The Cup and the Prince Review

The Cup and the Prince Review

By Day Leitao

Publisher: Sparkly Wave

Print Length: 256 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Release Date: October 15, 2020

Special thanks to Sparkly Wave for providing me with an ARC.

Available for pre-order on Amazon.

One prince wants her out.

Another wants her as a pawn.

Someone wants her dead.

Zora wants to win the cup and tell them all to screw themselves.

Yes, 17-year-old Zora cheated her way into the Royal Games, but it was for a very good reason. Her ex-boyfriend thought she couldn’t attain glory on her own. Just because she was a girl. And he was the real cheater. So she took his place.

Now she’s competing for the legendary Blood Cup, representing the Dark Valley. It’s her chance to prove her worth and bring glory for her people. If she wins, of course.

But winning is far from easy. The younger prince thinks she’s a fragile damsel who doesn’t belong in the competition. Determined to eliminate her at all costs, he’s stacking the challenges against her. Zora hates him, hates him, hates him, and will do anything to prove him wrong.

The older prince is helping her, but the cost is getting Zora entangled in dangerous flirting games. Flirting, the last thing she wanted.

And then there’s someone trying to kill her. (Goodreads)

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a sucker for fantasy that promises a strong female protagonist, and this book delivered. Other than a propensity to randomly cry, Zora is a competent woman. And while her motivation is not as noble as that of other female protagonists, it is a legitimate one. After all, nothing is more dangerous than I woman scorned. 

I enjoyed the book well enough to read it through and to have an interest in a sequel, but it’s evident that this book has much more potential than what was delivered. The plot is solid, but the world wasn’t. We are introduced to a magic system that is never explained and the world with rules and laws that seem arbitrary. As a result, certain stakes just don’t hold the weight that they could. 

The major downfall of this book is over-simple writing. The writing is not that of a final book, not even a second draft really. There are many scenes that would benefit from being drawn out that just aren’t and at times the writing just seems incomplete. It’s a quick read as a result, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s just missing something. 

I enjoyed the book, I’m interested to see more. I feel like first books in YA fantasy series are allowed an amount of leeway for the author to focus on what they think is the most important thing to set up, in this case, that was the characters and plot. I’m open to a sequel in the hopes that it fleshes out this world more because there is definitely great potential.

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Hush Review

Hush Review

By Dylan Farrow 

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Print Length: 384 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC.

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?

Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighbourhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.

When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.

Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible. (Goodreads)

Like with many books I read, I went into this book relatively blind. I’ve never heard of the author, I’d seen the cover, and skimmed the synopsis. My interest was immediately piqued with the little I was able to glean from my quick lookover. I do this because I don’t want to have many expectations when going into a book; and let me tell you, that really paid off because this was yet another five-star read. 

Hush is an exceptional debut and introduction to an interesting and vividly created world. I don’t always know what to expect from YA Fantasy, with the world or characters not being fleshed out as well as standard Fantasy. This book exceeded this notion though, with well-developed and sympathetic characters as well as a world depicted through beautiful but clear descriptions. I found that I could imagine the event of this book quite clearly, without the usual fuzziness I tend to experience with some fantasy novels. 

There were times where I found myself annoyed with the protagonist but in a good way. I was able to understand her motivations and actions, even if I didn’t agree with them. This made me like her quite a bit, though because she felt like a real person. She’s not perfect, but not in the manufactured sense. Her reactions felt organic to the situations, and that was refreshing. 

I am in love with the magic system (let’s just be honest, all of the world-building really). It fits well with the plot and themes the author presents and provides an amazing allegory for our society. After reading it, I found myself thinking about how the book relates to things going on in the world, and my mind was just blown. This is definitely a book I see myself reading again and again, and in doing so, I hope to pick up on the more minute details the author’s provided us. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s truly a gem that deserves to be read by many.

