I’m reviewing these two books together (I’ll try to stay spoiler-free for both of them) because I’ve read them in quite quick succession and because my disappointment in the one is heavier because of my surprise interest in the other. I will preface by saying, I’m not a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas’ books. Sorry, I’m not trying to harsh someone’s vibe if you’re into them, I’m not the target audience. Yet I read them because sometimes I’m in the mood–like for candy, for junk food, all uber-dramatic characters and no plot substance, something where I can read without too much intensive thought. I’ve read the Throne of Glass series and enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses well enough (at least the first and the second), but I resisted reading Crescent City because a) Urban Fantasy is just not my thing, and b) ANGELS?? I just can’t deal with angels. But my best friend in my city is a huge fan and eventually I read it so we could talk it over. It turned out being fortuitious, because I finally caught the dreaded lurgy last week and didn’t want to/couldn’t do anything but lie in bed and read about sexy Fae. Or, in this case, sexy half-Fae and angels.
The premise of the first one is that the main character, Bryce, loves life in Crescent City: she’s a party girl with an okay job and a loving best friend and is hot enough to sleep with whoever she wants. And then a tragedy happens that upends her whole life. Cut to a year later, and it seems like the tragedy is about to happen again to more people–that the person imprisoned wasn’t guilty after all. With her life now in danger, Bryce is forced to team up with Hunt, an enslaved angel turned cop/enforcer, to find out the real perpetrator before things turn really nasty.
And, to my surprise… I enjoyed it. I liked the mystery, the layers of the past, the buddy-cop feel of Bryce and Hunt’s relationship. I didn’t even mind their relationship, which seemed refreshingly normal. The world actually played to SJM’s strengths: her writing style and worldbuilding melded well in this one, and the mix of modern and magic didn’t feel out of place. There’s a LOT going on, but for the most part, it made sense, and I never felt like there was too much being thrown at me. Did I figure out the big bad before the end? Yeah, but that’s not a dealbreaker (you want to feel smart enough to get it before the end, after all). Bryce and Hunt seemed refreshingly healthy, working together on things instead of keeping a million secrets like most of SJM’s other protagonists, and the supporting cast was small enough that it didn’t feel overwhelming. Did I roll my eyes every time the word “alphaholes” was mentioned? Yes. But at least mates were nowhere in sight. There was also very little huffing and barking, to my delight.
So I finished it, enjoyed it, and then ended up reading the second one pretty soon after because my friend basically told me I had to.
I’m not saying much about the plot of the second because I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I will say that it sort of imploded this nice world in a very SJM way. I’ve said before that I’m bored of the “huge worldending stakes!!!” that always crop up in the second books of her series, and this one is no exception–although the stakes are more world-changing than world-ending. The plot is so convoluted and stretched out (gotta make 300 pages of plot fit 800–yes, eight-fricking-hundred–pages of character relationships). The cast of characters and their POVs is packed to the gills, making it harder to care about anybody–especially because they all have romantic relationships of some kind. (I was actually hoping for an M/M pairing between two of the characters, but while SJM seems happy to have LGBTQ+ rep in the tertiary/don’t really matter characters, it’s never in the main/secondary cast). There is a fun mystery of hidden identities that kept me reading, but it wasn’t the main mystery (also, I was pretty sure I figured it out early on but kept reading to see if I was right; I was). There’s a lot that happens because it’s convenient/the plot needs it to happen rather than actually making sense. There is also a lot more graphic sex than I needed, but hey, I’m sure lots of people enjoyed it. And worst of all, there’s some other typically-SJM stuff that happens: characters keeping secrets, characters doing dumb things for bad reasons, and worst of all, the dreaded m-word.
And that ending. Sigh. I think SJM finally jumped the shark. Will I keep reading? Probably, if only because sometimes it’s fun to read a book and then complain about it with people you enjoy spending time with. At this point, I’m in it for the lols.