“Then let the world know that my first act of freedom was to help my friends.”
Read in April 2020
Sarah J. Maas is a true slumpslayer. Before this book, I’ve been through a pretty tough reading time for at least 6 months as the twenty last books I read were ‘ok’ at best, but most of the time closer to ‘boring’. I was starting to feel desperate and to question myself, I began thinking that maybe I was the problem, that I wasn’t in a good enough mood to like a perfectly good book, and wondering if I would truly enjoy a book again. Honestly, I’ve been in plenty slumps over the years, where I just couldn’t read anything (lacking time or just lacking desire), and I swear, it’s even worse to be actually reading but not liking any book you’re picking. I wasn’t even sure about this book, and my hopes were too high. Anyway, this book made me feel so many strong emotions that just writing this review, literally two months later and reading the quotes I highlighted for this, makes me tear up. This book was really powerful and inspiring in so many ways, while also being beautifully written, it was close to being shelved as ‘favourite’.
Let’s start this review with a quick synopsis. The story revolves around half-fae and half-human Bryce Quinlan who is the ultimate party girl. She lives in an apartment with her best friend, Denika, and always hanging out her pack of werewolf’s, Bryce is happy with her life. But one day she comes home after a drink-fuelled evening and discovers a bloodbath, Denika and her pack were violently butchered by an unknown species. Two years of unbearable grief and trauma follow for Bryce. Her whole life has lost purpose, she is a hollow shell that has nothing else to live for. Until new bodies are found, said to be killed by the same entity that killed Denika and her pack, and Bryce is asked to take part in the investigation. She agrees, trying to find solace, revenge and also end ease her mourning.
“It sucks that everyone just… moves on and forgets. They expect me to forget. But I can’t.” She rubbed at her chest. “I can’t forget. And maybe it’s fucking weird that I bought my dead friend a bunch of birthday croissants. But the world moved on. Like she never existed.”
We are then introduced with Hunt Athalar, a fallen Angel, also known as the Shadow of Death for being the Archangels’ his personal assassin. Hunt is a lethal and overtrained warrior who took part in a rebellion and was on the losing side resulting in him being enslaved as payback. On this particular mission, he is assigned to be Bryce bodyguard, a task he is not happy with as he considers it beneath him, however as a slave he is obliged to obey his master’s orders. Hunt is dragged in Bryce’s investigation and slowly realizes that he probably misjudged her. Slowly taming each other, between teasing and banter, Bryce and Hunt build a solid relationship, working toward the same goal, finding and stopping Denika’s murderer whose shadow is still lurking in the Crescent City.
“This sunball-watching person doesn’t fit with my mental image of the Shadow of Death”
“Sorry to disappoint.” Hunt’s turn to lift a brow. “What do you think I do with my spare time?”
“I don’t know. I assumed you cursed at the stars and broomed and blotted revenge on all your enemies.”
I’ve already established that I found this book beautifully written, but the world-building was one of my favourite parts. The first few chapters were really thick and difficult to go through, but after the 8% mark, both the pace and worldbuilding started to flow effortlessly throughout the book. The number of customs and cultures added to the storyline was just magnificent, it must have taken the author a lot of time researching. The mix between magic and technology was also something I truly enjoyed; making this book so captivating. The character building was pure perfection, as usual, and I adored the side characters just as much as the main characters, if not more. All of them were complex, fleshed out and had enough place to shine and glow – I’ll shamelessly say out loud, I have a soft spot in my heart for Lehabah, Rhun and Syrinx. I have to admit I was a bit suspicious of Rhun at first, but now I would happily read an 800+ pages spin-off around him (at least I NEED his POV in the next instalment).
I really liked to follow this story through Bryce’s eyes, she is a very interesting character, she was layered, smart, but also a badass fighter even though she doesn’t have any powers. The portrayal of grief was spot on, it was sometimes difficult to read the depiction of her pain, I could just feel it in my guts and in the marrow of my bones. Sarah J. Mass found the perfect words to describe the bottomless pit we’re in when we’re mourning, all those tiny unrelated events that could be triggering. I could just connect her words to all the time I lost a loved one, they rang true, giving her story a solid backbone. It took me longer to warm up to Hunt, however. I really think it’s because I wasn’t done mourning Connor and his missed relationship with Bryce, therefore I was absolutely closed to any other potential love interest. But I guess that’s the magic in SJM’s writing, I fell in love with him and Denika even though they are only here for 50ish pages and after that, I got scared to get attached to other characters just to lose them one more time.
“It’s not…” the Autumn King breathed. “It’s not possible. She is alone.”
Tears streamed down Sabine’s harsh face as she whispered, “No, she isn’t.”
The themes around which the story revolves are loyalty and friendship before anything else, and I feel like it’s not something I ever read Maas’ previous books. Both Celeana and Feyre are very lonely before being introduced to new characters, on the contrary Bryce has many friends when the book begins, some of them she irreversibly lost, some of them she stopped talking to focus on her grief, and some other that stayed around. One of the reasons I love Rhun is because he stayed. Their sibling relationship is complicated, and Bryce has a lot of conflicts with him, but he stayed. Before ending this review, I have to ask, can we talk about one particular scene that confused me? The one when Bryce said she had a plan in a way, we feel like it is a real badass plan, and her plan was begging on her knees for what she wanted. Is it just me or it feel like this scene didn’t belong in the book?
Last but not least, some scenes of this book reminded me of the music video of a French singer called Mylene Farmer, if you want to check it, click here and let me know if you agree in the comments.
Have you read or will you read this book?
What did you think about it?