Maybe I wasn’t the target audience for this book but it was so bad.
Anya is an orphan living in a semi-Arabic (I think; certainly a desert-like) world. She, and her Shadow, have been given to her Aunt to raise, but instead her Aunt nearly kills Anya (it’s implied for being too pretty) and when she’s nearly raped ‘sells’ her to a wealthy uncle as a replacement bride. Anya and Eva, her Shadow (the relationship is never explained other than to say that one’s Shadow can never lie, that they hate to be touched, that they are simple creatures who are basically lost without their counterparts) escape across the desert where they live first as squatters, then with Anya’s abusive boyfriend whom they have to escape, and then with a perfumer who also happens to be an herbalist.
Basically, a re-telling of Cinderella, but with more abuse. And more abuse. And more abuse.
Realistic, yes, in that this happens to many women who are forced into marriage and who escape and emigrate. But Brooks approaches her subject matter in such a way that, even though I know she intends her reader to feel sympathetic for her main character I just didn’t. The author plays games with what Shadows are, what the relationship between Anya and Eva is, what magic is in the world, always offering with one empty hand and never delivering anything of substance.
The only person in all the book I felt sympathy for was Eva.
Additionally, I had a sour taste in my mouth when I picked up the book to read, all these years after I bought it, because the author describes it as “magical realism” — or, rather, says one of her readers described it thus. To which I say: magical realism has a fairly specific definition, and this book? Doesn’t meet it on any count.
If I read the rest of these books, it will be for the same reason I read all of the Touched by Venom series:
Sometimes, you just need a hate-read.
I’m giving this one star because, well, dear author: