Please note in an exchange for an honest review, I received an advance reader copy (ARC) from NetGalley.
I know nothing about Tara Sim. From the marketing, I understood that this was her debut dark adult fantasy book since she was traditionally known for doing YA books.
The cover of the book looked awesome and the premise was interesting. I really did like the idea of the gods withdrawing their blessing and was interested as to see why they would like their realm die.
This book was marketed as the author's debut adult dark fantasy book but throughout the story, I got YA vibes. There is nothing wrong with YA books but, personally, I'm not a fan of them (or I have to be in the mood for them). With YA books I tend to find the characters annoying, the book focus on romance (often unrealistic), and sometimes high-school level of drama.
The only thing I can imagine why this would be an "adult" book was that there were two sex scenes but there was nothing too explicit. I would consider this more of a "new adult" book than anything.
But because this was marketed as an adult book, I'm going to judge it as an adult book.
I was just not a fan of this book and I honestly struggled to finish reading it. The story had multiple point of views, which I personally don't have a problem with, but I never felt like any of the characters had their own voice. To me, they all read the same. I'm still relatively new at reviewing books but in this book, if you take out any reference to their names and simply describe them going from point a to point b, I don't think I would be able to tell the difference.
A part that bothered me the most in regards to a character's voice was when Nikolas broke up with Taesia. He has said "You wear, masks, Taesia...One day you're the hero, the next you're the thief, the fool, the killer... What will you do when all your masks fall? Who will you be then?" That does not sound like early 20 year old talking, least of all Nikolas. It felt like it was just this cool quote about Taesia that the author thought of that she just had to get it in somewhere.
The story mostly was told from the point of view(s) of the heirs. The only ones I liked where Risha and Nikolas. Angelica was angry and rude the entire time that I couldn't empathize with her at all. The only times I remotely liked her was when she gave Taesia crap but even then she was annoying. As for Taesia, I absolutely hated her. Taesia is what I considered your typical YA protagonist badass. Despite it being about the heirs, Taesia is the one you followed the most. Even if you are in the other point of views of the heirs, I guarantee you most chapters still mention Taesia and her family one way or another. The story did not feel like it was about all heirs but just about her and the others were just dragged along for the ride.
Taesia is a character that was so selfish that I honestly was rooting against her at all points. She honestly made so many things worse for her family just because she's unable to just think about the consequences of her actions. I actually really loved it when a side character (her younger sister) called her out on this. There was even a point where I thought she finally understood how her actions impacted others but it quickly was disregarded by usual solution of just killing someone off (who had no involvement by the way). After killing three people, I honestly think the author was trying to do some damage control to make her not "one of the bad guys" by her giving medicine to Julian's mother. Which in turn, makes Julian pretty much see her in a new light and instantly grow feelings for her. Just in time actually since her and Nikolas pretty much broke up so she of course needs to have a romance with someone who also is important. She also constantly gave the other heirs so much crap for only caring about their house even though, at that point, she wasn't even the Landstrider heir and couldn't possibly phantom the pressure they had to deal with.
They happen fast. Every time they meet someone, it seems like they are interested or captivated by the other for no reason. A thief stole from you? Let's use that thief to steal something for us. You killed someone, I'm terrified of you, but you were nice to my mother so I might love you now (Julian). Despite Angelica hating Taesia, she would always cave in to her request. I don't get why any of them defended her after the multiple times Taesia was caught lying or just being vague to them. Her excuse was always to "trust her" but she can't even trust them!
Somethings weren't clear to me. The Sealing occurred 500 years ago so naturally some of the "other realm" citizens like the Noctans and Solaris were trapped in their realm. Yet in those 500 years, it seems like the other realm refugees are still considered refugees? Wouldn't they have generations who were born in that realm by then? I feel like in 500 years things would have far progressed than what was described.
Various times it was describe that there were guards in the Landstriders house (and sometimes other heirs) watching them. Yet the heirs were able to sneak in and out of their houses without issue, passing by the Kings guards. Taesia was the one guilty of this the most. I get she controls the shadows but really, even in the day? I would think a kings guard would notice a huge dark shadow moving around. I even laughed when it was mentioned how Angelica (who had passed out somewhere else) was snuck back into her room without anyone noticing. You mean to tell me that the thief Comina (who is around the same age as Angelica), carried Angelica's unconscious body all the way from her place to Angelica's with no guard noticing?
