Author Interview

Q & A with Erin Beaty

I recently managed to partner with Macmillan International, and they sent me an ARC of The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty. To be honest, I requested this book because of the controversy surrounding it. Still, I delved into the book with an open mind so that I could form an objective opinion. Thankfully, my optimism paid off; I enjoyed the book a lot, so much so that I wished to have a written interview with the author. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TTK, you can check out my review. Overall, I honestly believe that TTK is a great start to a riveting trilogy. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know the author as much as I did. ^^

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  1. What was your inspiration for the not-so-fantastical world in TTK? I actually enjoyed it because it reminded me of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

“I get compared to that trilogy a lot, which is a huge compliment, but I honestly didn’t read it until I was in the final stages of editing TTK with my publisher. It was a bit of bummer to see all the similarities because it meant I hadn’t done something as unique as I’d thought. My inspiration was drawn heavily from my background in personality typing, which always made me curious about dating websites that used those kinds of tests in matching people. Coupled with phase of reading a lot of Tudor-era books, both fiction and non-fiction, with all the marriages and divorces for political advantage, it set the wheels in motion for wondering if a matching system would have worked or been handy in those times. I could see it being necessary to hold a weak nation together and also see the women running the system as a way to protect each other. It could easily become more powerful than most people (particularly men) realized. But if one group can game the system to their advantage, so can another. Who would even notice it but the matchmakers? Plot!”

  1. What made you decide to feature colored characters in your novel? What is your take on the importance of diversity in YA literature?

“I mostly created a world with a history of several different cultures and environments, some that were related to each other in development and some that weren’t. When it came to nailing down what people from regions generally looked like, I mostly relied on the geography and climate I’d created. In a couple of cases I made people look specifically unlike the real-world people they were kind of based on or the people they were working with or against. You have to be able to both tell people apart and tell where someone’s from by their looks. When it all came together, it seemed fairly diverse, but there wasn’t really a super conscious effort to make it so. Diversity is important, though, because the real world is diverse. If one particular ethnicity or skin color or gender or sexuality is always the good guy or the bad guy or the sidekick or absent altogether, it’s harmful. Good and bad exist across the spectrum, just like people.”

  1. How did your educational background (your degree in rocket science) affect your writing of TTK?

“Engineering at its heart is about the interaction of forces and the creation of complex systems, and I love that stuff. If that background helped, it was in always looking for the way events interact. Real world societies are a product of engineering – internal and external events coming together and functioning as a team of sorts. It also can make me obsess over getting some details right. My friends are teasing me about how I’m frustrated that the physics of an event in Book 2 aren’t working and need major revisions, but dang it, that’s important to me!”

  1. Sage is undeniably an empowered female protagonist, and her male peers gradually learn to appreciate her true worth. With that in mind, what gender roles/stereotypes did you aim to explore/debunk in TTK?

“You say that like I meant to do it. I love the butt-kicking female protagonists I grew up reading, but I found few friends interested in those stories because they felt intimidated by or unconnected to a girl who likes to hit things. A friend once told me women doctors and fighter pilots and dragon slayers are inspiring, but she hated feeling like she was inadequate or wrong because she didn’t want to do any of those things herself. I totally understand that – nurses and teachers and mothers are just as worthy of admiration. As for me, a 5 foot 6, medium build woman, I only look threatening to my kids, so what made me formidable or a legitimate authority in a male-dominated Navy? Rank will only get you so far. You have to be willing to learn, ready to act, and one step ahead of the crowd. Sage is all of those things, and she does it mostly within the confines of a traditional gender role. In fact, that’s her advantage. There are things only she can accomplish because she’s a woman, and a smallish one at that. Additionally, I think her finding romance with a military man is appropriate because competency is what matters most to them in succeeding. I guess if there’s a message to young women, it’s work with what you got where you are. There are many, many ways to make a difference or save the day – find the one that fits your strengths.”

  1. What inspired you to explore or emphasize the political aspect of marriage in TTK? If you were in Sage’s shoes, would you be willing to marry for power or connections?

