Fantasy (Second World), Queer Fiction (Lesbian), Diverse?
- I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
These are the ones I hate to write because I feel obligated to read as much as I can and then give that HONEST review because I got the book for that purpose.
But I hold my responsibility as a reviewer important. So, even the ones I wish I hadn’t picked to read because they didn’t live up to the hype… well. I still have to write the review.
I did not, and will not finish this book, I stopped at around 37%.
While Rivera’s voice is enveloping, and I’m usually a sure fit for a story that is slow paced and rich… the style used to tell the story came across as very info-dumpy. The letters “could” have been an excellent vehicle for the story if they’d been written… well, like letters. The first few exchanges were fine, because it felt like the one character was wistfully recalling a few things as a way of reminding an old friend who they were.
Then as it went on it got more and more ‘tell’ and less and less ‘show’. Telling everything about the world instead of letting the reader discover that world through the actions and interactions of the characters. It fell flat.
While it’s true that the style lacked a lot, the prose is absolutely gorgeous. It’s far better than I’ve come to expect from traditional publishing and mainstream reading (if you find talented Indie authors, they’re going to wow you with their skill, traditional publishing/mainstream books don’t do that for me, usually).
In this case, it did. The sentence structure, word choice, and cadence are gorgeous. The editing is top notch (for what I managed to get through of the book, anyway).
Sadly, my critique of the writing and story doesn’t come close to even touching the other glaring issues with this book.
I have Southeast Asian family and when I requested the ARC it was in hopes that when the book came out I’d be happy to buy several copies for the people I care for so they could maybe see themselves in fiction for a change.
I won’t be buying the book because I’d be ashamed to give it to them.
I can’t begin to experience the pain anyone of Japanese, Chinese, or Mongol decent might possibly feel from the representation in this book. If you scroll through the reviews on Goodreads there’s at least one Japanese reviewer voicing the hurt and horror that I strongly suspected someone would feel reading this.
If it had been any of my ethnicities being used in such a way, I’d’ve been disgusted.
It, sadly, felt like the ‘how not to do fantasy’ vs a book I wanted to read. It felt also like maybe the author had just watched Marco Polo on Netflix and decided to write a book, without actually doing any of the research necessary to even gloss the basics of the peoples’ being written about.
I can’t recommend this book. It makes me sad that I can’t because Asian Lesbians! Fantasy! But even with the beautiful writing, it felt far too much like appropriation.
I really dislike writing poor reviews and for a while I considered weaseling out of my agreement and ‘forgetting’ to review this one. It’s not… nice, to say these things about a debut book, but when I’m wearing my ‘reviewer’ hat, I’m not sure it’s right to stay ‘nice’ when people who may trust me and my reviews could be hurt.
That’s worth any discomfort I feel at a negative review.
Hopefully, if the books continue (as the series listing seems to indicate) the author AND publisher will seriously consider working with a sensitivity reader.