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Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

By Tehlor Kay Mejia, Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Harper Teen

Print Length: 320 pg

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Release Date September 22, 2020

Buy this book at Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to HarperTeen and HearOurVoices Tours for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. (Goodreads)

Lita Fanart

Miss Meteor proves to be a top of the line coming-of-age story with plenty of drama and laughs for everyone. Exceptionally inclusive with a hint of magic, we follow a group of friends who learn probably the most important lesson of them all: about being yourself. The book goes to great lengths to illustrate this common lesson in a way that shows the wide variety of acceptance someone can come to, whether it be on there own or with the help of those around them. Miss Meteor is a feel-good read for anyone who has ever felt other, and for me, one of the very few books I felt represented as a queer Latinx woman. 

I loved this book and felt truly blessed when I realized this is a five-star read (the second of this month!) I related deeply to a lot of the story and found myself rooting for the characters and crying alongside them. This is one of those books you read when you’re not having the best time; cosy up with it under the covers with a cup of warm tea and escape into Meija and McLemore’s version of Meteor(ite), New Mexico. 

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As mentioned above, Miss Meteor is full of a lot of important lessons and themes. I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the themes explored in this book. All of which are important, and represented masterfully:

Stand-Up for Others (and Yourself) is one of the smaller themes explored in this book with the character of Cole (who, let’s just be honest, is my new book boyfriend). Throughout the book, he stands-up for those being bullied by his sister’s boyfriend, but when it comes to himself he stays considerably silent. As the book continues we see him realize that if he’s going to stand up for his friends, he also needs to stand up for himself. And, in doing so, he puts the book’s bullies in their place in a triumphant scene that had me cheering out loud for him as I read it. 

The Value of Friendship is heavily featured in this book, as we see old friends come together, friendships grow stronger, and relationships metamorphosis. The character of Chicky is probably the one who learns the most from this lesson, as she realizes how much she needs her friends and how important they are to her. We watch as she overcomes personal struggles to preserve her friendships as she realizes that her friends are much too important to lose. 

Self-acceptance is the explicit theme heavily woven throughout this story. Every character has something holding them back, and as the story progresses we follow them as they come out of their shells and learn one of live’s most important lesson. While the focus is mostly on Lita and Chicky, it’s hard to miss the personal growth in Cole and Junior as well. This definitely gave the book a sense of depth that I’m truly amazed the authors managed to put in so few pages.

I don’t want to let go of this book yet. I could re-read it right now if it wasn’t for the fact that I have other things to read. If you share these feelings with me, I hope you enjoy a short list of series I’ve included below that embody some aspect of this book in some way (in order of least related to most related):

Switched

This series is the most different from Miss Meteor, but I wanted to include it because there are definitely parallels in the lessons of this show to that of the book. 

Switched follows a depressed and bullied young woman who decides her only option is to commit suicide. After a series of unexpected events she switches bodies with a popular classmate, the young woman is forced to more closely examine the reasons that lead her to want to end her life.

I Am Not Okay With This

I’ve reviewed this series in the past, and while it is tonally very different from Miss Meteor, it heavily includes themes of friendship and otherness. 

I Am Not Okay With This is a coming of age story following a young woman as she develops telepathic powers. 

Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty shares a lot of themes with Miss Meteor, including those listed above as well as some not mentioned, such as Latinx-culture and queer culture. 

Ugly Betty follows a young woman who, despite a chronic lack of style, lands a job at a fashion magazine.

The Inheritance Games Review (Book Tour)

The Inheritance Games Review (Book Tour)

By Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Print Length: 384

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Release Date September 1, 2020

This book is currently available on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Little, Brown Books and TheWriteReads for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. (Goodreads)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of mysteries. As of late, I’m wondering if that’s simply because I haven’t read enough of them. After all, a year ago I would have said the same thing about fantasy, but that’s now one of my most favourite genres. The Inheritance Games, in a way, maybe a wake-up call for me to pick up more mysteries. 

