I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
DNF @ 45%
How sad. I really wanted to like this book. I was prepared for not loving it, which is fine because not every book can be your favorite, and it’s not even fair to say I completely hated it. If I had more time and if I was a faster reader I would have forced myself to finish this, but alas life is too short and I really swore to myself that if a book needs forcing in order for me to continue reading it, then it’s just not worth it.
The worldbuilding was confusing at best and not all that interesting to me. The concept that one’s soul can be bound (?) to another creature’s is interesting I suppose, but I just didn’t care and just wondered why would someone want or need to do that when if the creature dies you fall in an endless coma (at least that’s how I understood it), like is the benefit only the fact that you get a cat friend? I mean, I’m the biggest lover of cats you can find but still I wouldn’t want my lifespan to severely decrease just so my soul is bound to one, you know?
And I didn’t really understand why everyone was at war, like what’s the point of it all? I feel like nothing was really ever explained (I mean I could have just missed it???).
I could have endured it if it wasn’t for the fact that the more I read the less sense everything the MC, Tashi, did didn’t make sense. Unreasonable (read: stupid) decisions were made just for the sake of creating future drama (that I’ll never get to read, how tragic).
But my biggest problem was the romance. Or the premise to it. Tashi is apparently in love with their best friend but as soon as they see Xian they fall in…lust? with him even tho he’s the Big Bad Guy but oh he’s hot so……… and there was truly no chemistry between the two. Everything was forced and very not subtle, as if the reader needs to be spoonfed a romance they would otherwise never see coming. Spoiler alert: readers can see subtle signs of character development, they are aware of the enemies-to-lovers trope, it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. I am aware that this book is about half the size of the usual standalone fantasy novel, but I am fully convinced that a good slow burn (the only thing that will ever work for an enemies-to-lovers trope, btw) can be written in less than 170 pages.
That’s not what was going on here unfortunately. There was no subtle shift between the good and bad sides of Xian, no deep emotional struggle within Tashi when they realized (TOO SOON) that they were falling for him. This might work for some readers, but it doesn’t for me. Tashi needs to hate Xian for everything he and his people have done and they don’t, so the romance was immediately cancelled in my book, and since that seemed like one of the only things this book had to make it interesting, the whole book was cancelled as well.
The only thing I really liked was the fact that finally we have a genderfluid character in a fantasy world! I think that aspect was done well, though keep in mind that I am not genderfluid myself. However, every review I’ve seen, regardless of the general rating, mentions that Tashi’s identity was portrayed well. There are a few instances of accidental misgendering when another character sees Tashi for the first time, but Tashi’s right pronouns are mentioned right away and nobody actually questions them. There were also a few casual reminders here and there of what Tashi might feel like on a given day (for example they sometimes felt comfortable in men’s clothing and sometimes they didn’t).
Again, to me it just felt like good representation considering what I know about genderfluid people, but I say this as a cis person so I’m really hoping someone who actually is genderfluid will read and review this book to comment on this aspect themselves.
Other than that, this book is a case of “I’ve read too many great books to truly enjoy less-than-average ones”. I am especially picky with my romances and this just wasn’t it for me and I know for a fact that if I had continued reading it with this premise I would have actually hated it, so I chose to stop where I was.
My question for this post is: Do you review and most of all rate books you don’t finish? If you don’t, why? If you do, are there exceptions?