Read: 19th December 2019 – 29th December 2019 DNF
Spoilers in review: Mild
DNF @ 62%
The entire process of reading this has been incredibly frustrating, and I just read a sentence that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m sorry, but I want to close the 2010s by reading something that actually brings me joy, and it’s decidedly not this.
I could go into a long and detailed explanation of all of my problems with this book. But I don’t want to put myself or anyone else through that. Sometimes I have the patience, today I just don’t. It works out that way sometimes.
So I’ll only talk about a couple of points.
The big issue, for me, is the use of the attitude towards superpowers as an allegory for bigotry that exists in reality. In the opening author’s note, Silvera references Harry Potter and X-Men as direct inspirations for this book. X-Men is Not Subtle about the fact that the discrimination that mutants face is supposed to represent racism, or homophobia, or things along those lines. Here’s where the comparison falls apart. When you’re taking a Western perspective, which all of these things are, then in reality the people who are discriminated against haven’t done anything to warrant it. A person’s skin colour and/or culture doesn’t kill people, a person’s sexuality isn’t going to level a city block, and a person’s gender isn’t going to be at the root of a terrorist incident. So using concern about explosive superpowers as an allegory for these things has always been a bit iffy.
But I absolutely cannot get behind there being a specific incident or situation caused by a certain group, that killed a lot of people, and yet we’re still supposed to believe that all the prejudice they face is completely unwarranted. And it’s not like this was an isolated incident caused by a small splinter cell, every time people with superpowers showed up, people got hurt. As a queer person, other people don’t get hurt just by me exisiting in the same general area, and there has never been anything close to an understandable reason for people to be prejudiced against people like me. As a gay man, Silvera really should’ve known better. I’m tired.
Harry Potter is very much not a perfect series by any means, it has a lot of flaws. But understanding this very simple thing is something that it got right. The muggleborns hadn’t done anything wrong, but a lot of purebloods hated them anyway, purely because they were different. That’s the crux of the matter. End of.
I don’t think that Silvera’s writing style is suited to action and fights. Every time, without fail, I’d get a page into what was supposed to be an action scene before my brain realised what was actually going on. Everything felt the same level of sedentary the whole way through, a character having a calm conversation in their room would be written in the same way that someone being thrown into a wall would be. Fight scenes are supposed to be punchier.
I also didn’t like any of the major characters. There were a couple of less important characters that I think that I would’ve liked, had they been given more of the spotlight. But the main character was a bit of a non-entity, and I actively disliked his brother and the celestial girl Maribelle. There was also the brother’s girlfriend(?) who tagged along despite having nothing to really add to the group. Maybe she’s more important later on, but I’m not waiting to find out. It was specifically a line about her that made me put the book down for good. The main character felt like she blamed him for making her leave her normal life behind. When he had done no such thing. She was there entirely of her own free will. And honestly there was no reason for her to keep tagging along to fights anyway, because she had no way to defend herself at all.
I really like the concept of a world where magical creatures exist, and are viewed similarly to how things like lions are elephants are viewed in reality. Magic viewed as mundane in urban fantasy is something that I’d love to see more of, and the glimpses of that were a joy to read about! I also really liked there being many different breeds of phoenix! But these things weren’t enough to keep me reading when my whole reading experience was as frustrating as it was.
I was so excited to read this book, and I’m disappointed that I ended up not liking it. I wish Adam Silvera all the best, but seeing as I found the other books by him that I’ve read to not be anything mind-blowing, I don’t think I’ll be reading anything more by him.
I was provided with an e-arc from Netgalley in return for an honest review. Any quotes referenced may differ in the final published version.
Review originally written in 2019