I’ve gotta say, this is related and unrelated to this book, I’ve been seeing quite a few status updates on Goodreads (the vast majority from people I don’t follow) expressing pretty negative and dismissive opinions about romance and people who read romance that seem borderline misogynistic to me. There’s an attitude there that because they don’t read romance or fantasy romance (or whatever romance) they are better, smarter, more elevated than those who do. This is bullshit, and it is unkind. I would highly suggest to anyone who holds anti-romance opinions (just not liking to read it is fine! I’m talking about people who hold contempt in their hearts and judge others) to seriously do some thinking and research into where those feelings are coming from. I don’t think it’s from anywhere good. We are all here on this website to celebrate reading together. Let people love what they love and read what they read, and they will do the same for you. Seeing a flood of SJM status updates for a couple weeks once a year does not hurt you at all. [Note to CBR readers: None of this is directed at you, but to people on GR who have a hate-on for SJM and people who read her books.]
There, now I’m stepping down off of my soapbox to talk about this book and my as-always complicated feelings for words written by one Sarah J. Maas.
So here’s the thing about me and this book. I have talked before about my love/hate relationship with this author. Her writing style frequently grates against me, with its overdramatic, purpley prose, and her unsexy sex scenes, and her lack of subtlety. But I have liked all of her books despite that, and her characters get under my skin. She’s doing some work on her lack of queer characters in her books, though race still seems to be an issue a little bit. She is also very aware of her critics, if a particular scene in this book is to be believed (and Bryce’s overuse of the word alphahole throughout the book, which honestly makes no sense but whatever). All that to say I had told myself I wouldn’t be reading this series, and put it on the ‘No’ shelf in my mind. In the future, I will not be doing that. All that happened as a result is that my mind saw it sitting there on that shelf saying NO all the time, and just kept getting more and more curious, until that curiosity developed and morphed into an inexplicable desire to rip through both books in the series, and suddenly I had two brand new hardcover books in hand.
And I liked it. I did!
Aside from SJM’s overuse of curse words (and I fucking love cursing) and that purpley prose and unsexy sex, the plot and world in this drew me in. I want to know what happens. I want Bryce to come to terms with her grief for Danika. I want Hunt to heal from his extreme case of PTSD. I want to know more about the Asteri and see the characters here fight for a more just and kind world. I liked how this book dealt with trauma and grief, and the image of Bryce as a vapid, substance abusing party girl that contrasts so much with her real, three-dimensional personality. The plot genuinely surprised me, and even eked a few tears out of me in a very pivotal moment.
Was this over the top? Yes. Was this overwritten? Yes. Was this emotionally affecting and well-plotted and featured three-dimensional characters with good arcs? Also yes. Will I be reading the copy of book two that I now have sitting on my bedside table? Yessssss.
If you are interested in reading more about the intersections of feminism and romance, others have written much more about it, and more eloquently than I have in my paragraph above. A trip to Romancelandia on Twitter would be highly educational for anyone interested. Romance is a diverse genre about people making intimate human connections, just like any other genre. People who like romance are as diverse as any group, and as worthy of respect. What about any of that is contemptible? I think the shame is coming from inside the house.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]