I finished this book not even five minutes ago, and already I’m writing a review. My reviews are never written so quickly, and sometimes they never get written at all, which should tell you something about the depth of my feelings toward this book.
One review here on Goodreads described this book as a gorgeous mess, and you know, that’s totally accurate. Reading this was an incredible amount of work; I wrote in the margins, highlighted bits, and left sticky notes all over this thing. In short, I treated this book pretty much the way I treat the books that get read for my lit classes, and that’s mostly because a book filled with this much attention to detail deserves to get reviewed by someone who loved it so very very much, at the very least. This was not the book I expected. This takes the whole fairy-fantasy genre thing, runs with it for a little bit, and then immediately creates something that feels really new.
Two quotes from the jacket feel super relevant — “this is not a love story” and “this isn’t a fairy tale; this is war.” I am not a fan of romance in books, really, but this book was not about ships or true love or any other tropes that dozens of other books have used and re-used. Don’t let the glittery cover fool you, because this is a violent book. We follow a band of magical teenage creatures who have survived a brutal war, and who now have to navigate the complex politics of a city that is still anything but peaceful. Online, I’ve seen this listed as being for teens 14 and up, and that just blows my mind, because this was such a heavy book. It didn’t shy away from the realities of war — violence, prostitution, grief, PTSD, and racism (there was the whole ethnic cleansing subtext (or maybe it was just text)).
The whole thing was just phenomenal. The unreliable narrator, the way it moves throughout time, even the prose. Just read this: “Another smile from him, this one a little sad, and a word, not for the first time, flashed in Beckan’s mind: disarmed… This, not the bomb site, was where the war first affected Beckan. She was a little fairy who could barely read and the war wormed its way into her words.” This book was just astonishing.
(Also, the epilogue is hilarious and amazing.) (Especially that moment where Beckan speaks for herself at the end.) (Oh, and there is LGBTQIA+ rep in here, and it’s adorable.)