I was given an eARC by the publishers through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It has not impacted my thoughts.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 2.5 stars Series: Standalone
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
My main problem with this book was the pacing. It was so slow and nothing happened for much of the book. It suits the lyrical style of the book, but it meant it didn’t feel like a book with a plot, rather a set of vignettes loosely tied together in a biographical way.
January didn’t appear to have a goal, a desire – or anything to work towards. She simply reacted to the world around her, in a rather passive way. Until half way through, there felt like there was no threat beyond a disapproving guardian. Even after this action point, it still took until two-thirds until the plot really picked up, and it felt like something was happening (though she could have been less passive).
Without a goal or real opposition, there was no reason to root for the main character – nothing for her to do, so no need to want her to succeed.
Also, the villain actually monologues – backstory and motivation. I was really struggling to read that part, to keep from rolling my eyes and telling her just to end it rather than listen.
After a few chapters, once she’s found the book, there’s a sudden POV change as we read the book alongside January. It was so jarring. At first it was written like a monograph then an actual story, with a parallel set of chapter numbers. We alternate between the book and January for much of the story. There’s a very different POV, and the tone is so different. The tone within the book itself isn’t consistent. It’s supposed to represent a change in the author and the revelation of the book, I guess, but it was so hard to follow as it didn’t feel like the same book – but just yet another shift in POV.
While the book does expand on a crucial plot point, give the backstory and (at points) a more interesting story line to follow, it’s so obviously an exposition dump of the world, its magic system and the backstory.
There are also footnotes in the book. I find footnotes a little gimmicky and detracting from a story in physical form. I didn’t bother with them in the ebook, because I’d have to hyperlink jump to the footnotes at the end of the book, then find my way back.
Read my reviews of other books by Alix E. Harrow:
- A SPINDLE SPLINTERED and A MIRROR MENDED (#1 and #2)