The Inheritance Games is honorarily the first YA mystery I’ve read and I have to say: I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it weren’t for certain life-responsibilities I would have read this book in one sitting, my attention was utterly rapt. Barnes shows an exceptional understanding of how to properly create suspense, making every little detail seeming like a possible clue. It’s hard to put down a book when you’ve convinced yourself you can solve part of the mystery in the next chapter; the desire to continue and know more seemingly endless. (And the book ends on a cliffhanger! Boy, isn’t that frustrating!) 

This book follows a young woman, Avery, as she discovers she has been left an immense fortune by an eccentric billionaire; all to the chagrin of his family. She soon finds out she may be a piece in yet another one of his puzzles, and as she falls into the spirals of this mystery we are treated with a fair amount of thrills and romance. There are so many questions, and the answers are in sight, but just out of grasp. 

I enjoyed following along with Avery and the Hawthorne brothers as they worked through puzzle after puzzle, finding some easier than others as I’m sure they did. The book was predictable enough to be a chill read, but with enough unpredictability to keep you turning the page. For romance lovers, the book definitely did not fall short on its romance, with a heart-pounding love-triangle that had you anticipating what came next almost as much as the mystery. The characters are charismatic and charming, it was easy to fall into their world. 

From what I understand this book and it’s upcoming sequel have been picked up to be adapted into a television series, or streaming series rather. While reading the book I was acutely aware of how well this book would translate into a serial television romance, and if the production follows through, trust I will be an early viewer.

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Legendborn Review

Legendborn Review

By Tracy Deonn

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Print Length: 512 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Special thanks to Margaret K. McElderry Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Legendborn is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight. (Goodreads)

In the past year, I have read a number of Arthurian retellings and its quite easy for me to say that Legendborn is by far my favourite. It was practically unputdownable as it lead me through an emotional rollercoaster ride of sadness, anger, joy, and love. I found myself being so deeply involved in this book that I had to occasionally set it aside to absorb the plot and to calm the intense emotions I’d find myself feeling, mirroring that of characters in the book. I read a lotlike 110+  books by mid-September a lot— and this book was far and way one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

Legenborn boasts a well-crafted world with well-crafted characters and will make you feel everything from deep rage to unbridled joy. The protagonist, Bree Matthews, is truly a protagonist we’ve needed as she is the definition of black girl magic. She’s powerful, emotional, and unyielding; a literal force to be reckoned with. But even with great, unexpected power, she is one of the most relatable protagonist’s I’ve read in a while. 

Did I mention this book made me cry multiple times? Cause it did. 

Deonn flawlessly follows the beats of modern action-thrillers and presents us while a wholly entertaining twist on classic legends. Legendborn is a book for everyone. Those who love fantasy, those who love action, those who love romance, and those who love mystery. A lot of the struggles depicted in this book are very real, and the themes important. Legenborn highlights one’s roots, where one comes from and how their history affects them. It teaches about grief, and how it can hold us back but also propel us forward. 

We really need this book. I can’t tell you how important it’s become to me, and how monumental it will be in the lives of others. You need this book. So does your friend. And you’re mom. 

I don’t give out many five stars, or in this case five hearts. Five heart books are books I love so much I keep a physical copy in my personal library, which currently holds 44 books. This year, of the 116 books I’ve read (as of writing this) I have given 18 of those books five hearts. Legenborn will be the newest addition to my collection. 

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The Legend of Akikumo Review

The Legend of Akikumo Review

By Dani Hoots

Publisher: Fox Tales

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: September 15 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon

Special thanks to Foxtales Press for providing me with an ARC.

Ketsueki would give anything to find out why her mentor Akikumo, the last wolf in Japan, abandoned her. He left her with other kitsune at the Inari Shrine, but she doesn’t fit in. And now the other kitsune are bullying her and saying Akikumo is dead.

After causing trouble for the hundredth time, the Inari, instead of punishing her, has given Ketsueki a task: she must find out what happened to Akikumo. She quickly agrees, not realizing the delinquent son of the shrine’s head priest must accompany her.

