This self-pubbed book apparently blew up on BookTok, and honestly, from the other books that have done that (an older Colleen Hoover release, for example), I should have known this one wouldn’t be perfectly to my taste, but I was curious! Also, the synopsis sounded great, and I liked the look of the cover. It is now being re-released in 2022 after having been picked up by Tor. I do hope they whip it into shape a little, but my fear is they will let its popularity scare them away from doing so.
The premise here in what will eventually be a trilogy (the second book due out this fall) is that there is a secret society in the world centered around the ancient store of knowledge that is and was the great library of Alexandria, once thought lost. But it only went into hiding. Every handful of years a group of six powerful medeians (magicians, essentially) are recruited into the society, and after a year of living and learning together, only five will be initiated. One will be eliminated.
As in, eliminated.
The first fifty pages of this were so intriguing. I loved meeting the six candidates, and the mysterious Atlas Blakely who recruits them. I was very interested in the type of world that would birth this society, one which appears to have magic integrated into the world and there are magical universities, and non-magic humans are called “mortals.” Although, and more on this sort of thing later, I still don’t know (because the book never made it clear) if mortals are aware that magic exists.
But then, once they were actually living at the Society and beginning their training, the book quickly became something I wasn’t really expecting. This is not a book focused on worldbuilding, at all. We barely learn anything about the Society or the library, and the “lessons” described in the book are half-assed at best. Instead, we get lots and lots and lots of interpersonal drama, heightened by the characters’ magical talents and personal histories. What happens when you put a telepath, an empath so strong he can convince anyone to do anything, and a person who is likely to burst things into flame when agitated into the same space for long periods of time? There is a looooot of talking, and honestly, a lot of the dialogue read like nonsense to me, in that way that dialogue can sometimes seem very smart because of the words used and the format its presented in, but when you actually dig into what’s it’s saying, it’s not saying anything that makes any kind of sense. The prose was often extremely indulgent. Big words, long sentences, characters who liked to hear themselves talk. There is a lot of excess horniness, and plotting, and alliances, and mistrust.
It took me four and a half days to read this 380 page book, because I kept having to put it down to take breaks from the characters.
The ending was . . . something. I actually don’t think the book was clear at all on the specifics of what actually happened. It really needs the tightening up and clarifying of a good editor.
I will keep going with this series, because I did find it interesting and I’m curious to see what happens, but I would much have preferred less drama and more magic.
[3.5 stars, rounded down]
Read Harder Challenge 2022: Pick a challenge from any of the previous years’ challenges to repeat (from 2019: A self-published book).