False start (could not finish)**
The first thing that struck me about this book is: short riding pants?? I’m not much of a horseback rider, but that just seems scratchily uncomfortable.
My feelings hardly changed throughout the portion that I did read (I did not finish). Some phrasing was awkward, as in the instance of “five fingers,” which seemed a bit repetitive, since “fingers” implies all of them, does it not? Usually numbered fingers equal fewer than five. “Indignance” is not a word. [pause for double-check] Okay, apparently it is, but it’s archaic, and “indignation” would make more sense to more readers, I think. But those were the little things.
The really big deals I could not get over, the things that made me decide not to finish this book, are: the main character Taya, and the relationship between the Taya and the “hero,” Mandir.
Let’s start with their relationship. Taya is a young, low-caste woman with magical talent who stood out among all the higher-caste students at her magic school. Her new magic investigations partner, Mandir, is the highest caste, a bastard (literally, not figuratively) son of the ruling family. He tormented Taya at school, because he was a boy and in love with her. Troubling as that is, his torture didn’t stop at pulling hair and calling names, it was threats of rape, stalking, surprising her in her room, ganging up on her… very serious and frightening behavior. Not the qualities of a likeable main character.
Almost the very first thing Taya does, after she meets the boy who bullied her almost out of school when they were adolescents, is describe how handsome he is. In lots of detail. I might have accepted her change of feelings if she had resented, hated, detested him until she got to know the new, adult, respectful him. But she’s just met him, and already she’s half in love with him.
At this point, the only thing that might redeem this relationship is his obviously changed character, sincere remorse, and future well-treatment of her. And it sort of, sort of happens. Mandir is clearly learning about his unacceptable, abusive past behavior. He wants to apologize, he realizes he abused her… BUT HE’S STILL BARGING INTO HER ROOMS, CURBING HER INTERACTIONS, AND ACTING OUT OF JEALOUSY. He is clearly still obsessive and possessive. It’s not love. It’s borderline abusive.
There are moments where he’s kind, protective, nice, to Taya, and that’s clearly why she’s supposed to fall in love with him.
Which brings me to immature Taya. She is new to her authority, yes, but she does have her education behind her, and she had to work even harder than many others to complete it. Yet, she’s still insecure, self-conscious, and very uncertain of herself and her abilities. She’s a great victim, but not a great hero.
I found I was not interested in reading about Taya, or her problematic relationship with Mandir. Nor did the magical-crime-investigation plot really grab my attention.
I leave this one with a quote, the only thing I did enjoy about this book: “But wishes were river mist, they had no substance and only obscured one’s vision.”
*Advance copy provided by the author via NetGalley
**Read to page 120. For a different take on this book, check out Jaclyn’s review.
Have you read this one? Do you have suggestions for similar reads? Let us know in the comments!