For me, hype can be a good and a bad thing for me. Usually, I dislike books who get a lot of hype. Especially YA. I thought that would be the case with this book, but, in the end, it was a solid book with things that I really didn’t like and things that I did.
Monty was my biggest issue. I absolutely hated him at first. He was all about sex and booze and angst. I hate all of those things. (Well, not booze, but not drunkenness.) I literally hate books that have too much sex. That’s usually why I DNF a book and I was so close to it with this one all because of Monty. Cocky, drunken, and seemed to just draw angst to him when he had a pretty damn good life when you look at it.
However, he grew on me. Once he went through the realities of life and faced his problems — alcoholism and promiscuity that were meant to cover up his real issues — I understood him. And I thought that the author did a great job by not shying away from mental illness and the things people do to try and get away from it.
For most of the book, Percy was the book’s saving grace. I absolutely loved him. He was kind and sweet, the exact opposite of Monty. I really attached to him and I would have continued on with the book just to find out about him and his story arch. Even if angst was slowly going into his story as well. The biggest thing I loved was about Percy was, yet again, how the author didn’t shy away from the gritty realities of Percy’s life since he is a black man in a very racist time period. Nothing got glossed over, even when it involved Monty.
Finally, there’s Felicity. In my first outline of this, when I still thought that I was going to DNF, I only had one sentence under her name: “I want more.” And, I got it. Her aspirations were great and, I think, probably reflected what some women did want. She completely off-set both of the boys. Strong where they were weak. Focused where they were distracted. Annoyed where they were passive. She worked, bringing out things with both of the boys as well as accenting her own character. I’m excited about the second book, to see where she goes and how much more she’ll develop.
As for the plot, the beginning worried me. It was all angst of many sorts, mainly with Monty against everyone and then the whole will-they-won’t-they thing between Monty and Percy. Sex, drinking, angst. The perfect recipe to get me to stop reading a book since I thought it was going to be just that. For a little over 500 pages.
Then there were suddenly pirates and capture and highway men and alchemy. It got way more interesting and there was suddenly much more than a will-they-won’t-they plot. Admittedly, the supernatural aspects were really trying for me. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough when it had been such a realistic book so far and then, suddenly, there were, more or less, supernatural themes coming into the story that stuck around.
Now we arrive at something that was inevitable and everyone will hate me for. Historical stuff. First, the time period. I still don’t even know what year it was or even what decade. I literally had to look up when the Grand Tour started and ended, so I had to make an educated that it was in the early- to mid-1700s. There was still a French king, a sick one at that, so it couldn’t have been past the 1770s. For me, it would have added something to the story to know at least what decade they were in. What was going on around the world and those things.
Second, racism. It was accurate, for sure. I thought that the author was great with it, showing both hostile and benevolent racism. There were things that I recognized and still things that you can hear if you listen closely. However, I found it really hard to believe that Monty would never have noticed some of the things that he was ignorant to. Now, I get it. He was privileged and people aren’t inherently racist, but when the whole world around you believes certain things, you’ll notice that your ideas don’t quite line up.
Lastly, Monty’s sexuality. I’m going to say this first: I know that people were bisexual back then (although that wasn’t a term given since it wasn’t a label until recently). Just like with the racism, the author was great about showing people reacting as they would have back then. Using religion as a justification for why it’s wrong. Being horrified. Mocking. Just, I found it hard to believe that Monty wouldn’t have internalized some of those things. It felt a touch anachronistic, but not to a point where it detracted from the story.
What I’m left with is thinking that this was a solid book. I loved some parts. I hated some. I’m probably going to read the second book since, by the end, I did like it.