The power scale of everything is just wonky. They are the 4 heirs but at some point, their parents who have the same powers, were considered the "heirs". The parents, realistically, would wipe the floor of all their children. In particular, Warren should have not been defeated by Nikolas, he has far more experience over him. I also don't understand why the god's would chose the children over the parents (who can obviously fight as proven by the Godsnight Gala). The Godsnight Eve
Towards the end with the god's taking over their chosen heirs, I don't understand why Noctis did not take over Taesia. She was obviously the favorite/skilled one but he didn't. Not until he relinquished his control of the younger sister and Taesia explicitly let him take over her did it really hit me that it was just because she's Taesia, our main hero. I guarantee you Noctis, or any of the other gods, did not ask their heirs for their permission to take over. Angelica explicitly denied Dea and yet Noctis decided to give Taesia the choice, for whatever reason.
There were three things going on towards the end and one of them just did not make sense. Camila's reasoning for the demon stuff, made no sense. She wanted to make her son a king but he was already going to be claimed the heir by the King. I guess she wanted the powers of the realms with him as well but wouldn't that hurt her brother's family, the Landstriders, whom she said she wanted to protect? It was mentioned she would take trips for a year or so and I assume this was to write off how no one would notice her pregnancy from the King. How did that even happen? Why would she even hide it from her family? It's clear that the Landstrider's are powerful, why didn't she just tell her brother that the king essentially kidnapped her son? Why wouldn't she mentioned that the king does have an heir so her brother can relay that information to his own kids?
If the parents were so strict and wanted none of the children to socialize with the other houses, how is it possible that they did not notice them hanging out? For Angelica, it seemed like she wasn't too close which is fine. But for Risha, Nikolas, and Taesia? Taesia's mother seemed more lenient to me (which makes it even more insufferable at how much Taesia whined being a Landstrider--even though she wasn't considered the heir until up to this book) but how is a veteran like Warren or Rael not able to sense Taesia nearing their children?
At some point Risha and Saya go pick out a dress with Taesia and her sister but the dad says nothing? I just find it hard to believe that Warren never know about Nikolas and Taesia's relationship.
Picking out dresses, talking about a formal, finding whose wearing what is what in this Gala--screams YA. I don't care.
I was under the impression for the longest that the Godsnight Gala was the same day as the Godsnight day. Unsure why it isn't and why it's like two weeks ahead of it.
I would figure the mom would know more about Shades than all of them. I don't get why Brailee didn't just ask her mom or even tell her about her dreams. I don't get the fear of not wanting to indulge that information. Felt like it was just so it can be revealed later on just at the right moment. The moment Brailee's lack of sleeping was mentioned or her explaining her dreams, it was obvious that it was important.
Why did the king want to exterminate the houses all of a sudden? I guess since he suspected them of conjuring but it was obvious three of these houses were absolutely loyal to him. If it was just a power thing, why now and not earlier? Why not introduced his heir earlier? What was the point of the secrecy?
Julian's mom liking Taesia so much makes no sense. Gossip magazine or not. It's weird. Plus, wouldn't that magazine know of Taesia's relationship? Obviously someone is spying on them!
At some point, it is revealed Balwith, as a shade, can peer into the shadows and therefore can see Taesia through her shadows. Furthers disbelief how Taesia can go by unnoticed in gatherings fraternizing with Nikolas or moving about without her mother noticing. Even more curious as to why the king hasn't hired any Noctans to his force?
Fin watching Nikolas is weird.
Taesia able to yank Braille out of her dream stuff seems pretty powerful. Why doesn't Braille have the total control here? It's her gift. Makes Taesia seem even more powerful.
I'm not sure if it was just marketing but this book is not what is advertise. I remember reading the description saying it was the author's "debut dark adult fantasy noble" but don't see that in Goodreads/Amazon/Netgalley. Though if you google it, it is very clear that it was marketed as such before.
They possibly changed it but again, I requested it under the impression of reading an adult book so I judged it as such.
Do I recommend it? If you're expecting a dark adult fantasy book, you're not going to get it. You are getting a new adult/young adult fantasy book and if you're into that, by all means get it. But if you're like me, you're not going to enjoy it. The characters are childish, there seem to be some plot holes, powerscaling seems off, and some things were clearly foreshadowed that the twists had no effect.
What did this book do well? Representation. POC's and Queer characters.