My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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An ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
So many mixed reviews for this one! I was of the readers who found this story to be compelling, though I do acknowledge the criticism that it’s extremely violent and bleak (not to mention, right away there is a scene where the narrative of killing is contrasted with the narrative of having sex, which is very off-putting). But I pulled through. A theme I’m noticing in Jay Kristoff books (see: Illuminae) is I can never be prepared for what is going to happen. So many twists and turns kept me hooked on the story.
The basic premise is a girl is trying to exact revenge on politicians who killed her father and kept her away from her mother and brother, ruining her life and the lives of those she loves. She trains for six years with her mentor before being sent off to an assassin school, which is basically a cult for murders (they worship The Mother, who accepts gifts of blood and death). An advantage she has over other students at the school is that she is a Darkin, which means she can control shadows. In a world where the 3 suns only ever set together every 2.5 years, this is a especially interesting irony–there are not that many shadows!
So as a reader, I enjoyed the “present” day story of Mia in the cult/school–her teachers are especially interesting. Pitting the students against one another, maiming them, teaching them the art of seduction and pick pocketing–they are all assassins! Teachers will lull the students into a false sense of security before killing them for making a wrong move.
I did not enjoy the footnotes or backstory that were present in basically every chapter. It was hard to follow the footnotes in the e-book I was reading because I couldn’t switch back and forth easily, plus, there was too much to keep track of in the notes that would have provided any insight to the current story. (I feel guilty for saying this, but there was too much world building in the footnotes.) Further, I found the narrator to be pretentious, annoying, and unhelpful (maybe that was intentional?). Near the end, the narrator’s voice disappears, and the the story becomes much easier to read. Mia’s background is interesting, but I feel like it could have been shared with the reader in a different way. Maybe through her thoughts as she’s learning in school?
Like I said, the violence in the book was not enough to turn me away and I did have a good time reading this. The pacing was excellent, which is my #1 must in any book. Did you read it? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments!