Ebook, 336 Pages
By: Naomi Novik
Rating: 🌟🌟 1/2
I just went through some reviews before starting this reviews and I am seeing a lot of “I am a big Naomi Novik fan but this was not for me/ DNFed/ not as good as her other books”. Personally, I preferred this over Uprooted and Spinning Silver but I still am giving it 2.5 stars. The book has been the center of a recent drama while I was reading it this week and I will touch upon that in this review a bit.
My biggest problem with Novik’s novel is the writing, I just think her prose is very over descriptive, boring and suffocating. It needs effort to go through her books which makes reading them more of a chore which means an instant DNF for me these days. This novel had a better writing and I decided to give the author a 3rd chance -Which I never do- because my bookish friends insisted that it sounds good and that her books are fun to read.
The book does sound good and it has a very intriguing synopsis but I think we have very mediocre/ weak execution here which I find surprising for an author who has been doing this for years. The book basically revolves around a magical school where students go to study without teachers and learn to protect themselves from all kind of creatures that want to kill them. I am not gonna compare this to HP because not every magical school novel should be automatically compared to HP and because Rowling does not have the copyrights for this kind of stories and there have been magical schools and will always be in stories. But what I am gonna say is that I am a big fan of the school trope and that’s the main reason I decided to give this a chance. This year I have read some great magical school books -not intentionally- including The Name of the Wind, Ink and Bone, Master of Sorrows. I even recently finished Once and Future Witches which does not have a magical school but has plenty of magic. This was very meh compared to that for many reasons including characterization, plot, and world-building as I am explaining next.
“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met. You’re welcome again, by the way.”
Our main character Galadriel or El (I am gonna use El in the rest of this review) is a very unlikable character and I have always said that some people are rude and unlikable in real life so I can expect to see them in stories. The problem with El is that she insists on being rude and unlikable throughout the story, characters deserve to grow hrough the story and maybe if she was improving then that would have redeemed her as slightly more likable but hell no, she thinks she is so special and she keeps talking about her super dark powers but it is all talk. And speaking of talking, I think this books suffer from telling rather than showing and this is not exclusive to the characters but also world-building. The rest of the characters are flat too so I know I will have forgotten everyone comes next weekend. The controversy surrounding the book was mostly about the characters and how the represnetation is bad and hurtful for some readers. I think people exaggerated and I did not feel much about the characters anyway because as I said above they were flat. This is very subjective and I am someone who hardly is offended by this kind of things so I can’t say that I found it offending. At the same time, different readers process books differenlty and to each their own, if you think this is racist/ has microaggressions or is not for youu then please saty away from it.
“Or if you’re me, you can suck the life force out of a dozen kids and then incinerate half the school with you inside it. So helpful!”
Here is El telling us about how powerful she is again. Yet the whole time I was reading this, I wish that I felt that. Whenever she was in trouble, she would get confused and nervous, cast a spell that apparently does nothing at first and then the monster suddenly dies!
This telling extends to the spells which is supposed to be the exciting part of the book, but the whole professor-less thing did not work out very well because classes and the teacher-student dynamic are very important in this type of stories and it was absent here. I still don’t understand what is the point of the school then and although it was explained a couple of times in the story, I was not convinced. Here is an explanation of a spell and I don’t know why a one or two words incantation is not enough these days!
“Clarita’s shield spell was fundamentally designed to be cast by multiple people, to cover a group. It wove between English and Spanish, and read almost like a song, or a play with different roles for each caster: there were lines and verses that we could cast either solo or together, chaining them together one after another, so we could all take a breather now and then, and the lines weren’t even nailed down-”
At the beginning I think the book had potential but the more I read, the more problems I could spot and the less excited I was. At the end I was reading and skimming because I reached the place where I just wanted to finish. The book did end up in a cliffhanger and I want to know what happens but I think I will ask one of my friends to spoil it for me because I won’t be continuing this series unfortunately.
Summary: A story with a good potential but bad execution. The characters were flat, there was a lot of telling rather than showing and I kind of lost interest toward the end of the book. If you are a Novik fan then definitely read this but if you are not like me, then this won’t change much.