YA isn’t my go-to genre, but I’ve heard so many good things about this book that I had to give it a try. And, what I found, is that this isn’t a “great” book. It’s mainly good. At times, it’s great. At other times, it really sucks. So, this is going to be a good mix of good and bad opinions of this.
Let’s start with Lada. The main character. She’s a female version of Vlad the Impaler. I’m all for making “what if” stories. What if Vlad the Impaler was a girl? How would that change things? Super interesting. My biggest thing is that… Lada sucked. I expected her to do this to me:
I expected to be terrified of her and also weirdly rooting for her. Sort of like Jorg from The Prince of Thorns. Utterly scared, never would want to meet her in my life, yet rooting for her to get her way.
However, this is what I was actually like towards Lada:
She annoyed the hell out of me. I have no issue with characters who are utterly insane and crazy and also strong, but her weaknesses were so annoying. Like, yes, I get it. You have rather severe gender dysphoria (more on that in a second). I don’t need to be reminded every single damn time some guy shows an interest in you on some level or you realize again that you are a woman.
Gender dysphoria is typically seen as a problem that transgender individuals have. It’s marked by severe discomfort with the incongruity between your biological sex and gender identity. I am not saying that Lada is transgender. Applying a modern concept to the past where that just wasn’t a social construct is pointless and idiotic. It was done so well that it bothered me, so props to White there. Not a lot of cispeople can write gender dysphoria well.
Yet, it distracted me from the story. Every time she freaked out about being a woman, it just brought me out and I had to set it down because it bothered me. It added a lot to her character, but it was so awkwardly handled. Written beautifully, but awkwardly handled. All of a sudden, she stopped being so dysphoric without any reason why it was resolved.
Second on my list of grievances, it was distinctly YA. Aka, love triangles. And weird ones, too.
There are two love triangles in this.
I liked both of them, however… needed? Were they truly needed for the story in the long run? I’ll have to wait for the sequel to find that out, but it annoyed me since I don’t particularly need love triangles in my life.
Third, this book is all exposition. So, 37% of it is literally setting the stage for later things. Then, when you look at the book in the long-run, it’s setting the stage for the sequel. That is not plot. A plot is a distinct story for the book, not literally setting the stage for the ending. Good books hold both and this did at times, but it was so long and winding that I couldn’t keep a grasp on it.
As I said, I’m going to read the sequel. This book and the characters have a lot of promise to them. The ending interests me since I do want to see how the series progresses. However, this wasn’t a strong start in my opinion. Many people will disagree with me, I know, but it could have been a lot better. Too much hype and too little follow through.