by Gwen Hayes
I have wildly mixed feelings about this book, which is loosely based on the myth of Persephone. I’m not sure I can write a coherent review because I’m so conflicted, so here goes the pros and cons list.
Warning: mild spoilers contained below.
For the first two thirds of the book:
* I was pretty annoyed with the main character Theia. Stop falling in love with boys just because they’re kinda cute, girls!
* I really, really disliked Haden. Manipulative, bad-tempered, controlling, stalker-ish guys who try to make girls jealous, especially while grinding their hips against other girls during a dance while eye-locked with the main character, make me want to resort to violence.
I can’t get a handle on the guy. Sometimes he seems so into you, and other times he’s…sort of the Antichrist. Exactly!
* There was no reason for Theia’s dialogue to be so stilted. I understand why Haden’s was, but speaking with a British accent doesn’t mean she has to talk as if she’s straight out of some boring 18th century period drama. Even her father’s dialogue was less formal than hers.
* I got a little tired of all the “Touch me!” “But I can’t…” “I want you to!” “You’ll die!” “But it’s sooo worth it!” drama that kept repeating over and over.
* I didn’t buy into the mix of attractive boy/dangerous “man” thing.
* I wasn’t sure why Haden was so attracted to Theia at first…how many boys are enthralled by spying on a girl playing the violin? Although I did really like the way Theia’s hair was described, all gold and caramel curls. Lovely!
* The opening is pretty darned good. Burning man falling from the sky = great visual.
* I really liked some of Theia’s friends–and they were proof that the author could write snappy and unstilted dialogue. Her best friend Donny is hilarious, and I liked Amelia, Gabriel, Mike, etc. as well. All the early interactions between the friends felt very grounded and real, although the roles they play towards the end of the book are less convincing.
* Some of the self-deprecating humor took me by surprise. Even while I was rolling my eyes at all the melodramatic stuff that drags on through the first part of the book, I kept going because every once in awhile the author would pop out a surprisingly funny remark that poked fun at what was going on. More of that tone would definitely have improved the book, however.
What really made the book enjoyable to me, though:
* A fantastic villain! When she shows up about two-thirds of the way through, I sat up and paid attention. Her physical being, her arch dialogue, and her evil scheming were all really well done. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the disguise she takes later on in the book, but I still really liked seeing her.
* A big, big sacrifice that is made that I thought was extraordinarily well done. Based on what had come before, I wasn’t expecting it to be that emotionally compelling.
* The turn of tables (related to the sacrifice) and shift in POV was pretty interesting.
* I ended up liking the new and changed Theia quite a lot. There’s the backbone we were all waiting for! It’s a shame it didn’t happen sooner in the storyline.
* I love love loved the creepy evil minions. Skeletons. Women stitched together with black thread and wobbly heads. Who violently BATHE her. Awesome! Would love to have seen more done with them.
I’m torn between how I felt at the beginning of the book (bored, somewhat annoyed) and the end of the book (really excited and interested), so I’m not really sure whether it’s something I’d recommend. I’d say that if you’re intrigued by the premise, it’s worth a read just so long as you keep your expectations in check. I, for one, will definitely be checking out the next book to see what the new and improved Theia will do.
Rated 3 out of 5 stars.
30-second synopsis: An interesting premise that is hampered by clunky dialogue, lack of action, and annoying characters in the first part of the book…only to redeem itself in a pretty spectacular way in the last third.