Hey everyone! I’ve only been away a little over a week, but it really does feel much longer than that. Work has been picking up as of late, and it’s a double-edged sword. I absolutely love being busy, but for various reasons, it also means less reading time. On top of that, it took me a couple of tries to even find a book I wanted to finish. I started, but did not finish The House of Shattered Wings (A brief DNF review is available on Goodreads if you’re curious), Legacy of Kings (the third person present voice was getting on my nerves. I haven’t decided if I’ll try and press on at a later date) and The Oversight. That last one stands a good chance of me going back to at some point. We’ll see. But yes. Anyways. A review! Let’s get to it.
Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.
Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.
With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.
I have fond memories of Mercedes Lackey: her Heralds of Valdemar series was one of my favorites throughout junior high and early in to high school. Back then, young adult fiction didn’t really exist, but as its become its own genre, I always felt that she was one author I read back then that would have been able to write for both. Needless to say, my expectations were kind of high for this. So now that I’ve read it?
It’s the most fun I’ve had reading a book I didn’t actually like in some time.
On the surface, this is a fun little book. A post-apocolyptic world where monsters are now things that exist and there are people with magic who can summon Hounds to fight them. Cool! There’s some flashy fighting, and the relationship between Joy and her Hounds is quite lovely.
But then all the cracks show.
There are little annoyances, like chocolike, coffelike, sham-pagne. Ugh. Such awful puns to indicate replicated food and why? We’re centuries out from the disaster. The vast majority of people in this world don’t know the difference. People would still call hot chocolate hot chocolate even if it was made of chocolike. If the humans of then are any like the humans of now, you’d just get something more like “here’s some real hot chocolate” or whatever. Also in this category is Lackey’s continued insistence of calling Joy a “turnip” because she’s from the countryside. By the end of the book when Joy is all “We don’t call it recreation, we call it having fun, but I’m just a turnip!” all you can do is roll your eyes. But I can deal. It’s not a book-breaker.
Then there are the Christers. I don’t know Lackey’s personal views, but speaking as a agnostic, she comes across as the kind of atheist that gives us a bad name. Christians a whole are portrayed as annoying throughout much of the book. And to learn that when the Rapture didn’t come, they tried to nudge it along by nuking Jerusalem? Really? REALLY? It just came across as so unnecessary. The main Christian character does end up coming off as a decent guy, but for me it’s too little too late and if this kind of thing bugs you, it will annoy you.
Finally, the biggest issue I have with this book is the whole ranking system and tv show aspect. Seriously, why is this here? I feel like maybe Lackey was trying to Make a Point, but if forgot to put one in. It is so underdeveloped, it feels tacked on. Okay, the ostentatious purpose is to keep the civilians placid, but there never ends up being an event that happens that shatters that sense of security. The main antagonist comes out of this system, but we really don’t see enough of the benefits to see why he’d feel so threatened. They’re vaguely discussed (like you can get a better room, woo?) and so his initial dislike of her just makes it seem like he has a super fragile ego. Meanwhile, the Folk Magician we meet at the start of the book never again comes back in to play. It feels like Lackey missed the whole point of Chekov’s gun: don’t put it on stage if you don’t plan to use it. It feels like he might come in to play in a later book, but the threat he poses (and the mystery that she’s supposedly investigating in this book) never really gets going, and the focus winds up being on our jealous Hunter and that’s just dull and feels like a wasted opportunity.
As for Joy herself, I mostly like her. Aside from her constant “this is how we do it in the Mountains” remarks, she is likable enough. I wouldn’t blame others for giving her the stink-eye when it comes to her massive popularity in her first week and the ridiculous amount of power she’s wielding towards the end of the book, but that’s just kind of par for the course for this genre isn’t it?
Ultimately, I feel like this book had a ton of potential that was squandered leaving us with something kind of fun, but also a bit of an underdeveloped mess. If you like Lackey and are curious, I suppose it’s worth checking out from the library once it does publish because it was kind of fun. But can I honestly recommend it? No, not really. And that’s a pity.
Verdict: Skip It
Available: September 1st