Mulan would fucking NEVER. Screw the love triangle. Screw the overwhelming romance. This is not a fantasy book. This is a love story. Don't look for anything beyond that.
Hearts flutters. Desire courses. Cheeks flush. Blood flows overwhelmingly to the penis instead of the brain. WHERE IS MY PROMISED MULAN?!
I am just so bloody tired of so-called bad-ass heroines who do fucking nothing to prove that they're capable. I am so fucking sick of heroines who spend their supposedly ass-kicking selves sobbing and crying and fucking feeeeeeeeeeling things and checking out her fellow half-naked soldiers wondering things like, my god, how did I not notice how fucking HOT his body looks when he's dripping with sweat! It's a fucking reverse harem!
Let's just overlook the fact that there are fucking rape farm/breeding houses for a moment, because there are bigger problems at play here. Yeah, you heard me. Breeding houses. Rest assured, there will be a rant on that, with many words starting with F and ending in UCK, but for now, let's stick to the main issue at hand, which is to say, the problem with this book is the fact that it is a goddamned romance and nothing more, complete with much sighing, much longing, much "I CAN SEE HIS SOUL THOUGH HIS EYES" crap and a love triangle. If you took away all the breaths that goes aflutter and the pitterpatter of fucking heartbeats, this book would be around 50 pages instead of the original 300+.
I had high hopes for this book. You know why I'm making so many random Mulan references? Because that's what this book promised me, in a goddamned nutshell. Come on, now. A girl disguised as a boy, serving as a soldier. The parallels are obvious. But no. Mulan has a good head on her shoulders. Alexa's head is so high up her ass that it actually reaches her heart, and that's my only explanation for the overwhelming amount of romance in this book.
I wanted this:
I got this:
Summary: Alex is actually Alexa, a 17-year old girl, disguised as a 20-year old man in the army. She and her twin brother, Marcel, has been soldiers assigned to serve as Prince Damian's guards. Years ago, a foreign army invaded their land, and the only option for Alexa was to disguise herself as a boy so she could join the king's army, otherwise, she would be forced into a breeding house.
Alexa is special. Skilled. Spectacularly skilled. Blessed with extraordinary fighting skills, as her brother would say. She can even beat her bigger brother in a fight. Hell, she can beat every fucking soldier in the squad. Because she's really, really special. And talented. And Rylan, yummy Rylan with his chocolate brown eyes, thinks so, too!
Alexa is in service to Prince Damian. He's an asshole (a gorgeous asshole, naturally). He parties all day. He has women throwing themselves at him (Well, women who aren't in the breeding houses, that is. Still no fucking idea how that works.) Prince Damian is a complete asshole, son of the motherfucking tyrant king, but Alexa knows that under his dirtbag interior, there's more to him. She can see the gentleness in his eyes, she can see it in the way he tilts his head, she can see it in the swirling pattern of the shit he takes in the outhouse. The fact that he acts like a douchebag means absolutely nothing at all.
Marcel dies right away! Well, that's so fucking convenient! Because now Alexa gets to be aaaaall alone with Prince Damian! They're so close! She gets to guard his bed! She gets to be around him all the time! She gets to see him half-naked, glistening in sweat! And man, is that fucking Damian a yummy dish! MUST. STOP. BLUSHING. BECAUSE. SOLDIERS. DON'T. BLUSH.
She thinks he sees interest in Damian's eyes, which, to a reasonable person would mean that Damian is gay, since Alexa is under disguise as a MAN, after all, but fuck common sense, right?
Alexa spends days, nights guarding Damian, thinking of him, bonding with him, getting closer to him, seeing his well-defined abdominals, dreamily interpreting and overthinking every fucking thing he says and does. She gets to go on a secret mission with Rylan, the yummy chocolate-eyed guard! She gets closer to him. She feels the camaraderie---the...love? Wait, can this be love? But what about Damian! How does Alexa get close to Damian?
But then they get kidnapped! There's danger! There's intrigue! There's more opportunities for Rylan and Damian to get closer to Alexa as they travel through the hot, humid jungle! And what does heat and humidity mean? TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES, RYLAN AND DAMIAN! YEAH! Clothing optional: because I swear that the guys in this book spend more time half-naked than the entire pack of Forks werewolves put together. Jacob Black would be ashamed.
Does the friendly, protective Rylan mean more to Alexa than the handsome, intriguing, mysterious Prince Damian? How will Alexa ever choose?!
