Stars: 5 out of 5
This book is dark and poetic, cruel and poignant, horrifying and fascinating. I loved every page of it, which is rare for a YA book. So I would say this is a YA book done right. No over emphasis on “feelings” and love triangles, but just good old-fashioned storytelling at its best.
The world in this book is fascinating – it’s dark and unforgiving, but has a strange poetic beauty to it as well. This is a single kingdom that is cut out from the rest of the world by a wall of mists that turn anyone who wanders into their midst without a charm insane. And they also slowly choke the land, advancing closer and closer to human habitations, killing the crops and blocking out the sun. Oh, and some citizens get the fever and acquire magical abilities, which in this kingdom is a certain death sentence not only for the infected, but for their family as well, if they hide them from the King’s justice.
Oh, and magic in this world has a price. Any sort of magic, even the Providence Cards, exact a bloody price from the user. Nothing is free, and the reckoning always comes. I loved that! I’ve read too many books were magic is seemingly effortless and free for the caster, as if creating something out of nothing is a perfectly normal occurrence. Having magic exact a price is a refreshing change. That way there is a balance – a magic user can do terrible things in this world, but the price to pay would be just as terrible.
I also really liked the characters, especially Elspeth. All her actions and reactions made sense. She wasn’t the Chosen one, or a special snowflake. She was real and very human, and very very flawed. And she was lost and battling her own personal Nightmare, a loosing battle, I must say. I also liked how she slowly changed in this book from only caring about staying safe and hidden to actually embracing a dangerous cause. Yes, she’d done it at first because she wanted to be cured of her affliction, but by the end of the book she gives in to the Nightmare, fully knowing that she would be lost, for the hope that by her actions she can save others.
The writing is also very engaging. It’s rather poetic at times. I found myself repeating some sentences out loud just because they had a certain hypnotic rhythm to them. I think this adds to the slightly surreal and dreamlike impression that this book gives. A kingdom shrouded by mists where monsters dwell. And sometimes monsters wear human clothing…
I would say that my only complaint is that I didn’t like Elspeth’s love interest as much as any other characters. Ravyn isn’t bad per se… He is just blah. Dark and brooding with a hidden heart of gold – we’ve seen that done a hundred times over. He gets lost in the background any time Elm or Emory or even Ione are in the scene. And honestly, Elspeth had a lot more chemistry with all of them instead of Ravyn.
Other than that, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, because there are a lot of unanswered questions left in the story and some rather unpleasant revelations. I also want to know what happened to the Shepherd King to turn him into the monster he became. Oh, and the events at the end of the book 1 definitely need an answer. It’s not a cliffhanger, by any means, it’s just not a happy ending you would expect from YA. Then again, this is not a world that thrives on happy endings.
PS: I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.