My apologies for the lack of a review on Friday. I’m now writing my reviews in real time — that is, on the day it goes up or the day before, rather than weeks in advance — and I’ve been having a bit of a tough time with university lately, so while I’ve been reading a lot, I haven’t been writing all that many reviews. Plus, most of the books I read lately were sequels, which I mostly don’t review here.
I received Cogling from the publisher (Curiosity Quills Press) in return for a review — I’ve reviewed enough of their books on NetGalley to have signed up to their reviewers’ mailing list or whatever, so that’s how I got hold of this one. It caught my attention because it features clockwork changelings, which combines two of my favourite things: creepy magical creatures who abduct children, and steampunk technology. Yayyy.
As I’d hoped, the concept was very cool. The book took place within an invented society that had strict rules about social class, working, etc, although I didn’t get quite as clear a sense of it as I would have liked. The antagonists are magical beings known as Hags, who were subjugated by the humans they previously oppressed and now rebel against them.
The only thing was that I honestly couldn’t make up my mind whose side I was on. For most of the story, the Hags were being legitimately evil or whatever, so I could understand the desire to beat them. They stole children, forced them to work for them, and so on. But the only reason they were in that position was because of humans, and I couldn’t help feeling they were at least as hard done by as anyone else.
Despite these complex moral issues, the book took quite a black-and-white view with a strong good guys / bad guys divide; those Hags who are considered good, it’s because they’re acting in the interests of the humans, rather than because their actions are justified for their own sake. And I’m like, okay, but why are the humans automatically right about this? Can you just all stop subjugating each other?
I don’t know, I just couldn’t quite get behind that, ideologically.
That said, I might have been expecting too much from a book that seemed to be aimed at younger teenagers. I wasn’t really sure; in places it read more like MG, whereas the romance element seemed more YA. But I’ve been reading a lot of adult fantasy and complicated fiction lately, and I might have been expecting it to be more morally complex.
The writing was okay, but didn’t really stand out to me; I wasn’t very keen on the romance because I never am, and because as far as written romance ever appeals to me, it really didn’t read as particularly hot or attractive or whatever word people usually apply to kissing scenes.
I also managed to guess all of the main plot twists. Which is a thing that happens to me sometimes. They weren’t over-obvious, I don’t think, but I just have this knack for ruining surprises for myself based on nothing but guesswork, which means it takes a really good plot twist to actually shock me. I guessed all of them here — some of them were clearly signposted and others it was a fluke, but it rather affected my enjoyment of the book.
I’m not saying the book was bad, but unfortunately, I don’t think the execution quite fulfilled the potential of the concept, and as a result I was less engaged in the plot than I would otherwise have been. It probably merits at least 2.5 stars, so I’m giving it three, but I was a bit disappointed.