And the fate of the nation rests upon Alexa! Wait. Where the fuck did that come from?
The EMOTIONS: Mulan would never fucking pull half the shit this stupid chick does. Mulan is a fucking master of disguise compared to Alexa.
This is me (in a very unfortunate sparkly photo booth):
I would actually be a more convincing man than Alexa, because half the fucking cast guesses that she's a girl. Why? SHE BLUSHES, SHE FLUSHES, HER HEART FLUTTERS, SHE GETS FLUSTERED. Soldiers would never. Mulan would never! Let's see, throughout the book. Alexa can hardly "keep from blushing. "[Her] heartbeat was probably visible in [her neck], it was pounding so hard." Her neck grows hot. Her cheeks flush. Her heartbeat flutters. Her emotions are welling underneath the surface. FUCKING ENOUGH ALREADY. Is all this shit supposed to prove to me that you are a fucking warrior? I don't bloody think so.
I understand the need to be feminine, that feminity does not disappear under the guise of a man. That clothing does not hide who you are, regardless, there is a fucking time and place for your fucking emotions and your thoughts of romantic love, so leave that shit elsewhere because I don't fucking want it. I want a bad-ass heroine who knows her duty. I want a kick-ass chick who can suppress her emotions enough to get shit done. Alexa proves to me nothing. Throughout her painful narrative, all I got from Alexa is a girl who wants to frolic in a field of flowers with her douchebag prince while her fellow soldier stands posing half-naked on the side. I see a girl whose emotions, whose need for romance gets the better of her, and really, fuck that shit. It has no place in a book where the plot is supposed to be important.
Her emotions. ALEXA'S FUCKING EMOTIONS FOR HER LOVER(S). They are all over the goddamned place. Is it a problem? YES, IT IS. She shouldn't be focusing on whether she's falling in love with Prince Damian or Rylan when her identity is at stake, when a war is in progress, when the fate of so many people lies in question. Alexa can't seem to think beyond her needs and her feeeeeeeeelings. Want some examples? I'll give you some examples.
Her heart beats, oh, how her fucking heart beats all the fucking time, so much that I just wanted to rip it from her stupid fucking chest. Alexa's heart (all quotes from the book) "pounds" (many times), "constricts," "beats erratically," "thudded," "skipped a beat," "lurched unwittingly," "beats harder," "raced," "jumped into her throat," "skids a bit," "leaped into her throat," "beat unevenly," "raced," "constricted," "pounded," ""flopped like a wounded animal," "leaped into my throat." Ok, I'll stop there. That's around half the book. HALF. THE. BOOK.
Her blood: "pulsed hot through her veins", "pulsed hot through her body" (several times).
Her cheeks: "felt flushed" "blushed" (so many times), "grew warm with shame," "flamed" (multiple times), "burned," "grew hot again," "grows hot."
She cries. She bawls. She runs away when her emotions for the two guys get the better of her (when they're in the motherfucking jungle). Her eyes "burned with tears," "tears ran down her cheeks," she "swallows her tears." She's a fucking Kleenex commercial. She cries so many times that I frankly got sick of it. I don't fucking care. I understand that emotions get the better of people sometimes, but seriously, choke it down. I want a warrior who can control her emotions. I don't want you to cry like a motherfucking pussy when the boy you love lies to you.
Her priorities are just plain fucking wrong. In the middle of the fucking forest, she wonders:
This is a disaster
Oh! Yay! A disaster! Why is it a disaster? I can think of a few reasons why, because they're kind of in a precarious situation. Like they were just kidnapped, they're traveling in the jungle. They're afraid for their lives. Surely, THIS IS THE DISASTER ALEXA TO WHICH ALEXA IS REFERRING.
Wrong. Why is it a disaster?
[Rylan] wouldn't meet my gaze, and my stomach clenched. But Damian looked straight at me, and his expression was one of confusion, even hurt.
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME? Your life is in danger, and you're concerned about two boys fighting over you like two alpha wolves fighting over which tree they get to fucking piss on first?
Mulan would fucking NEVER.
The Setting: Rape houses?! Really? Fucking seriously? WHY?! I might understand it if there was a reason behind it, if there was a compelling plot issue behind it, but no. The inclusion of the rape/breeding houses was absolutely pointless. It is mentioned only several times throughout the book. Seriously, it is pointless. It is a tool of fear, and I hate the fact that sexual violence is used as the major threat of oppression. There are so many factors at play in a crual regime such as this, and there was absolutely no point to the rape houses.