“Political marriages were historically important across all cultures, and still are in many places of the world, so everyone is familiar with it. That’s not to say it’s right, just realistic. But I love the idea of “powerless” women turning that system to their advantage. As for being in Sage’s shoes, in her case there’s no real advantage to marrying her, which is incredibly freeing. Anyone who married her would have to really want to. If there were some advantage or peace between nations to be gained, then I might be willing to accept marrying under those circumstances. Might. Possibly sacrificing my own happiness to save lives is a worthy cause to consider. Very logical, in fact: the needs of one versus the needs of many. But I would go into it with open eyes, and I would make sure my husband did, too.”

  1. As a debut author, how do you respond to both praise and criticism?

“I try to avoid seeing much of either, and I respond sparingly, even to the nice stuff. If it’s praise, it can give a false sense of security and pride, which makes you lazy, not to mention high-and-mighty. Or it can make you insecure because you feel you don’t deserve it. Criticism (and praise) often has as much to do with the critic as the work, so it’s important to take it all with a grain of salt. Things that come from outside my target audience matter less, but criticism always hurts. Always. And that can be just as damaging to the creative process, not to mention mental health. But I do need to know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve, so I can’t ignore what people are saying either. I see what others point out to me, mostly. It gets filtered by people with less of a personal stake in the work. Veteran authors have said that’s the best strategy. It helps that I have a busy life outside writing, so I just don’t have much time to deal with it anyway.”

  1. What can you tell us about the sequel to TTK? Does it already have a title?

“I’m hacking my way through the jungle of revisions right now, so I both don’t know what I’m allowed to say and what I can say because plot points are still in flux. I can say that even people who love each other very much still have a lot to work out, and we all carry our own demons. As for bad guys, sometimes they aren’t really bad people, they’re just caught in a bad situation, fighting for their survival. It does have a title (as does #3!), but I think there’s going to be a reveal down the road, so I have to keep it to myself for now, sorry!”

Fin

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About the author:

Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.

She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.

Visit Erin’s website

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Book Review

Please Don’t Hate Me

The Traitor's Kiss (Traitor's Trilogy, #1)The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The phrasing annoyed Sage. As long as she was pretty and in a good mood, her husband would love her? People needed love most when they weren’t at their best.

You might be wondering why in the world did I give this book 4 stars. After all, many people have given it 1 star because it supposedly reinforces girl hate and racism. Basically, the majority of the YA community claims that The Traitor’s Kiss is a sexist and whitewashed retelling of Mulan. I generally respect the opinions of my fellow readers, but I think that the hate surrounding this book is predominantly subjective. Hopefully, my review will encourage others to be open-minded and give this book a chance.

The Traitor’s Kiss is less like Mulan and more like a Jane Austen novel, such as Pride and Prejudice. Like the latter, this book features an empowered female protagonist who lives in a patriarchal world where marriage makes the world go round. Unlike her peers, Sage is not eager to be a mere political pawn. Deemed unfit for marriage because of her “lack of femininity,” she becomes a spy for the most sought after matchmaker in the kingdom. Sage’s story becomes more intriguing when an enigmatic soldier named Quinn asks her to help him eradicate a political conspiracy.

I was able to read this book rather quickly because I was engrossed by the plot. For me, there was hardly any dull moment, even at the beginning of the novel. The perfect balance between romance and political intrigue piqued my interest. I normally read two to five books alternately, so I was quite surprised that this book monopolized my attention. The climax of the book was particularly intense and well-executed. A lot of things were happening to many characters, but the author managed to connect them in such as way that was delightfully comprehensible.

I’ve always been fond of empowered females, so Sage was easy to like. As her name implies, Sage was a very wise/erudite character. She loved reading, gathering information, and sharing her knowledge with others. Her keen intuition definitely made her a force to be reckoned with. It even came to a point that no one could keep secrets from her. At least not for a long time. xD

As I’ve mentioned earlier, many readers have expressed their indignation for the girl hate in this book, which apparently depicts femininity in a negative way. With that in mind, it is true that Sage and her peers said mean things about each other. However, I believe that this could be viewed as a depiction of society in general, specifically of the struggle between the upper and lower classes. Throughout the novel, both men and women looked down on Sage because of her status as a commoner. In other words, the mean girls in this book weren’t naturally mean because of their sex. Furthermore, like the male population of our own world, not all females are inherently or totally good. I myself have met my fair share of mean girls (and boys). Thus, please don’t judge the author for adding a touch of reality to her book. For heaven’s sake, you don’t have to take things personally!

