I had a nagging sense of familiarity while reading this book, and it wasn't until the end that I finally realized what it was. This book reminded me of The Bone Season, and if you know me and my history with that book...it's not a good thing. This was such a disappointment to me, because this had been one of my most eagerly anticipated books for 2014.
It is an overhyped book that underdelivered. It was technically perfect while being completely devoid of emotion, with a convoluted, action-packed plot that made largely no sense. The world building is chock full of strange terminology (minus the glossary), and the world itself is without much context, without much sense. The characters are forgettable, they are merely generically likeable and utterly lacking in personality. It is heavy on a completely unnecessary romance, with a tremendous amount of insta-love. And most importantly, however action-packed it was, I just found myself completely, utterly bored.
I wanted to DNF this book at 25%. I trudged on. I wanted to DNF at 75%. I forced myself on. And honestly, I could have DNFed this at 95% because this book just bored me to all hell, and I did not give a single fuck about any of the characters. The book was so incredibly long and dull that I did not really care about what happened in the end.
Here are some of my problems with this book
The Overly Complicated Plot: It is never, ever a good thing when halfway through the book, I have to go look back at the summary because I wasn't sure what I was reading. Judge my intelligence how you will, but I found this book to be a tremendous confusion-packed mess. Very, very briefly, it goes something like this: We have Meadow, a girl, who lives on a steamboat with her dad and siblings. We have Zephyr, an orphan boy who lives with flelow orphans, picking up bodies. For some reason, there are a whole lot of bodies to be picked up. There's a lot of people just dying, and it's no big deal at all. Meadow is trying to get a job. She gets it by killing a girl (and the job is never, ever mentioned again). People kill each other. Again, nobody cares. Zephyr acts really tragic, he speaks mysteriously about his "secret." We have no idea what the secret is. He dreams of a "moonlit girl" with silvery blonde hair (who is *gasp* Meadow). They run into each other several times, purely out of coincidence. They fall in love. They go chill on a boardwalk (because what else are you supposed to do when you're not picking up the corpses on the street).
Zephyr whispers sweet nothings into Meadow's ears. He tries to kill her.
Yeah. And then there's all this running away and lots of killing and lots of blood and lots of conspiracies.
And we're not even 33% into the book yet. Forget the killings in the book, I was about to be killed by boredom. I don't even fucking know what a Murder Complex is until around 50% into the book. The summary lies. Big time.
The Romance: I understand teenaged hormones, I understand attraction, and I don't throw the word insta-love around unless I feel strongly that it exists: this book is so utterly, completely packed with insta-love and unnecessary romance.
My breath sort of stops, right there in my lungs.
Standing behind the glass...is the person I swear I’ve waited my entire life to see.
There is a time and place for love, and it is not in a dystopia, and the words "I LOVE YOU" should not be uttered when you've seen the person all of a few hours, when the book is not even 33% finished.
I should be mad. I should be angry and embarrassed.
Instead, all I can think is I might love this girl.
Take Zephyr. The insta-love is strong with him. He dreams of a girl...
The stars are out tonight. But the stars aren’t what I want to see right now.
It’s the moon. The moon that reminds me of the moonlit girl.
My moonlit girl. She’s the cure to my nightmares, the one thing that helps me feel safe when I can’t even trust my own dreams to harbor me.
There aren’t many things I want.
But stars, I want the moonlit girl.
"Moonlit girl." "Silvery-blonde" girl. Moonlit girl. MOONLIT GIRL. It is repeated so many times throughout the book that I was sick of it, and I was sick of Zephyr. For fuck's sakes, you have more things to worry about than a girl who appears in your dreams.
"...maybe there’s a chance she’s been dreaming of me, too."
Meadow is no better, for all her claims of being a tough killer.
He is beautiful. Shaggy brown hair sweeps across his face, and I am shocked at how bad I want to touch it.
She shouldn't be thinking this while she's watching the guy BLEED TO DEATH.
It is the kind of love that I, with my practical mind, hates the most. Zephyr's love for Meadow is that of infatuation, that of predestination, that of fate. I don't believe in fated love. I believe that love should be based on friendship, trust, it should be worked on, it should be earned. Zephyr's instantaneous love for Meadow is so completely impractical, so completely unbelievable, so utterly girlish in terms of a serious, blood-filled novel such as this. This book aims to be Nikita, if so, it should really just leave out the sudden, inexplicable romance that truly plays no role in the plot at all.
