I honestly can’t tell if this is a great example of its genre (a genre I don’t like based on this example) or this book just isn’t that great.
I liked these characters. I was interested to see what was going to happen to them. I wish I knew them in real life.
It did keep me interested even if I pretty much figured out the shocking reveal early on (to be honest I had it pegged as one of two things and the thing it wasn’t is far darker and way more sinister than what it was, so I guess you should be glad I wasn’t the one writing this).
I didn’t want to put this book down. I was curious up to the very end.. And then there was an epilogue of sorts that made me hug myself with happiness.
The trope in fiction where someone who can’t remember their life or whose memories have been wiped or something along those lines… is a very appealing trope to me. I find it fascinating.
Have you ever argued with someone who quoted past conversations from say 6 years ago with startling clarity and then told you what each pregnant pause in that long-ago conversation really meant? Reading Frances’ mind was sort of like that. Frustrating, unreliable despite her best efforts to maintain the opposite, and unsettling.
For my money, this was a book that did exactly what it set out to do: reframe a woman from a dude’s story where she was the villain into the protagonist of her own tale and remind you that perspective and who gets the privilege of having their story told…? Those things matter.
I actually think that character building is where Mohanraj really shines. Yes, the world-building is interesting and complex (thankfully we are given the exact right bit of information so that we can follow along and care without getting overly bogged down), but it is the characters who will stay with me.
I didn’t like Lillian and I think it was because of how she was written rather than who she was, which I know sounds weird, but there you have it. She wasn’t believable.. and, again, I know how weird that sounds for a character in a book with fire kids… but when you suspend your disbelief in supernatural things for the premise, that doesn’t mean you can’t bump on inconsistencies and badly written characters.
The book is about a horrible horrible world and the horrors never stop. In the hands of a less skilled writer, you could get desensitized to what is happening. So many murders. So many rapes. So many children being killed. But somehow Butler keeps us feeling those feelings without ever going numb, as much as we might wish we could.