“In Pyra, death was celebrated as much as life. Only through endings could there be beginnings. That was the lesson of the phoenix, and it was the lesson of my life as well.”
Oof this book was slow going. It was actually a 2/2.5 read for me up until the ending brought it to a 3. It was strange really, because it had an interesting concept and the author could write. She clearly put a lot of time, effort, and research into this book. But my god, it was a slog for the first 300 pages.
So basically, this book was about 300 pages of setup and then some action near the end and a nifty little hook to get you to read the sequel after that. It was VERY boring in the beginning and during all of Sev’s chapters (sorry not sorry, he was a terrible character). The book primarily follows Veronyka, who is on the run with her sister, hiding their powers and looking for phoenix eggs. There are also POVs from Tristan the son of the Phoenix Rider commander, and Sev, an Empire soldier hiding powers of his own. Ok, three POVs, this is fine, no problem.
Except it wasn’t fine, because not only do their stories not interconnect until well into the book, there are also random historical documents thrown at you near the end of every chapter. These cover a whole range of other historical figures and the entire history of the Phoenix Riders/world that they live in. Oh my lord, those documents were so lengthy and dense and boring and they really interfered with the flow of the story. I applaud the author for creating such a rich historical backdrop and complex political system for her world, but it was not executed well. It was like a completely different plotline that we were supposed to care about and follow, hoping at some point it would be relevant to the main story, but I just didn’t give a hoot. What’s worse, is that we would read some document or letter about the historical figure/event and then not even 4 pages later, Veronyka, Tristan, or Sev is spouting off the exact same information in the exact same long-winded way. What was the point of the documents then??? Just to look cool on the page? It was redundant and very frustrating to read through. The majority of the book, pretty much up to page 300, is extremely info-dumpy. What intriguing plot and character development there is, is bogged down by WAY too much information being thrown at the reader.
Because of this, the pacing of the book was very slow. Not much happens in the first couple hundred pages and there is really only one major action scene near the end of the book. That was a great battle sequence and I really enjoyed it. It is what brought the book from a 2.5 to a 3 for me, that and the twist at the end. But getting there was hardly worth it. I think the book was too long, overall. Many irrelevant or repetitive scenes could have been cut down to make it a more enjoyable read. It would have kept my interest much better and made me want to keep reading and look forward to the sequel too, which right now I am not. The concept really was cool, the writing was actually pretty good, and the direction the story is going seems intriguing, so it’s a shame that 2/3rds of the book was so bland and predictable.
The characters themselves were ok (except Sev). There was actually no real romance in this book, which I was surprised by, given that it is a generic YA fantasy. There are hints of it, though (one pairing is a male/male romance, which was refreshing), and those hints started to take up a lot of page time. Everyone was flushing and sighing and gasping and getting fluttery stomachs at stupid moments. Meh. There is some Grade A cringey dialogue in here. Overall, they were just very run of the mill, kind of cliche YA characters. They POVs kind of all ran together and there were no real distinguishing factors between any of them. Sev’s chapters were just extremely boring. At least once Veronyka and Tristan met up, their parts were more upbeat and interesting. However, I still never actually felt connected to any of them. I think that the characters were actually pretty dull. It doesn’t help that nothing freaking happened until the end of the book!
A few other stray observations/notes:
- There was no payoff for Veronyka’s secrets. She spent half the book worrying over the Phoenix Riders finding out that the was a girl and that she was bonded to a phoenix already and then when they did, everything was like okie doke that’s cool. Lame.
- Some of the representative, progressive, and feminist writing felt thrown into the story for PC points. Some of it was integrated well and felt natural, some of it felt forced.
- I greatly enjoyed Veronyka’s conversation with Sparrow about friendship after the battle.
- Val was annoying and cliche and, while I liked her twist at the end, it was pretty heavy-handed.
- I did not expect the poison scene in the beginning! That actually took me by surprise and was very suspenseful.
- I am really not a fan of the weird snippets above the chapter headings. First off, they looked strange placed like that. I did not like it; it looked crowded and like it was just tacked on at the end. And second, they were just ominous little sayings that had nothing to do with anything and were supposed to give us insight into the parallels between the timelines or whatever, but they really didn’t. Easily could have been removed and no one would have cared.
- I skimmed a good chunk of the book in the middle.
Soooo yeah. This one was ok. Good concept, poor execution. Maybe the sequel will be better and the author will have a better handle on how to balance her timelines/action vs. information. I did just hear, though, that instead of a duology like the book was originally planned to be, it is being made into a trilogy now (WHY do authors/publishers do that??? 🙄). So, honestly, that does not bode well for the next installments. We’ll see. I do hope they are good, but I am certainly not rushing out to read them. Any of y’all read this one? What did you think???
Aww thanks, Cake! And thank you guys!