This is certainly not the worst book I’ve read but it is one of the slowest. I’m positive that if I had chosen to write this review days after reading, I would have forgotten most, if not all the major details. If you’ve been checking out other reviews you will see there is a lot of controversy around three main issues: 1) that there are racist undertones given the ideas of a “savage” race and a “gentle” race are very prevalent 2) having chronic pain is glorified as this lovely gift and 3) issues of consent around said gift and rape like tones. I will state that I read several reviews prior to reading so I was already fairly biased toward these controversies beforehand. I also picked this book up because it was generating so much buzz and would not have otherwise. I’m still pretty salty about Allegiant.
Our story revolves around Akos (of the gentle race) and Cyra (savage) and it smacks of Romeo and Juliet meets Hunger Games meets Divergent vibes. I honestly could not keep any character straight until part 3 and then characters from part 1 show up again later and my reaction was something like, should I know this person? and also, I’m not going back to see.
In terms of the controversies mentioned above, I did not really see the racist tones necessarily. Race plays a large role in this book, especially related to untrue stereotypes which is a theme that comes back multiple times. Cyra and Akos both have wrong information about the other’s families and their “blood” of origin and it creates this hatred that is not necessarily founded. There is also a lot on the idea that you can’t judge a whole people based on the bad actions of one person and that bad people exist everywhere (also all true). The book also talks a lot about the ability for people to change and be more than the stereotypes that are presented.
So why the poor rating? The story is tedious at best. Nothing really happens… which sounds bizarre because it clocks in at over 400 pages but really, nothing happens. I kept thinking we were building to some major fight or war and that is not the case. It was 100 pages of hushflower potions and self mutilation and then two pages of conflict and then back again. On repeat. The Akos and Cyra love story was not bad, very similar to that of Tris and Four so the romance level is fairly low but the moments they have are really sweet and feel very genuine. I did want to throw the book during Cyra’s “am I ugly now” speech though because she is a total badass and then she’s concerned she’s not pretty? Irked me.
Apparently Roth also intends to make this a multiple part series to which I say: no thanks.