Three stars as a rating can mean so many things! They’re often either 1) a book I had no expectation for that ended up being good but not great or 2) a book I was expecting to love that ended up being good but not as good as I wanted it to be.
Today, book one is category #2, book two is category #1, and book three is neither.
Anna-Marie McLemore has improved a lot since her debut.
She’s one of my favorite authors, she has written one of my favorite books ever (When the Moon Was Ours) and another I really liked (Wild Beauty). This one, however, just wasn’t as good. It lacked the grace that I associate with McLemore’s writing, and the meticulous attention to details that I love about her books.
This is not to say The Weight of Feathers isn’t a solid, beautifully-written book. It is, but the combination of my expectations and some tropes I don’t care much about – have I ever really cared about a forbidden Romeo-and-Juliet situation in my reading life – meant that I ended up not feeling strongly about it, hence the three stars.
Another thing that didn’t really work for me was the ending. I’m not at my best lately, so it may be just me, but I found some of the things that happened somewhat confusing and the story felt very open-ended. Especially the whole evil chemical plant thing. Maybe I did really miss something.
Also, it took me half of this book to accept that the male main character was called Cluck, which is probably the worst name in YA lit, a genre full of Caelaeneas and Evelayns. Not only it’s ugly, it’s also apparently a slang word for drug addict? Why did this happen
I know this review sounded negative so far, but I did like some parts of this. The atmosphere was wonderful, and the romance, while it wasn’t really my kind of thing, was well-written. Reading about two feuding, traveling families (one that performs as mermaids, the other as faeries) was really interesting – even though this is oddly not the first book I’ve read about a latinx performing mermaid.
This book also says some really interesting things about prejudice and getting out of a toxic family situation. (Be aware that this book has an explicit portrayal of physical abuse. It’s also full of challenged anti-Romani slurs)
Anyway, this was good but not that memorable, and I hope I’ll be able to get to Blanca & Roja this month too because I’m sure I’m going to love it.
My rating: ★★★¼
This wasn’t perfect, but queer fiction about fighting bigots is the best kind of fiction.
Creatures of Want and Ruin follows Ellie, a moonshine smuggler in prohibition-era Long Island. She is a polyamorous woman in an open relationship with a bisexual man, and in this story she will have to fight demon-raising bigots masquerading as religious people with the help of her diverse group of friends.
I thought I wasn’t going to like this book. I DNFed its companion prequel earlier this year, and I still don’t recommend it, but the good thing is that you don’t need to read it to understand this one. It’s just set in the same world, but it feels darker, and it features really creepy fungi that almost feel lovecraftian.
I thought this book said some really interesting things about what it’s like to love a place even though the people who live there with you hate everything you stand for. Bigots are people who project their insecurities on people who – according to them – don’t belong there, but just because there are bigots, it doesn’t mean the place you grew up is any less a part of you, any less yours.
This book also talked about how bigotry works in general, and it was really interesting – and heartbreaking – to read.
However, there were many things I didn’t love about Creatures of Want and Ruin. First of all, it’s full of infodumps, and the main reason I read this book so quickly is that I skimmed a lot. Also, I didn’t like how a certain disabled character is basically used as a plot device throughout the entire story.
This story is told through two PoVs: Ellie’s and Fin’s. Fin’s just wasn’t as interesting, I didn’t care about her failed marriage – the resolution of that was obvious from the start – but I did end up liking how she and Ellie became allies. I also liked the side characters, there was black and Cuban side representation here.
My rating: ★★★
What The Consuming Fire lacks in depth, it makes up for in entertainment and solid plotting.
While reading this sequel, I finally understood what exactly wasn’t working for me when I reread – and loved a lot less – The Collapsing Empire. It’s about the relationships. And with that I do not mean only the romance, even though it’s part of the problem.
Every relationship the characters have in this book has basically no depth to it, even when the character involved aren’t completely flat (and they often are).
In this installment, Marce and Cardenia like each other because… plot? Because they’re a man and a woman? I don’t know, and it’s been a while since I read a relationship so lacking in chemistry, and it’s not like Kiva Lagos (whom I love) and her female love interest are that much more convincing either. Yes, I love that there was bisexual rep and an f/f relationship, but the romantic subplots are flat and the author didn’t convince me that any of the characters were even only physically attracted to anyone. The “friendships” and mother-daughter relationship do not feel fleshed out in any way either.
Which is a shame, because this series is so much fun. It’s such a wild ride, I couldn’t stop reading, and the plot twists truly surprised me. It’s twisted and political and full of intrigue and all the things I love. I only wish it wasn’t so plot-driven it’s almost impossible to actually get attached to anyone.
It even says a lot of interesting things about how societies and empires work, and about the role of religion in empires. The thing is, fast-paced fun books with flat characters and character interactions don’t feel as fast-paced and fun when you reread them, and this means this series will ultimately end up being forgettable, no matter the interesting worldbuilding, themes and plot.
My rating: ★★★¼