I am disappointed.
This could have been so much richer, so much more vibrant and complex. The world-building has such great potential – the four Londons (Grey, Red, White, and Black, in that order) are all interwoven into a magical tapestry. They each have their own relationship to magic that is integral to their world. An Antari, Kell, who has a mysterious past (sigh), is able to slip through these worlds – which is something that no one else can do.
When this all falls apart is, honestly, with the character Lila Bard.
Okay, I am being a little harsh. However, I can pinpoint the precise moment that this novel destroyed itself for me. I talk about it in another one of my posts, but I’ll sum up for those that are lazy: there is a magic stone. Lila, the thief, nabs it from Kell, Kell pursues her and attempts to get it back, she realizes it’s magical, creates a sword, among other things and, after a scuffle and Kell’s retreat with the stone, decides she does not want the sword anymore – it’s calling to her magically, and she THROWS IT OUT THE DAMN WINDOW.
I will let you, dear reader, decide for yourself the myriad of reasons why that is a problem.
Now, I get it, V.E. Schwab wanted us, the readers, to understand that things made with the stone are not good – that they can cause wanton destruction, because a drunkard then finds the sword, it turns on him and plunges through his stomach, leaving him dead – but more like some magical zombie thing. Excellent. Understood.
The problem with this is that it is really lazy writing. Kind of like when you are watching a TV show and they throw an incredible amount of exposition at you. It’s not there for the reader to decide – oh, wow, this is a bad thing, probably should steer clear of that! She makes sure that we are told too many times that it is bad. And this frustrates me. It is a black stone, for goodness’ sake. It is quite clear that there is some bad juju.
My other issue with this novel is that there is no real character development. The characters are pretty flat and feel as if they are there to merely move the plot along. I want to like these characters, they have aspects that I find endearing, but there is nothing to them. I do not care what happens to them.
I feel like if she broke the bonds of the 400 pages that she wrote and added character development and real, questioning problems, that I would have liked it better. To me, these characters seem like they do belong in a YA novel. This novel smacks of YA almost completely, what with the PG-13 use of swears and allusions to sex. The only thing that feels adult about this novel is the use of blood in order to make magic.
I’m just not convinced.