan is also gay for a goat man, I vaguely know. Then in RoAnna’s other books, there’s poly-triangles, but they again are only all-male/all-ladies, and if there’s any NB characters they present close to the gender of their partners…?
That’s just me noting something. Anyways, I never really related or saw myself in the characters that shared IDs with me, but I guess there isn’t anything wrong with them or w/e.
So. Much. Head-hopping.
This book switches from limited to unlimited perspective very freely. It also will follow a character in a limited way, switch to someone else next paragraph, and switch again a few paragraphs later. This is really annoying and hard to read. The switch then from limited third to omni is even worse. C’mon. This is basic writing, right?
…I think I’ve done it before too. But I’m talking multiple times in regular text, not just as a dramatic end-chapter hook of THEY WERE FOLLOWED. I can overlook that, okay. I can’t overlook someone knowing something they shouldn’t in the middle of a paragraph and then jumping to someone else.
Like I said, I guess the writing is fine, the action is pretty sloppy at times and descriptions, when they exist, are pretty nice.
Man, this wasn’t even a case of ‘this book isn’t for me’. I think I’m right in the intended demographic, and while there’s some wiggle of ‘I’m clearly not into hurt/comfort fanfics’, I really am confused how praised this book is. It’s a mess. The plot is a mess, there’s so many open questions, too many characters, the writing is okay but still, messy.
I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel, even if I’m still curious on some plot things. I can’t take any more new characters.
forgive me ro anna
How old is Regan if he’s at least ten years older than rose/hans/danae. What. Is he just a middle aged man?