Disclaimer: I vaguely know Amanda Foody from Th’Internets, this does not affect my review, etc etc. I mean, it’s a big part of the reason I requested this from Edelweiss, but my honesty policy still applies whether or not I used to write for a shared blog with someone.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this — more than I enjoyed Foody’s first book, Daughter of the Burning City. Not that I didn’t like that one (review here), but this one clicked with me more. I’m a sucker for murderous teenage girls; I’ve never denied it. Tiny assassins who look delicate but are actually remorseless killers? Sign me up. That is precisely my jam.
Okay, so Enne doesn’t actually do THAT much assassinating. She kills a couple of people, and it’s badass, but that’s not, like, the focus of her storyline. She’s also an acrobat, which is cool; having spent years training as a dancer and never quite living up to the standards of those around her, she’s finally found something she can excel at. Anyway, Enne’s also great at murder and, apparently, fashion — she goes in for the lipstick and silk masks brand of assassination.
In this novel, everyone has blood talents and split talents, which they inherit from their parents. So if you turn out to be preternaturally gifted at something… Well, better go check your family tree. This aspect of the worldbuilding did explain Enne’s ability to be magically good at certain things, but I wasn’t entirely won over by it. Although she’s supposedly spent her life working herself into the ground and never matching up to impossible standards, we don’t actually really see her fail very often within the book. Instead we see her instantly pick up new skills and wow people, which can be a little difficult to engage with emotionally. She wasn’t exactly “too perfect”, but now and again she came close, at least with regard to her development within the plotline of the book (I don’t think backstory really counts).
Levi didn’t have the same problem — he spends the whole book a breath away from failure, and is compelling because of it. A gang lord in the thrall of a queen criminal, scamming his own gang to pay debts she caused him to rack up… his situation’s not envious, and getting involved with Enne doesn’t improve it. I didn’t entirely understand how his blood talent worked, but I liked that it couldn’t always help him. Although he can walk through fire and do other impossible things, this is frequently not enough. I think the fact that he kept losing fights was what made me so invested in whether or not he’d ultimately survive — because the danger felt real, I guess, but also because he was a bit of an underdog.
I enjoyed the worldbuilding, even if there were still some questions left unanswered. I did spend the early part of the book fairly confused by the use of “volts” as currency — it took a while for me to figure out they genuinely were referring to energy and not just using the word to mean something else, and I still don’t understand how that energy was produced, even if the storage in orbs was explained. I guess I’d have liked more backstory into details like that, and I had a few questions about the use of power and technology in other aspects of life and whether that was affected by the nature of this currency.
But on the whole, I liked the slightly-magical not-quite-high-fantasy vibe the book had going on. It was an interesting blend of aesthetics (casinos and cabarets and finishing schools and monarchies and journalists) that made it feel somewhat unique without being as… inaccessible, if that’s the right word, as a book that didn’t make use of familiar elements.
Anyway, this review is probably a mess because I stayed up way too late reading this book (my “one more chapter” promises kept getting broken), but I liked it a lot. Mostly because I’m a sucker for teenage girls killing people. It’s a thing. Possibly not a good thing. But we all like what we like, right?
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