Interesting world. Disappointing protagonist. Morally grey developments. Trigger warnings required. Almost loved this book from the beginning. Or I really wanted to love it. Because it has a weird complicated world of magic, elves, and space technology (and it’s all very weird because technology level ranges from ancient(absent) to futuristic and there’s no defined standard) and a weird, independent, smart heroine. But then… A nasty love triangle enter stage left (it’s ugly and a waste of good positive character), weird sex spells enter stage right (a lot of morally grey questions there), and…it all just went downhill from there. But the worst disappointment was that the heroine is actually neither as independent nor as smart as I first wanted to believe. She mostly gets washed down with the flow left and right without questioning what is happening to her (see the weird sex spells and love triangles). She needs people to tell her what to do, and does what people tell her more often than not. She blabbers around to everyone. And it’s not that she is a badly written character. It is actually very believable neurological profile—person who is too smart in “maths” but likely forever to remain an ignorant child on the side of ‘life intelligence’. The problem is that she is more annoying than fun to read about. Then there’s also the problem so many female writers suffer from: the abundance of attractive positive male characters, most of whom are very fond of the main character (and even some negative ones who inspire more sympathy than hate) versus female characters who come only in two categories: either complete bitches or crazy grandmas. Then, as if grey-zone love triangles and sex spells were not enough, we get actual rape (which needs a big trigger warning). And torture. And the reactions from the main character that are closer to black than to grey. Judging from the authors obsession with things Japanese I half expected tentacles at some point. And I’m not even going to go into the treatment of real-world cultures and political issues cough racism cough.
All in all, very promising premise/setting and beginning, which gradually goes more and more sour under the influence of a morally grey story, disappointing protagonist, and trigger-y treatment of female characters.
I have to say I wasn’t sure I really liked this book for 90% of it. It was the feeling of constantly not knowing if every character with exception for the protagonist would die the next minute or betray her. It felt like there was not enough to grasp on, not enough solid ground. I suppose in some way it is actually consistent with the life the main character is living—disappearing and re-eventing herself, watching everyone die. Also, too many innocent people dying left and right might have something to do with that. Usually, ‘mind games’ is one of the themes I try to avoid in books. But I was also pleasantly surprised by the ending, which took me right back to being excited to continue reading this series.
I find myself very cautious reading this. There is simply too much senseless violence and gore. Their whole world is based on the survival of the strongest and proving it in the cruellest ways possible. Blood, torture, too many innocent victims… Too many triggers at every step. But then there’s also a certain kind of captivating elaborateness that makes me keep reading.
It’s not a big surprise that the biggest factor that keeps me with these books is the main relationship. The kind of love that is longer than forever and strong enough to destroy the world for each other. I usually don’t like books where the relationship is wobbling near the line of using force and other dominance play tendencies, but since they don’t actually cross that line and are striving for a two-way street on most aspects of the relationship, I find myself captivated. Also, the fact that the main character tries to stand against all the cruelty and heartlessness certainly helps.
It’s a very well-written book, with a complex and well-built world, multitude of no less complex and interesting characters, and captivating story. But I find myself constantly waiting for it to cross some line where I won’t be able to follow it… because too much gore and sadism is too much.
My impression is that this book felt a little too dragged out. A lot of circling around the same questions without actual developments. A lot of back-and-forward on relationships. A lot of interesting side character, but so many questions… Even the humour felt sometimes laid too thick and forced sometimes. Also, …mostly frustrating and unsatisfactory ending. Hoping for swift improvement in the future books…
So much teenage idiocy… I have a mixed feeling about this book, because, on one hand it seems that there is a passable fantasy-suspense story plot lurking on the background, and the main character is not too terrible (she even seems to use her head…sometimes…more so in the beginning, than towards the end), but the rest of it… Characters, without exception, are either just creepy (or creepy and disturbing) or mostly faceless. This book reminded me of that ‘find the main character’ meme where people make fun of anime by showing a picture with a room full of identical characters with brown-black hair and hardly any facial features drawn, and among them a single character with pink hair and detailed expression. This is exactly how his book feels, with the exception that when a character has a face or a name they will be creepy as hell… Or, all males will be creepy and disturbing in a dangerous way, and all females creepy and preoccupied with sex (including the 70yo housekeeper). There are no classmates except for the creepy stalker boys and one vain venomous cheerleader. There are hardly any teachers other than the Coach “teaching biology” by talking about sex, and “councillor” who is even worse. People in the shops and restaurants are creepy. Police are creepy. (The mother maybe the only exception, but she is also absent most of the time.) It would’ve actually maid so much more sense if the “twist” of this book was that all this time we were reading an account of a mentally unstable (paranoid and delusional) person (who understandably lost her marbles after her father was murdered), and that was the reason why every person who came into focus in her POV acted suspicious and disturbing, and why so much weird shit was happening around her. The explanation “it was all in her head” would’ve maid this a much better written book. Because when it’s not in her head, the “tunnel vision” and “one colour” world building make this into a rather weakly written fantasy book.
Then there’s the problem of the ‘best friend’ of the ‘who needs enemies with friends like this’ variety, (a.k.a. the reason for all problem situations in the book) where you want to strangle this ‘positive character’ more than all the creepy negative characters in the book. Literally the worst character in the whole book, by far. And I don’t comprehend her existence.
