As some of you may know, YA sci-fi has a history of disappointing me. Today, I’m reviewing two very different YA sci-fi books that sadly weren’t an exception.
What happens when authors run out of ideas? Books like Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.
I’m not here to read a recycled plotline that follows basically the same beats as the first two books with some equally bland straight teen characters. It was Kady and Ezra, then Nik and Hanna, and now it’s Asha and Rhys, but really, you could swap them and not that much would change.
The only reason this series works is the format, which was a cool idea during book one, but it got old really fast, and everything else about this book – the characters, the plot, the worldbuilding – was both subpar and cliché.
Constantly killing or harming children for shock value doesn’t make your book deeper, it makes it cheap. And so does killing thousands of characters we’ve never met/we barely know while the main characters never die – because being a teen in love in a YA book means being invincible. You’ve done that so many times before, and since all these people are dying, am I really supposed to care about the straight romantic drama?
Even AIDAN couldn’t save this twice-reheated soup of a book.
I don’t have much else to say, because I ended up skimming most of Obsidio out of boredom. The most interesting thing about this was the mixed media format, but even that let me down in this book – there were far too many surveillance camera transcriptions and those just weren’t that interesting to read.
My rating: ★¼
Mirage is the first book in a sci-fi series set in an universe inspired by Moroccan history, and the thing I liked the most about it was the setting itself: I’ve never read anything similar. Not only the “North African royal palaces in space” aesthetic was perfect and the descriptions of its intricate details were beautiful, it’s also a great set-up for a detailed exploration of colonization.
YA sci-fi worldbuilding often disappoints me because of its vagueness and its formulaic nature, but it wasn’t the case here.
Mirage is about the effects colonization has on a culture. It talks about symbols, language, clothes, food, stories that get lost and stories that are passed on anyway, even about religion. It also talks about internalized prejudices and self-hate with the storyline of Maram, the cruel biracial princess who is raised as Vath by the Vath even though they will never see her as such.
It’s a very well-written, complex book and one of the least formulaic YA novels I’ve read in a while, and yet I can’t say I enjoyed reading it.
I loved the middle of this book. I know that some might find it slow, or that they might find the romance somewhat instalove-y, but that wasn’t the case for me. I liked that the middle of this book was relatively calm without losing its tension, because that meant I could happily devour the beautiful descriptions while not having to worry about the characters immediately dying, but without losing my interest in the plot either.
However, I really disliked reading all the parts that involved action. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with them, I just couldn’t read them. I don’t know why, I thought about postponing this review until I understood, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I just know that I skimmed both the beginning and the ending, when I have read far more violent and hopeless things in the past without any issue. I think it has to do with “the main character is in a place where she’s forced to do things she finds painful and/or humiliating” thing I’m struggling to read in books recently. It’s not the book’s fault in any way, but it did make me enjoy it less.
[It’s been a few days since I finished this book and I realized that one of the reasons I was bored during the second half is that I felt like I never really got to know the characters. I was expecting that with Maram, as she’s supposed to be kind of a mystery, but both Amani and Idris fell flat for me and they shouldn’t have.]
My rating: ★★★¾