Will Ketsueki be able to make peace with a human? Or will her years of resentment make this partnership impossible? (Goodreads)

Okay, let’s start with the positives of this book: the cover is absolutely gorgeous. It was what brought me into this, at least the primary thing that did. The second was the concept, it’s an interesting concept, one I’d generally be interested in reading. 

The only thing was… this book is bad. Like, really bad. It was almost a herculean task to get through this one. The writing was very inconsistent and the writing told much more than showed. The sentences were stifled by their poor grammar usage and the excessive use of Japanese words throughout this English book. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, especially with words that are commonly used in English, such as katana, but words that otherwise would have been translated if this was a translated piece were left in this book. Words with easy translations, such as “baka.”

Honestly, this book reads like a bad anime fan-fiction. The book definitely seems to romanticize Japanese culture in a short-sighted matter. This book just isn’t worth the time.

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Otherworld Review

Otherworld Review

By Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Print Length: 355 pg

Release Year: 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  3.66

Available on Amazon, B&N, and be sure to check your library/Libby

The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming. (Goodreads)

Oh goodness, this book. 

First of all, I have to give this book credit, it is not what I expected. My first impression of it was that it would be sort of similar to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which just so happens to be one of my favourite books. This was enough to make me buy this book because I figured even if it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One I would hopefully find it enjoyable. Let me tell you now: I didn’t. 

The one good thing I remember about this book is that I was surprised by the direction it took with the story’s concept. Simply based off my first impression the plot was not what I expected it to be. Sadly, this fact didn’t save the book from being unpleasant to me. 
Mainly, I did not like the main character. I didn’t like the secondary character. The only character I liked in this book was a background character that would eventually end up dead, and even their death wasn’t impactful to me. Additionally, I found the motivations of both the antagonist and the protagonist to be either dumb, confusing, or some mixture of both. In the end, it was the characters that forced me to give this book a low review.

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The Hunger Games, Revisited, Review

The Hunger Games, Revisited, Review

By Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Print Length: 374 pages

Release Year: 2008

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.33

Available on Amazon and B&N and be sure to check your local library/Libby

WINNING MEANS FAME AND FORTUNE.

LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH.

THE HUNGER GAMES HAVE BEGUN. . . .

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and once girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love. (Goodreads)

In a post-civil war United States now called Panem, a battle royale is held among 24 children between the ages of 12-18, chosen in pairs at random from twelve districts. The titular Hunger Games is used as a form of propaganda to remind the citizens of Panem what would happen if they revolt against the countries capital. When a young woman named Katniss finds herself in the arena she is forced to make some hard decisions in order to survive.

When I first read the Hunger Games I was starting middle school and preteen me loved it! Me now– who is not only an adult but a writer– found the book mediocre at best. My primary complaint, which seems to be common, is regarding the protagonist Katniss Everdeen. While rereading the book I found it hard to understand her and her overall personality. It seems as though her personality changes for the convenience of the plot. Though acting differently was crucial for her survival, her mental commentary was inconsistent in its representation of her true personality. She seems to constantly change her mind for the sole purpose of progressing the plot when it starts to fall a little short. Additionally, the use of dues ex machina was often obvious, and could leave the reader thinking: Well that was convenient. 

I have to give the book credit, though, for being a good battle royale. It introduced many to the concept for better or for worse, as well as sparking a mass interest in YA fiction and dystopian settings. Additionally, the world is well developed and even with the relatively minimal introduction, it is easy to understand. Part of this may as well be due to the fact that Panem is a post-civil war United States– this fact may not always be obvious to younger readers. Character-wise, secondary characters were handled very well and were well written as well as consistent. In fact, I can’t help but believe the book would be overall better if it had been written in some interaction of the third person. 

