Stars: 5 out of 5.
Well, this book tugged at my heartstrings from the beginning till the end. I honestly didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I always say that I don’t particularly enjoy books with unlikeable characters I can’t empathize with. Well this book proved me wrong. Turns out, I do enjoy unlikeable characters when they feel like fleshed-out human beings.
Yorick is a mess. He has so much suppressed trauma that he is a self-destructive mess. Most of the things he does to himself and to others are rather horrible and make him unlikeable… but you can’t help but feel empathy for the guy. The more you learn about his past, the more you understand why he is so messed up. And returning to Ymir, which is the place of his nightmares, only triggers all those memories, all that trauma. No wonder he spirals. I would as well.
I also really liked the world of Ymir. It feels foreign, unforgiving, but also like home to the people who chose to live there. And the author did a great job illustrating that by creating a culture and traditions for those people that are very different from what “company men” bring to the table. The wake for the dead was fascinating. The dirges and ballads and the folklore about spirits and the underworld, when layered on top of this cold and starless world, paints a harsh but beautiful picture of Ymir. These details make the reader understand that the people who call this world their home will never be subjugated like the company wants. They are too proud and independent to bend the knee, no matter what the algorithm thinks.
And the story of Yorick and Thello is heartbreaking as well. They both did the things they did because they loved each other and wanted to create a better life for each other. Problem was, they saw what that better life could be very differently. Yorick decided that the only way to survive abuse was to become tougher and meaner than his abusers, not realizing until too late that by doing so he became no better than them. And that he lost the person he loved the most – his brother, along the way. He tries to repair at least some damage that he’s done once he realizes the truth.
I love that there is no happy ending at the end of this book. No big teary reunion with hugs and declarations of love and forgiveness. There is too much hurt between the two bothers for that. There is silent acceptance of things as they are, and that’s the best these two can hope for. There is also no real resolution for Ymir either. Yes, the grendel disrupted the Company’s systems when it left, but was that only on Ymir or everywhere? And what comes now? After all, the company wasn’t all bad. It also brought progress, technology, and access to things that made the life on this harsh planet fore bearable.
In fact, this ending is just the beginning of another story, and I will be interested to see if the author will continue with it, and where he would take it.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.