Rivers Solomon tells an unflinching tale of slavery and survival, set in a future that is horrifically similar to both America’s dreadful past and terrible present. They sugarcoat nothing; what else would you expect from a story that starts with a gruesome amputation?
I have to applaud Solomon for writing a brutal and gut wrenching story. They shout out the horrors of racism, giving graphic depictions of brutality. Black women are tortured, raped, and publicly executed, and Solomon makes you stare at these scenes of devastation. You are not allowed to look away, nor should you. An Unkindness of Ghosts may be fiction, but the dreadful actions taken against black people within this story are also happening right now in our country (and around the world). We must take action.
Unfortunately, I found the action in this tale lacking. Not in the sense of “not enough going on”; there is plenty happening, but much of the story is unclear, strangely motivated, and terribly convenient. I share many of the same feelings as surebitch; I found character motivations confounding, sudden changes in attitude alarming, and some physical relationships that were depicted as being positive truly troubling.
Momentous set-pieces happened out of the blue. People showed incredible feats of strength, knowledge, and ability suddenly and without warning, then moved on without another mention. Daring escapes and and skirmishes suddenly appeared and disappeared. Characters blacked out in one location and came to in others without much thought or reasoning. The impossible frequently became possible. Nearly every large action piece (of which there were suddenly several) were either solved or immediately discredited. An Unkindness of Ghosts suffers from an abundance of Deus ex Machina.
I feel like this book would have worked better with more room to breathe; it feels like a series that was forced into a novel. It was terrifying, it was truthful, it was inclusive, and it was a harsh mirror to behold; I just wish that it had been clearer.