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The Rise of Kyoshi Review

The Rise of Kyoshi Review

By F.C. Yee, Michael Dante DiMartino

Publisher: Amulet Books

Print Length: 442 pages

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.49

Available on Amazon, B&N, and check your local library/Libby

F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi delves into the story of Kyoshi, the Earth Kingdom–born Avatar. The longest-living Avatar in this beloved world’s history, Kyoshi established the brave and respected Kyoshi Warriors, but also founded the secretive Dai Li, which led to the corruption, decline, and fall of her own nation. The first of two novels based on Kyoshi, The Rise of Kyoshi maps her journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice who is still feared and admired centuries after she became the Avatar. (Goodreads)

If you haven’t heard of this book, or only have recently, don’t worry. I don’t blame you. Personally I found this book late 2019 while browsing the Young Adult section of Barnes and Noble. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, then I was kicking myself– ashamed to not have known of its existence. I bought the book then and there, knowing it was a must-have for my collection. 

I’ve read this book twice now and was even at my local B&N bright and early for the recent release of the sequel The Shadow of Kyoshi. I thoroughly enjoyed this book both times I read it and definitely see myself reading it many more times (much like the way I rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.) With every read, I notice more and more details that add to this vibrant world and its lore. I find myself falling deeper in love with a series that already has a permanent place in my heart. 

The Rise of Kyoshi is a must-read for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender as it more closely examines the fan favourite past life of Aang. As mentioned above, it only adds to the rich lore of this world, expanding on its histories and people. It includes themes not thoroughly explored in previous instalments in the franchise and in many ways is more accessible than the comics (which, if possible, I recommend looking into as well.)

The only downside to this book lies in the action. At times it seems a bit slow and the fighting described is difficult to understand and subsequently follow. When it comes to the descriptions of bending, I find myself being lax on the author. As a writer myself, I can’t help but imagine how difficult it must have been to describe something so well-suited for more visual formats. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I can’t recommend it enough. Like, really, go get this book because you don’t know what you’re missing out on. 

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Girls of Paper and Fire Review

Girls of Paper and Fire Review

By Natasha Ngan

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books

Print Length: 385

Release Year: 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.82

Available on Amazon, B&N, or you local library/ Libby

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge. (Goodreads)

This review was originally published on my personal blog (crystinaluna.com)

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, and though my memory of it is beginning to fade I still remember it fondly. It was the first book I had read in a while that I really enjoyed, and was one of the first fantasy books I’ve enjoyed in a few years. I’ve never really been a huge fan of fantasy (until recently), but yet this book had me utterly enthralled in the world. So much so, there were times it overwhelmed me and I was forced to set the book down for a short time. 

There are many great things about the book, but what made it stand out to me (other than the LGBT representation) was the exceptional world-building. I found the caste system in this book particularly interesting, with its heavy ties to species dictating the hierarchy. An allegory for race, that was inclusive and relatable to all readers. The real surprise was how well-developed and easy to understand it was upon first reading. It was easy to catch on the customs of this society without the book becoming lengthy to the point of absurdity. YA has a reputation for underdeveloped world building, the focus often put on the characters and the situation. While this book is very character heavy, it does a very good job of creating a realistic and understandable world. Not so fantastic that it’s unimaginable, but fantastic enough to allow the reader to escape the clutches of reality. The only downside is, especially at the beginning, the story seemed very info-dumpy. After reading the first few chapters I found my brain a little tired from absorbing so much. Regardless, I enjoyed the world.

The true downside of the story, for me, was the characters. They were not bad, in the sense that I enjoyed reading about them, but they were not the best. The protagonist particularly often came off as inconsistent. She constantly went back and forth between being empowering and annoying in her indecisiveness. To be entirely honest, I found her love interest far more interesting, with a backstory more prone to action and with a certain amount of finality in her decisions and fate. Lei, the protagonist, on the other hand, lacked this. And though I understand why the author chose to focus the story on her, I struggled to relate to her constantly going back and forth between deciding to try to live happily and rebel. It is not an easy decision, I understand, but her belief that she had no hope of escaping her reality made her indecisiveness all the more annoying.

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