Genre: fantasy, young adult
Rating out of five:
This story has an incredible average review rating, but I was terribly bored, found the plot flat and some aspects idiotic. This hardcover is nice though. It starts with a simple fantasy concept; an orphan girl enrolling in an assassin academy where there’s as much chance of dying as of graduating, especially as someone is murdered by a fellow student and she got to figure out who (even if they’re all killers). Also she can’t forget why she came there; to train until she’s strong enough to take down the Senate who killed her father, after convicting him as a traitor. Okay, maybe not so simple, but not the most original story either. And that’s what this book plays on, because every small detail is done better than most of the young adult fantasy heroine books I’ve read.
“Forget the girl who had everything. She died when her father did.“
“Nothing is where you start. Own nothing. Know nothing.”
“But why would I want to do that?”
His smile made her smile in return.
“Because then you can do anything.”
It also succeed with the characters and their interactions within the school. Mia, the main character, has lost everything but her life and snarky humour, and has to use her mind as she navigates this new enviroment where everyone is dangerous. Even the library will kill you. I can’t decide if I like that the characters are built on archetypes like “mean girl”, “brutal teacher”, “evil twins”, “hot boy”, but that they all are murderous versions who don’t behave as expected. It still feels too easy and unoriginal.
That said, a few things really bothered me;
- ASTERIX! FREAKING EVERYWHERE. Especially at the beginning. You think I’m kidding, but more than once the author covered more than half the page. And 1/10 of them is related to the plot so I have to read them just in case. Why u doing this?? Usually I like the extra voice these notes bring, but here it was too much too soon and interrupted the pace.
- You don’t need to read the whole book. At least not to follow the plot. Never thought I would say this, but the writing is so slow and filled with unecessary words that for the middle part of this book you can read the first and last sentence of a paragraph and still follow the plot. Trust me, I tried.
- I didn’t realize the problem reading it, but there’s* a discussion of this book being problematic in regards to possible links between the book’s dweymeri people and the maori. If you’re curious, do a google search and you’ll find blogs better qualified to answer it than me. From the little I’ve seen the author was kind of a jerk about it on twitter trying to explain they’re not based on the same group of people. But hey, I haven’t looked into whether or not he got a lot of shit for it either. I’m all for people making their own critical choices when supporting books, and it’s good to be aware of these things. I believe that he can have created a world with negative views on for example mixed kids and enforcing certain stereotypes without that being a unique thing for this book. It’s a problem in fantasy and world-building in general. There’s plenty of other reasons not to read this book, the way I see it, mostly because it’s boring and unecessary large. But it’s definitely a discussion worth being loud about.
*disclaimer: i wrote this review some time back and at the time it very much was a discussion around this book. how much the word problematic has been overused since then, but even with some more thought in this case it applies well. from what i’ve seen the plotpoints of racism are not outright terribly wrong, but seen as problematic from many and at the very least unecessary.
The last hundred pages of this book was the best, but it was not worth it. While I really loved the new twist on young assassin heroine Mia’ with her shadow-abilities and the not-cat, I just don’t think I’ll read the next book when it comes out. I used sixteen days to get through this one, which is a long time for me. It had great solutions to problems already in young adult fantasy books, but was blind to the new problems it created for itself. I won’t waste time on the next books, might sound harsh, but based on the amount of unecessary lines alone, I couldn’t do it.