Going into this book, my expectations were pretty high since I’ve seen so many others talk about how much they absolutely loved it. Almost everyone I know thinks this book is amazing, but it honestly didn’t start picking up for me until the last half. I thought there were multiple parts that were kind of boring, and I expected to enjoy it more than I actualyl did.
To be honest, the book kind of confused me in the beginning. The shifting perspectives between past and present Mia threw me off for a couple chapters, but once I got used to it, it was interesting. I did like learning more about her past from the flashbacks, and I think it added more to her character than focusing the entire story on the present would. I thought the footnotes were interesting, but they were also a little confusing at times. I read this on my Kindle, and honestly found myself ignoring them out of just wanting to get through the book (sorry!).
The writing was more lyrical than most, and sometimes I found that it took a while to get to the point. It’s very comparable to the way Strange the Dreamer is written, if you’d like a comparison. There are a ton of metaphors and similes, which I didn’t like too much, because I usually prefer writing that gets to the point in a more simplistic way. I think that this isn’t as much of a fault of the book as it is a reader’s preference though. I’ve heard many people that think this aspect makes the writing more “beautiful” to read, so it’s hard for me to say if it’s straight up good or bad.
I thought the actual plot itself was interesting, and the last hundred pages or so were really filled with action. It really started to get interesting once it was time for Mia to do her final trial, and I wish that that it was like that earlier in the book too.The start of the story was slower than I would have hoped for, and it was kind of boring. I was going to put this book down and give up for this reason, but I decided to push through and it did get better. And while I did like the actual lore and world-building of the story, it was definitely confusing at times. I have heard people saying that this aspect gets better with a reread, so I might consider doing that in the future.
There were a lot of common YA tropes present in this book, but they don’t really bother me too much. The “training school” with an “academic enemy” and “forbidden love” can be a little cliche, but I think that Kristoff did a good job with adding in other aspects to make it different. The world-building and magic system made up for these common tropes, and I actually really liked reading about the characters learning different skills and tactics while still bonding and interacting with each other.
I like Mia as a character, and I liked that she was more “morally-gray”, and literally going to learn the skills needed to kill a couple of her enemies as a form of vengeance. She’s an interesting person to have the book focus on, and I enjoyed reading about her relationships with others around her. Throughout the book, she was more empathetic to those around her, and risked what she had for those that she cared for. The entire magic system and the “darkin” powers she had were interesting, and I really liked reading about Mister Kindly (and Eclipse at the end). I think that the entire darkin aspect of the book can lead well into the second book with Mia uncovering more mysteries, so I appreciated that.
No spoilers, but I just want to mention that literally everyone dies. It was kind of painful to see that many characters I cared about die, but most of them did contribute to the plot of the story, so I’ll forgive Kristoff. I swear I was kind of excited to read about many of characters in this story, but they all ended up dying one way or another.
I liked Mia and Tric’s relationship, but I really didn’t see anything special about it. It was a more cliche “forbidden love” type of thing, and I just wish there was more to it. I personally love reading fantasy novels with romance as one of the cores to it, so maybe it just didn’t fit my preferences. I also feel like Tric was mostly there to serve as a love interest, and I wish that there was more written about him. His backstory was pretty interesting, but for the most part, the only things written about him were him having exceptional smelling abilities, him getting into fights from others insulting him, or him and Mia falling in love. However, I did like the last chapter or so when Mia went to get revenge on his grandfather or something, and it was nice to have that aspect tie back into the story.
Overall, I think that this book has potential for the right reader, but unfortunately it just disappointed me. I might check out the sequels to see if it picks up, but I’m not sure. This is definitely a great book if you enjoy a more lyrical style of writing (since that’s not something too common in YA literature), but that aspect just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t necessarily bad in my opinion, but it certainly wasn’t the great “masterpiece” I was hoping it’d be.