I’m slightly drowning in work right now, and I’m trying desperately to stay on top of ARCs so that I can get on with reading some books I was given for Christmas and my birthday, but this book came out in December, so I’m late. As usual. One day, I will stay ahead of new releases and actually be an organised book blogger… but it is not this day.
Anyway, I requested this from NetGalley because pirates! (well, corsairs) and also magic and kidnapping and LGBTQ characters and, you know, a whole lot of things that sounded like fun. And it was! Fun, that is.
However, this was one of those books where I really enjoyed the plot, but the writing style wasn’t quite to my tastes.
First of all, I had to read this book over the course of several days, which isn’t how I prefer to read. I’m a fast reader, so I tend to just sit down with a book and read it until I’m done — having to put something down for two days in the middle often guarantees but I won’t actually finish it. Despite drowning in work, however, I was engaged enough in the plot here to want to pick it back up again, and there were a few things where I absolutely had to see how they turned out, so that kept me reading.
The plot, on the whole, was a strength. There are plenty of twists, some of which I guessed and some of which I didn’t, and there are some interpersonal relationships full of complications where I was impatient to see how characters would deal with certain revelations.
I also enjoyed the characters, particularly Del. Aela is an engaging enough protagonist: bloodthirsty, badass, and supernaturally gifted (sorry, I tried to find an alliterative word but couldn’t think of one), she’s got her strengths, but Del was just… I don’t know. He was quiet and bookish, but also up for adventure. He did his duty, but he didn’t let it get in the way of being a good person. His relationship with Brynne, I felt, showed him in his best light, especially the emphasis on their ‘partnership’, both political and personal.
(Brynne herself, I liked well enough, but didn’t really think I got enough of a handle on her personality outside of her relationships, so it was difficult to engage with her too much.)
Del is also disabled, and although this is only revealed partway through the book and could have been treated as a dramatic, exploitative plot twist, it’s actually just a mild surprise to Aela who then gets on with things — which I appreciated. While it was supposed to have come as a shock, I’m glad that it was recognised and acknowledged in the plot without being a big deal.
Plus, I mean, the book involves both pirates and dragons. It’s hard not to enjoy something like that. All of these are positive things.
However, the writing style just… didn’t really work for me. I can’t entirely pin down what it was — it was just a general clumsiness of description, and the dialogue never sounded entirely realistic. I was able to overlook it most of the time because I cared about the plot and characters, but it occasionally bothered me. I felt it just all needed to be tightened up a little bit.
There was also a weird subplot where Aela doesn’t remember her childhood, at all, and this is never explained or followed up. I kept expecting some kind of resolution every time it was mentioned, some explanation for what had happened, but unless I missed something, there was never anything to wrap that plot point up — which made her character arc feel somewhat incomplete.
All of that aside, my overall impression of the book was a positive one — because dragons! pirates! canonically queer and also disabled characters! I don’t object to any of those things, especially in conjunction with an intriguing plot and complex interpersonal relationships that definitely brought out different sides of characters’ personalities.
But the writing style and that minor quibble stop me from rating the book any higher, sadly.