The next aspect of this book I enjoyed was the absence of instalove. Sage and her love interest had an “organic,” slow-building relationship. I loved that there weren’t any cheesy sparks or internal monologues about fate, meeting their other half, or whatever overrated concept. This is going to sound vague, but I also liked their relationship because it was reminiscent of The Kiss of Deception. It’s no wonder Mary E. Pearson (one of my favorites authors) blurbed this book. That plot twist messed with my mind for more than an hour!

Finally, although this book is infamous for being racist, I actually appreciated its diversity. I honestly couldn’t understand why people described it as whitewashed when many of the characters (both protagonists and antagonists) were people of color. The Kimisar, the secondary antagonists, were indeed “dark-skinned.” However, it is important to note that the main antagonist was “light-skinned.” In other words, both “dark-skinned” and “light-skinned” people were depicted as capable of doing evil. Hence, “equality” was achieved, and you don’t have to be so triggered. :l

Nevertheless, the haters were right about one thing: skin tone was unnecessarily (and sometimes ridiculously) described in this book. Here are some examples:

1. Kimisar were even darker than Demorans from Aristel, and this close he almost faded into the shadows.

2. He had the darker skin of an Aristelan as well as the nearly black hair. She’d never be able to match his color even if she stayed outdoors all summer.

As you can see, the word choice sounds mocking, if not condescending. I would have given this book a higher rating if the colored characters had other distinguishing characteristics worth mentioning. Whether we like it or not, political correctness is imperative nowadays. Sadly, it wasn’t consistently shown in this novel. I wasn’t personally triggered, but I was bothered by how the descriptions made me want to laugh. :3

Overall, I encourage you to read The Traitor’s Kiss with an open mind. It does fall short in regards to its emphasis on skin tone, but it really doesn’t deserve to be hated. Gleaning upon the strengths I mentioned, I can honestly say that Erin Beaty is a promising author. I look forward to reading her future works. 🙂

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Book Review

A Literary Tribute to K Dramas

I Believe in a Thing Called LoveI Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unexpected things happen, but it’s how we react to them, how we learn and evolve from these things that shapes us into who we are. —Desi

The moment I saw the blurb of this book, I was overwhelmed by the desire to get my hands on it. With the exception of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I hardly own YA novels that feature Korean/Asian protagonists, let alone characters who love K dramas. Being a fellow Asian and K drama fan, you can only imagine the happiness I felt when I was given the opportunity to read this book early.

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I Believe in a Thing Called Love has an engrossing premise. Desi, an admirable nerd, is used to setting goals and getting what she wants. She excels at everything academic, but she strangely sucks at love. Inspired by her favorite K dramas (and their formulaic happy endings), she devices a supposedly perfect plan to make Luca, her crush, fall for her.

This book had me hooked from the start. It was so funny, relatable, and downright entertaining. Desi’s romantic bloopers, aka “flailures,” were especially giggle-worthy. I felt sorry for her, but I had a hunch that her choleric (and adorably nerdy) personality would eventually pay off. I had fun analyzing her nearly “sociopathic” behavior; she was somehow similar to Amazing Amy of Gone Girl.

Desi’s remarkable intelligence was my favorite aspect of her personality. Basically, she was a well-rounded character; she was excellent in both academics and sports. As someone who took my education seriously back in my high school and college days, I was able to relate to Desi’s tendency to be adorably nerdy. Luca was erudite, too, in his own way, so I also became invested in his character development.

Desi’s relationship with her father was another thing that I enjoyed. They were practically best friends, but it was still apparent that she acknowledged his authority over her. It was also adorable that Desi’s father was the original K drama fan in their family. Without his influence, Desi wouldn’t have come up with a flawless plan to get herself a man.

