Ahoy there me mateys! I received this young adult fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
Upon seeing the beautiful cover and reading the synopsis, I thought this novel would float me boat. The highlight was the comparison to the handmaid's tale. Sadly, I stopped reading at the 15% mark because I really wasn't feeling it. But because this is supposed to be a woman driven story with a gangster escape and social commentary, I did an unusual thing and looked up other reviews and spoilers before deciding to fully abandon it. Those tipped me over the edge and caused me to stop reading because I didn't like what I was seeing.
First let me explain me viewpoints on the section I actually read. I did feel the beginning was nicely set-up. I really liked the odd mix of Japanese courtesan-type setting, magic, and western. I adored the idea of the how the tattoos worked. I liked the idea of two sisters with different personalities being main characters.
That said, I also felt that both the world-building and the characterization was too surface level. I felt like I was getting the shiny ideas with no real substance. Neither people nor world felt real. Both seemed like caricatures. The older sister was led too much by her emotions and rage with no real thought. The younger sister was too naive, didn't really think, and seemed to want her sister to do everything for her. The other three girls seemed two-dimensional. Then the plot broke down because how the girls escaped the whore, I mean welcome, house was just so unbelievable and silly.
I wasn't sure if pushing through would make the story better and I wanted the book to be as good as its premise. So I read reviews. I won't get into the major details because of spoilers but suffice to say that many people claimed that the two-dimensionality of the characters didn't improve and it remained hard to connect to them. Insta-lust makes an appearance. The ending was said to be problematic and thanks to someone who wrote the entire ending in their review, I can say that it would have made me angry to have read the whole story only to get to that (even if it is a book one in a series).
The reviews did seem split 50/50 on whether it was liked so if it does sound good, it still might work for ye. But basically this book was very much not to me taste and I am glad I stopped when I did.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Tor Teen!