My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is not a happy story. It is more melancholy than anything; in truth, it would be better titled The Broken Ones. But it is beautiful. It brought to mind the characters and atmosphere of The Night Circus, one of my all-time favorite books.
This book is literary fiction at its finest. Stirring, with incredible depth, and impossibly real characters. I was blown away again and again by themes in this book:
Love, both lost and found
These are only a few of the themes it explores. In fact, if I had to pick just one overarching theme, it would be “human nature.” This book bares the human soul, in all of its grittiness. It shows people as they truly are, and reveals how that differs from who they think they are. It shows life–real, true life.
Since this is literary fiction, the characters are the driving force.
Antonina, better known as Nina, is a young woman who is on the brink of learning hard truths about society, life, and true love. She is being stretched thin between her innocent childhood, and an adulthood that she did not envision.
Valérie is faced with someone she never thought she’d see again. She was denied her chance at a happy ending, and she’s determined to ruin everyone else’s. No one stands in the way of what she wants.
Hector, whose whole life has been consumed by one driving passion, has to come to terms with the death of his dreams. Everything he’d hoped for and counted on, was nothing but a vapor.
It was amazing how much I connected with each and every one of the characters, good and bad. The good characters were not as pure or innocent as they first seemed. None of them is without fault. Likewise, none of the evil characters were unsympathetic. No one is born completely evil–rather, it’s their choices (the ones they’re forced to, and the ones they willfully make) that lead to such an outcome. It’s a broken world these characters live in, and their lives reflect that.
A small comment on setting: yes, the setting is fantasy. Yes, there is an element of magic. But neither of these factors I felt to be main element of the plot. They contributed to it a small bit, but it was primarily the characters that won the day. The book could have just as easily been set in England at the beginning of the 19th century (without magic, of course).
As for plot, there isn’t much to discuss. Since this is literary fiction, the characters and the exploration of human nature take center stage. The plot is driven by the characters, and without this specific cast, there wouldn’t have been any plot to speak of.
Like I mentioned above, these characters live in a broken, sinful world. Their lives are a product of that, and their choices contribute to it. They are by no means models of how to live. But they do teach us important lessons. The one that stood out the most to me was “Do not put your hope and trust in a fallible human.” I would even go a step further than that: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8)
With that being said, I’d like to leave you with one more passage of Scripture that I feel expresses my feelings about this book:
“Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”
Rating: 4 stars–5 stars, minus 1 star for content issues
Recommended: Yes. 17 and up, due to mature content.
Violence: 2/10 (some minor injuries, not overly detailed.)
Sexual Content: 9/10 (kisses, embracing, touching, thinly veiled references to adultery, marital duties, and fornification. it is clear that characters have sex several times (before marriage), sometimes on page, though very few details are given.)
Language: 6/10 (several obscene words scattered through the pages. references to fornification and suggestions of adultery)
*Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy to review*
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