The diversity in this book also deserved my applause. Both Desi and Luca were people of color, and Fiona, Desi’s bff, was lesbian. Wes, Desi’s second bff, exhibited behavior that made me suspect that he was gay, too. I apologize in advance if I was simply influenced by stereotypes while I analyzed his characterization. Nonetheless, this novel got an A+ from me in terms of racial and sexual diversity.

In retrospect, Desi’s “talent” for manipulation was the main reason why I didn’t give this book a higher rating. Desi was irrevocably an empowered female in light of her agency, but I found it hard to support her every time she intentionally toyed with Luca’s feelings. In totality, Desi was goal-oriented to a fault. Until now, I cannot decide if her story deserves a happy ending because I do not appreciate the objectification of any sex.

This book’s affirmation of the Bad Father stereotype also hampered my enjoyment. I generally liked Luca because of his sweet and artistic personality, but I was disappointed that he predictably had daddy issues. I can hardly wait for YA lit to overcome this trope! :3

Overall, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a literary tribute to K dramas. Just like K dramas, it will monopolize your attention and give you tons of happy feels. I did not enjoy it to the fullest, but I would recommend it to readers who are looking for a cute and refreshingly diverse book.

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Book Review

Hi again, Sarah Dessen!

Once and for AllOnce and for All by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’d had no idea I might be where I was now, on the edge of something with the last person I’d ever expect. —Louna

Once and for All was my second encounter with Sarah Dessen, who’s known as the queen of YA contemporary. Now, I already understand why many people love her books so much. Much like Saint Anything, this book is sweet, light, and pleasantly insightful. I really enjoyed it because it gave me epiphanies about the essence of love, family, and friendship.

Like most of the YA community, I was intrigued by the premise of this book. Louna, the only daughter of a successful wedding planner, harbors a cynical attitude towards true love. For reasons temporarily unknown to readers, she doesn’t believe that it lasts forever. Ambrose, a superficially typical playboy, hopes that he can break down her walls. You might already assume that Louna and Ambrose are endgame. However, there are plot points in this novel that will make you think otherwise. You have been warned. ^^

This book actually caught me off guard because it hit me in the feels so many times. Half of the novel is dedicated to recounting the events that made Louna so reserved and cynical. The said events made my stomach churn with a deep feeling of sympathy. These flashbacks were saddening, but I loved them nonetheless because they really helped me connect with Louna.

I also liked how this book explores the world of wedding planning, which is apparently both fun and stressful. Come to think of it, this book is quite satirical, in a sense that it cleverly depicts how people can be so obsessed with having a perfect and ostentatious wedding, as if it would ensure the success of their marriage. Even in real life, there are couples who spend so much money on wedding planning, only to end up divorced, annulled, or separated after a few weeks, months, or years. Such a high price to pay for a ceremony that affirms a potentially shallow relationship. 😦 Told ya this book is insightful! 😀

Ironically, the last strength of this book is its lack of romance. Essentially, Once and for All has some cheesy scenes, but it is more focused on character development. especially Louna’s. It was inspiring to witness her embrace a new outlook on life and love.

Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the rather rushed ending. Louna hurt the feelings of a certain character, and she got away with it so easily. I didn’t want her to suffer, exactly, but I expected that she would experience a more serious consequence.

Overall, I can objectively say that Once and for All is not your typical YA contemporary book. I was pleased by its touching story, as well as its flawed yet well-developed characters. Personally, I will always remember this book because it made me reflect upon society’s misconceptions about weddings/marriage.

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Book Review

Princess Problems 103

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles, #3)The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

I am yours, and you are mine, and no kingdom will ever come between us.

This is undeniably one of the best books I have ever read. It made me feel a myriad of emotions, ranging from uncontrollable joy to heartbreaking grief.

After Lia barely escapes Venda, Rafe brings her to Dalbreck, where he plans to make her his queen. Unfortunately, Lia’s happily ever after is obstructed by a mind-blowing plot twist: the despicable Komizar is still alive. Guided by her Gift of knowing, Lia is determined to expose the wicked in her own kingdom and thereby convince everyone to prepare for war.