The Big Event: This is not a spoiler, just something that happened in the past that led up to this future. Let's say that you are a researcher at a lab. You just discovered a new drug. Do you get it onto the market right away? No. Fuck no. We have a fucking thing called the Food and Drug Administration. It takes 5-30 years to get a drug onto the market. You need fucking drug trials. You need fucking human trials. You need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it is completely safe for human consumption. You don't fucking get approval from the government to pump it through the water system right away for the consumption of some 300-million odd Americans. Americans would never fucking go for that shit. Hell, we have enough complaints about the current water supply being infused with fluoride for the good of our teeth. Fuck that shit. There's a thing called the Drug Approval Process and it doesn't get anywhere as convenient as tings happened in this book. Look it up.
The World Building and Terminology: The Dark Times. The Silent Hour. Nanites. Pins. Leeches. Fluxing this, Chumhead that. The Catalogue Dome. Creds. The Initiative. The Plague. The Pulse. Wards. Placement Tests. My head was spinning. It's not even strange terminogy, but it makes no sense out of context, and there is very little context. You know sometimes in college, you have a brain fart and accidentally wander into a huge lecture hall that's not your own (ok, maybe just me) and you're sitting there sweating buckets, wondering why the fuck nothing makes sense? That's how I felt about this book. I was completely immersed into a well-built world that has very little background.
Ok, so we're in the future, there was an event called a pre-Fall that was never really explained. People are dying. Again, no explanation at all for quite some time. The word Murder Complex isn't even mentioned until we're considerably 25% into the book, and even then, it took a whole lot more book space until we find out what it was, and I was completely lost and all the cares I had for this book had flown out the window by the time I got to this point. There are no food. There is a ruling Initiative. There are tons of orphans. There are gangs. And it's not even 20 years into the future.
WAIT, WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Seriously, the world is well built, but there was so very little explanation for the current society, and the past, and the explanation of the past that I found this version of dystopia to be completely forgettable. There was an absolute lack of historical context that would only bypass the most forgiving of readers.
The Confusion: This book is so action-packed that I had trouble keeping track of where they are, and when they are. I just don't know where things are taking place. Zephyr and Meadow are talking, where are they? Fucked if I know. The setting is poorly built in this matter because I just can't get a clear idea of where things are and what is happening.
The Characters: Are inconsistent, are forgettable, and make choices that make no sense at all. Meadow can't make up her mind who she wants to be. She is supposed to be a killer, and we see that. She kills. I admire that. But then she goes around and falls in love and starts kissing a boy seconds before he tries to kill her. And then she gets mad at him, and then forgives him, and then can't make up her mind whether or not she should kiss him or kill him? Fuck that. Her father trained her to be a killer, and Meadow knows that in order for her to survive, she must be a killer. It makes no sense that she is so utterly wishy-washy in her actions, in her choices.
I honestly had a tough time telling which chapters were Zephyr's and which chapters were Meadow's, towards the end of the first half of the book, because their voices blended together and they felt like a single entity instead of one. I think it's more of the fact that Zephyr's voice felt effeminate, and he is such an utterly pale character that I can't be bothered remembering him.
Other characters in the book are completely nonsensical in their decisions. Take Meadow's take-no-prisoner father. He's been training his children to survive since they were small, understandable, but it doesn't really fucking make sense to tell his kids to do something that almost got them killed NUMEROUS times, in fact, they were seconds away from death as children. There are surely better ways of training your children and not lose them in the attempt. I really can't find any liking for the characters in this book.
Convenient Events: I don't want to say deus ex machina, but there you have it. There are WAY too many convenient coincidences in this book. Accidentally climb onto a yacht only to overhear something important? Accidentally discovering the importance of one's mother? Accidentally discovering MORE SHIT? OH, WE JUST HAPPENED TO FIND A CRATE OF WEAPONS. No. No. No. After the 5th such discovery, I just wanted to scream out in frustration.
Boredom: Ok, this is just entirely subjective, but there we have it. I was bored as fuck, and this book was a tremendously long waste of my time.
Overall: a terrible disappointment. Don't buy the hype.
This book was provided to me as an Advance Reader Copy. Quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley and is subject to change in the final edition.