This was a book I was excited for long before it was published. I met the author last May at RT Convention and had told her how excited I was for this read. Despite my low rating for this book, I still admire and appreciate Dhonielle and her contributions to YA discourse, but ultimately, this book was not my cup of belle tea.
First, to address the writing. I personally dislike (literally) flowery descriptions. I do not care about what makeup or dress someone has and that was a significant position of the descriptions in this of book. I also am grossed out with talk of blood and that was also commonly found. Leeches? Ew. I couldn’t stand some of the abuse to the English language that happened in the name of making this fantasy world set apart from our world. No one would have thought twice about leaving the words hour or snowflake alone but they had to be called ‘hourglass’ and ‘ice flake’ unnecessarily. Everything was unnecessarily called ‘beauty-(blank)’ and there were so many unnecessary types of lanterns.
Second, I found that the characters were lacking at best. Camille lacked agency, ambition, and decisiveness, all things I dislike in a protagonist. She got pushed along in an unmoving story until she made the only reasonable decision. I also love how she was set apart from her sisters because she thought the gris were already beautiful. To me, that’s akin to pretty people saying beauty is unimportant because they don’t understand life without it. The other characters aren’t even worth mentioning because no one was fully fleshed out.
Third, the love triangle? For a character who is supposed to be treated as asexual, Camille has a lot of men throwing themselves at her and they are all meh. The sexual assault attempt was jarring but not unexpected. In the age of the #metoo movement, was it necessary? There was not one good example of love present in this book except for the gay couples who were killed off and maybe the mother daughter relationship of Camille and her Mom.
Fourth, the plot and world-building were lacking. It’s one thing to describe the world you’re in, but another to only touch on the magic system, political and societal structure, culture, etc. that makes a world feel real. A good fantasy set up let’s a reader feel the depth of history in the world and it sets apart strong debuts for me. I’ve been burned by other series that choose to not fully delve into the magic system or world building in the first in a series before and the follow through is usually just as poor.
Ultimately, the premise of this book was intriguing. The message I took from it is that beauty is ever changing and people are never satisfied with how they look. Beauty is power. I liked the author talking about how this book was supposed to show girls of all colors that they are beautiful. But none of that paid off for me in reading this book. I’ve rated it one star because my expectations were so high and the disappointment was upsetting, but ultimately I was bored while reading it. I’m sure it’s the kind of book some will love, but I as a reader have grown past what this book holds in writing, story, and character. If you love this book, wonderful, I wish this author nothing but love and support. I fully support her work with ‘We Need Diverse Books’ and will try some of her other books. This just wasn’t the book for me.