It took me around three weeks to finish this book, but it was not because it was boring or dragging. I really just wanted to savor each chapter because I did not want to say goodbye to my favorite characters, my fictional BFFs. With that in mind, I was so thankful that I had 679 pages to get through. It was definitely a slow yet unforgettable journey.

Lia was already amazing in The Heart of Betrayal, so I was surprised that she still had further development in this book. She became more attuned to her Gift, and she learned how to convict every man who underestimated her, including her beloved Rafe. Throughout the novel, Lia exhibited a lot of virtues, such as bravery, fortitude, and wisdom. All in all, she was utterly and positively different from the Lia we met in The Kiss of Deception.

I am sad to say that Rafe somewhat became annoying in this book, especially in the first half. His desire to protect or shelter Lia was often too much; it was the cause of many heartbreaking arguments, aka Yelling Sessions. I did not know what to do with myself when they parted ways. Thankfully, Rafe was able to redeem himself by helping Lia in Morrighan. Lia was indeed a formidable female, but she would probably be dead without Rafe. (To be fair, Lia first saved his life in Venda.) In totality, I admired Rafe because of his integrity, as well as his unconditional love for Lia.

Given my history with Kaden, I was surprised by the realization that he could actually be likable. In this book, he wasn’t such an insufferable THIRD WHEEL. He was always by Lia’s side, but he finally stopped trying to win her over. I never shipped him with Lia from the start, so I was so happy that he ended up with Pauline (who was adorable, btw). If anything, I guess I loved that he was so loyal to Lia despite his connection to the Komizar.

Overall, The Beauty of Darkness is a beautiful ending to an unforgettable series. I loved literally everything about it. The evocative writing. The gripping plot. The rich, mythical world. And most of all, the precious, well-developed characters. Prepare to be enthralled.

I also gave 5 stars to the previous books, so I can confidently say that The Remnant Chronicles is one of the greatest series YA has to offer. I will definitely read it again someday just to relive all the feels.

P.S. I must give an honorable mention to Jeb. May he rest in peace. 😦

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Author Interview

Q & A with Roshani Chokshi

It really makes your day when one of your favorite authors accepts your request for an interview. The Star-touched Queen is one of the best novels I have read this year, and I am so proud and happy that it was written by a fellow Filipino. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TSTQ, feel free check out my review. Roshani’s new book, A Crown of Wishes, just came out last month, and I am confident that it will be an addition to my shelf of favorite books. I hope that this interview will encourage you to read Roshani’s outstanding works. 😀

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“Hi Josh! I loooove these questions. Thank you so much for taking the time to come up with them! I really appreciate it. My answers are below!”

1. How did you express or manifest your Filipino heritage in the Star-Touched Queen (and/or A Crown of Wishes)?

“While my Filipino heritage was not explicitly referenced in TSTQ and ACOW, the motivation behind why I wrote the stories is a direct result of my Filipino and Indian heritage. Because I wasn’t taught my parents’ native languages, myths and fairytales from across the world bridged that cultural gap.”

2. Compared to many YA heroines, Maya is significantly empowered; Amar, her love interest, is depicted as both her equal and supporter. With that in mind, is The Star-touched Queen intentionally Feminist?

“I love this question! TSTQ is intentionally feminist in the sense that no sense of female power is denied. I wanted to express this not just in TSTQ but also ACOW, where the main character (Gauri) is equally comfortable in traditionally “masculine” and “feminine” settings and subverts both to possess the only identity that matters: hers. Gauri loves makeup. She loves swords. Maya loves strategy and power. She also loves fairytales. I wanted to challenge this idea that femininity is a soft thing, because it is intense and multi-faceted and I want my female readership to know that they contain multitudes and HAVE it all.”

3. Kamala, Maya’s horse, is a very peculiar character. What was the inspiration behind her creation? I actually imagined her as Maximus from Tangled. xD

“LOL! Kamala is actually based off of me and one of my childhood best friends. We have a rather dark sense of humor and I kinda imagined what *I* would be doing in a quest story, and honestly, I’d never be a main character. I’d be the sidekick constantly derailing the plot to go find something to eat…”

4. Are Maya and Amar self-sufficient characters? Hypothetically speaking, would they be able to attain a “happy ending” without each other?