Things are kind of happening, but it actually feels like they are not, because we are not getting any closer to the answer to the “what the hell is going on” questions for at least for 250-80 pages, and things of repetitive nature (Someone got hurt. Did boy A or boy B do it? Is something supernatural going on or am I loosing my mind?) keep happening on the sidelines, keep raising the exactly same questions over and over, but giving absolutely no answers.
The ending was actually better than I expected it to be, but I wish we didn’t suddenly devolve into romance, just like that, after a whole book of unhealthy and not-okay behaviour.
I have a strong feeling I would probably have loooved this book if I read it in my early teens. In fact, I wish I had read it when I was 12-14. You know, somewhere around the hormonal times where thoughts like ‘why do they try to force me into their standards and act like I have to choose between acting ‘womanly’ or being a lesbian and can’t just be as I am?!’ and ‘am I the strange one or is everyone else?!’ were the biggest hit. (Well, unfortunately, they are still pretty relevant, just very much old and tired news by now.) By page 150 I could almost imagine myself being 13 again while reading it.
So, if I was 13, I would likely be very happy to read something to empathise with like this, and I would probably also be very happy about the number of ‘lessons’ this book tries to present. How it goes through every teaching and training detail and explains why. I probably also wouldn’t have minded as much the way it chews on every detail too…but as I am now, I kind of do. Over-explaining is the world. The writing mostly feels like a meal that was pre-chewed for you so you wouldn’t have to do much chewing yourself. Much of this book feels not like a ‘tale’ but like a ‘reference manual’…with strong feminist inclination. It spends entirely too much time teaching reader how to think (by explaining how people think and feel, and why, in detail at every step).
It’s also full of details that certain kind of teenage girls would feel very strongly about. The herds of too-smart horses and bit-less bridles. The telepathic wolves. The main character who can be a saint (strong morals, strong feelings about fighting fair), stubborn as a mule, and also smarter than most people around (can run a household, natural with horse-training and riding, natural with fighting, natural with strategy and leading others, etc.) A girl who is there to prove that she can be a better boy than a boy and still be an attractive girl. Including all the emotional stuntedness.
In fact it was that emotional stuntedness prevented me from actually empathising with the main characters herself. While this book encompasses decades of her life, she doesn’t really seem to change or grow up. Kero learns skills, but she hardly feels different in the end of the book compared to how she was in the very beginning. Personally, I feel that she was missing a certain kind of emotional maturity throughout the whole book.
To sum up… As I think the teenage girl I used to be would give this book 5 golden stars, and the adult me, who was honestly bored by the repetitive and slow prose and had to keep myself from cringing at times, would probably give 3, I have taken the golden middle.
First impression: This is fun and very well-written! Second impression: …but this ‘(not so simple) PI with constant financial difficulties, tragic personal history, and everyone out to get him’ kind of protagonist also feels like a such an over-used concept…
I like this book a lot, but, to be honest, it begun losing me a little towards the end…instead of gripping me in hunger to catch every next word, it left me in the state of ‘and now I just want to get through all this action as fast as possible (skimming through some text) just to get through to the end’. And it’s not that I don’t like action. I think it was the overload of ‘frustration’ over everyone being out to get the main character a bit too much. The feeling you get when someone is desperately running against the clock and everyone else tries to get in their way by acting exceedingly stupid? I don’t handle it well.
Other than that, looks like a promising start of a series I’m looking forward to getting my hands on.
I must say I was a little surprised no actually enjoy this book, partially because I was expecting another cheesy oversexualised super-hot-vampire-and-damsel-in-distress ‘female fantasy’ kind of story, and partially because I kind of hated “Halfway to the Grave“. (Though I didn’t even realise this was by the same author and belonged to the same universe until I was already reading.)
This book has an interesting heroine, who is neither the ‘innocent saint’ nor the ‘sassy bitch in miniskirt’ type of the usual vampire novel heroine, and this is one of the things I like about this book the most. She doesn’t lie to herself much, she deals with the shit that falls on her, she does what she needs to. Also, I have a tendency to prefer characters who maybe a little too fearless in a way that they stand up for the things they believe in, even in the circumstances where normal human instinct would tell them not to dig their own grave. She also has morals. I haven’t read any “Night Huntress” books after DNFing the first one, so this feels like an impressive improvement from a clueless-serial-killer(psycho)-playing-at-dress-up type of main character I saw there. I did, however, see the similar love for unnecessary over-the-top violence and torture. Not a fan. Especially because of the fact that its senselessness (unnecessary-ness) is so very glaring. I mean, could you actually explain to me what is the point of all the torture when you 1)can read minds and 2) actually have a person who can touch someone and tell you what they’ve done and where they’ve been better than anyone can torture out? I don’t know if the author is just so in love with all the gore, but it’s nothing but gore for the sake of gore, and we have a main hero and ‘love interest’ who continues to torture other vampires with no reasonable justification. Now, speaking of Vlad, I didn’t actually mind that this is another book about the Vlad. Though I do suppose it is a bit of a tired idea. What I did mind is the fact that it feels like the only aspect in which the fact that Vlad is a centuries old vampire is in any way reflected is his tendency for violent resolutions of everything. I can’t really explain what exactly I’m expecting to see, but I think that the fact that these ‘people’ have been around for a very long time and have ‘seen it all’ should have been made a little more believable. This Vlad only reads like some sort of modern businessmen, just an abnormally bloodthirsty one.
Also, I hate when people translate Voivode (Wojewoda) as ‘prince’, or use them as synonyms. That’s not what it means at all. Yes, you can be both, but inherent meanings in the titles are very different.