My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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This book is perfect for fans of:
– Harry Potter’s friendship-group archetype
– Cassandra Clare’s world-building + inclusive/diverse representation
– Six of Crows (duh)… especially if you enjoyed HomeBoy falling for Racially-Diverse Feisty Girl, and then a parallel plot of another hetro-couple who a little less Spicy but also Cute
I read this via audiobook and found the first 25% quite dull. Which is a missed opportunity– that’s typically when I love to learn about the new fantastical world.
I was expecting the book to begin with how the main character, Séverin (pronounced ‘Sev-er-on’) recruited his theiving mischieves (aka friends / colleagues). But no– there are some glimpses into the past, on how they met, but nothing for what I was hoping. That was disappointing. For my reading experience, I would have preferred this to be more chronological.
I hated this book. Sorry– scratch that. I hated this story’s execution as an audiobook. I did NOT enjoy the narration.
Apparently to the narrators and producers of this audiobook, a French accent = slurring every single word you speak. It was unbearable to listen to. For the next sequel, I will only continue reading these as hard copies! That’s for certain!
If you enjoy the varying voice acting, with lots of different accents– you will probably adore how this book was produced. But for me, I found it far too distracting, and frankly (that’s a pun! A PUN!), annoying. But only for the French accent.
Do I find French accents annoying, or just poorly performed French accents??? Who knows…
Sometimes I thought people were Russian — because of how poor the French accents were, lol.
THIS BOOK IS PROMOTED EVERYWHERE FOR BEING LGBT.
BUT WAS IT?!?
It’s only at around 75% that we even touch on the perspective of Enrique being bisexual (and bi-racial ;D This boy is bi x bi… he’s Bi Squared).
I have no problem with books including ‘diverse’ traits. I actually adore that YA is slowly transforming from having books that only explore the angst of being queer, to simply including a queer character (ie there is no plot behind their queerness! They just Are Queer).
I DO have a problem with so much hype about how ‘great’ this book was for LGBT rep. It was hardly touched on, until– of course — the issue of a freaking LOVE TRIANGLE emerged. And yes, the love triangle has exactly 1x Girl and 1x Boy as the potentially suitors (Enrique –> Hypnos vs Zofia).
This books’ strength was its diverse representation of race and nationalities (and fictional Houses/families), and how to navigate a feeling of belonging when you’re not necessarily binary in one identity. There is something rare about this book that I appreciate: historically accurate representations of 19th Century Spanish/Filipinos, as well as a sexually ‘promiscuous’ Indian lady, AND a pasty-white Jewish girl!
Like… do you fully understand how RARE any of those three types of people are ever acknowledged; and in YA fiction!?!? YES YES YES. I greatly appreciate it.
I am not:
– of Filipino descent
– of Indian descent
So I am not in the position to say if they are accurate representations for their culture and living. But as an Australian historian (who lives and teaches south-east/Asian histories on the reg, as well as living in a largely multicultural area): I am so overwhelmingly pleased that there is a mainstream fantasy, in YA, that is including Filipino rep, Indian rep, and Jewish rep! I absolutely love how it explores:
– The impact of Filipino families + their identity after the colonisation/violent rule of the Spanish
– The pre-Holocaust prejudice against Judaism (and Jews)
I’ve read some reviews, entailing complaints about ‘anachronism‘. AS IF THIS ISN’T HISTORY. AS IF THESE CONCEPTS, SUCH AS ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM AND COLONISATION, WEREN’T AN ISSUE PRE-20TH CENTURY.
This book was a great marker for intersectionality being written and included in stories. For example, Zofia is shown to be neuro-divergent (I’m assuming autism, but it’s not established with a label– most likely due to the time period!).
What I did find anachronistic was some of the characters using phrases such as “that would be epic!”. Perhaps a young adult in the 19th C would have said that– but to me, all I pictured was a twelve year old boy talking with his mates while walking to the skate park.
So what did I actually think of the plot?
Honestly, I didn’t feel very affected by it. This book definitely suits readers who prefer a strong development of characters.
There is glamor, and aristocrats, and ambiguous lore of magic. It is post-Napoleonic history. I’m actually surprised there wasn’t any mention of the Franco-Prussian war. There are heists. There is (poor) sexual tension between a number of couples.
There’s a flirty, party-boy Gay that reminds me so much of the sass of Disney’s Hades (from Hercules).
But it didn’t grip me. I wasn’t invested. I would have DNFed this if it weren’t for the slightly gripping past of Laila and Severin, as well as Enrique/Zofia/Hypnos.
I didn’t care about Tristen at all, oops.
I liked the flashbacks of Severin’s fathers– each was named after a deadly sin.
Which reminds me: IF YOU HAVE NEVER READ OR STUDIED THE OLD TESTAMENT, YOU MAY BE A BIT LOST IN REGARDS TO THE MAGIC LORE. IT IS BASED AROUND THE BIBLICAL STORY/HISTORY OF THE TOWER OF BABEL. So if you’re not from a Judeo-Christian background, this one will be even more hard to define in your imagination as you read along.
1. I absolutely feel nothing when Tristen died. He was such a shadow to his brother.
2. WHY IS SEVERIN BEING MEAN TO LAILA??????? SHE DIDN’T CAUSE HIS BROTHER TO DIE. SHE DIDN’T ASK SEVERIN TO JUMP IN FRONT OF HER INSTEAD OF HIS BROTHER. Ahhhh stupidity. (hide spoiler)]
What I predict the sequel will be like:
– It will feel a lot like the Wicked King, where Laila and Severin have a little bargain for a while……. where there ultimately fall in loveeeee.
– I will not care at all about the plot re: resurrecting the House/s
– The cliffhanger of (view spoiler) will either be discounted very quickly, or only be addressed at 75%
– Hypnos and Enrique will be the OTP, not Enrique and Zofia