“I don’t think so. And I don’t mean that in the sense that either of them needs a significant other to “complete” them or give them contentment. The reason why they need each other is because of the perspective and depth that comes from their relationship. Because of the value added to their existence by knowing each other. We don’t go through life as islands. We draw on the nourishment of relationships (platonic, romantic, familial, etc…) to bloom and grow, and I think that’s just as true with Maya and Amar. Perhaps they could’ve figured out how to find fulfillment without one another, but I’m a sucker for love stories <3″

5. Let’s go back to basics. As Filipino teachers ask, what is the “moral lesson” (#Redundant xD) of The Star-touched Queen?

“The moral lesson is that fate is a squishy thing that we must forge for ourselves.”

Fin

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About the author:

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen. Her work has appeared in Strange HorizonsShimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, The Star Maiden, was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Visit Roshani’s website

 

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Book Review

The Mark of Controversy

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark, #1)Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a person did when they were in pain said a lot about them. —Akos

Yey, I finally finished reading this controversial book. Before I even picked it up, I did some extensive research just because so many people were ranting about it. I watched reviews on YouTube, which were rarely positive in tone. Heck, I even saw a video wherein the BookTuber burst into tears because of all the stress this book had been giving her. Of course, I was quite moved by all of the drama surrounding the release of Carve the Mark. Still, I wanted to remain as objective as possible, so I also perused the Web for Veronica Roth’s written and recorded responses. After reading her blog post (which addressed the issues of racism and ableism), I eventually mustered enough courage to read this book. To my surprise, it was a month-long journey.

Carve the Mark is a thousand miles away from the Divergent Trilogy. The novel is set in a fantastical universe where a literally flowing entity called the Current surrounds nine unique planets. If you’ve read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, you can imagine the Current as the aurora-borealis-like Aether. Personally, the Current reminded me of the Lifestream in Final Fantasy VII. 😀 Anyways, like the Aether in UTNS, the Current in CTM gives humans supernatural abilities. However, in the case of Cyra Noavek, her gift is more like a curse because it racks her body (and others) with constant pain. The story kicks off when she meets Akos Kereseth, a supposed enemy who can nullify the Current and thereby ease her pain. (Trigger warning for Feminists xD)

From the get go, I want you to know that I wasn’t so hurt or bothered by this book. Thankfully, it did not overwhelm me with angst, hatred, or sadness. If anything, the worst feeling it evoked in me was boredom. The first hundred pages were especially info-dumpy, and I found myself struggling to stay awake. It didn’t help that there were so many side characters with ridiculous names. With that in mind, reading this book required a lot of effort and patience.

My reading experience became somewhat better when I became familiar with the complex world and the author’s quite different writing style (i.e. Cyra’s chapters are in first person, while Akos’s are in third person). I was specifically intrigued by Cyra’s interactions with her villainous brother, Ryzek. In spite of their filial connection, it was clear that they did not love each other at all. As for the romance between Cyra and Akos, I thought that it was reminiscent to that of Divergent‘s Tris and Four. How so? It also happened because of multiple training sessions. Ha-ha. Looking at the bright side, at least what they had was not instalove.

Among the many characters in this book, Cyra was strangely my favorite. I found her very entertaining because she exhibited what I like to call Tris Syndrome. Like Tris, Cyra wasn’t aware of the fine line between bravery and stupidity. Also, she could be selfless to a fault. Basically, Cyra’s uncanny similarity to Tris gave me a feeling of nostalgia, as well as a cynical kind of pleasure. :p

As a final note, I can confirm that this might trigger readers who have suffered from self-harm; There are scenes where the protagonists use heated knives to scar their arms. As for the racism issue, I actually did not detect any kind of discrimination against people of color; not all Shotet are dark-skinned “barbarians,” and not all Thuvesits are pale-skinned “hippies.”

Overall, I am glad that I gave Veronica Roth the benefit of the doubt. Still, I cannot say that this is her finest work. Otherwise, this book wouldn’t have been so controversial.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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