So there actually was a point to the rape houses, according to the book. They are used to breed soldiers. What the actual FUCK, people? That doesn't even fucking make sense. According to the book, the king's evil war-bound regime started somewhere around the time of Alexa's birth, which wasn't even fucking 20 years ago. In all that time, the only tool in his arsenal to create more soldiers is to make breeding houses, where women are imprisoned as soon as they get their first period and are forced to spend their entire fertile lives breeding new soldiers for the king's army?! That makes no fucking sense. You could kidnap soldiers from other countries. You could train your own soldiers really well. Or you could piss off your fucking entire nation and invest 10-15 years into a war that you are losing while you're waiting for your future army to grow up? Seriously?!
Children are not sprung forth from Zeus' forehead, fully grown, fully fucking able to fight. This ain't Greek mythology, these are people, not gods. Even if you wanted fucking child soldiers, it would take 10-15 years to get them anywhere ready to fight. And to piss off your entire nation like that? Why?! You are fucking all your people (literally and figuratively) for no reason at all. You fucking expect me to believe that? That men are willing to send their wives, daughters, sisters, nieces, off into these houses to be raped their entire lives, to be killed by childbirth, be terrorized, and do absolutely jack shit about it? How fucking dumb do you think I am?
Take a culture of extremism. Take Afghanistan. Take the Taliban. Yeah, they oppress their women. They don't educate them. But do you really fucking think that all the men would do nothing if all their women were taken away to be raped constantly? I don't fucking think so. There is always a line.
And this concept isn't even constant. The setting itself is so poorly done. You have 3 nations, one of them is a quasi-Chinese one, and all of them are so poorly described that I have no sense of nationality, no sense of what differentiates them, no sense of why they are fighting amongst each other. I don't know their society. We are mainly in the country of Antion. I know nothing of Antion culture. I know nothing of Antion history. I know nothing about the people of Antion besides the fact that they are constantly at way.
Think of it this way, I am neophyte to geography, to history. You give me 3 nations: Ireland, England, Wales. How the FUCK do I distinguish between them if I know nothing about them but the fact that they're relatively close to each other? The world building is so incredibly vague in this book. There is largely no history, there is no explanation for anything. The magical system is completely basic, BOOM! Magic! Some people haz it, some people don't! There you go! Take it, swallow it, be thankful for it because you ain't given any more than that.
I don't know how and WHY certain women are allowed to go around dancing in the court and fucking Prince Damian while the rest (god knows how many they are) are forced into these breeding houses. Screw this world. It is faker than Kim Kardashian's plastic ass, just as believable (and nowhere as inviting).
The Romance: FUCK THAT LOVE TRIANGLE. FUCK THAT. The entire book is filled to the brim of Alexa's wavering heart between the unfortunate friend-zoned Rylan and the douchetastic Prince Damian, who has an "exquisite exterior," as well as an exquisite posterior. The entire book is filled with Rylar's pained protestations of love (love, not like) for Alexa, and Prince Damian's runs-cold-then-hot gestures of love (love, not like) for Alexa. Love! Love! LOVE! SOOOOOOOOOO much love. She admires their well-muscled body, their shirtless moments, seriously, the guys in Playgirl wear more clothing than Damian and Rylan.
"I almost cried again. I could no longer deny that I was falling for him---so fast and so hard it scared me. But I had feelings for Rylan, too---he was the closest friend I'd had at the palace."
Priorities. Why do you not have them, Alexa? You have a motherfucking country to save.
Alexa is a psychic. Well, actually, she's not a psychic, but I'm convinced she is one. You see, she feeeeels things. She seeeeeees things. Prince Damian is a douche. He has always been a douche, but in his eyes, Alexa sees that there's something more. She sees that he's a kindly person because his eyes says so. She feels that he is a gentle soul because of the way he bends his head. She sees that he loves bunnies, puppies, and small children according to the way he hesitates before talking to her. She knows that underneath his cruel front, Prince Damian is the king the country needs, because his farts smell like Calvin Klein Eternity.
STOP SEEING STUPID SHIT IN PEOPLE'S EYES. Actions! Actions speak louder than words, people. I hate it when people seeeeees through others' souls in books. Eyes tell you nothing. I once dated a guy who told me that we were meant to be together. He said that he knew I felt the same way, because my eyes were looking into his soul.
I was actually thinking of what I would be doing that night when I got home and played on my priest character in World of Warcraft. That was our last date.
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy. All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley and is subject to change in the final edition