I am struggling to write this review. This book was good and I enjoyed it and I absolutely recommend it. Let’s just put that upfront. A solid almost four-star read. Like, a 3.85. Really.
So why do I want to complain about it? I guess it’s because it is another entry in my new favorite subgenre – post-#metoo feminist fiction with a magical realism or fairy tale bent – but it just isn’t quite as excellent as other books I’ve read recently. It mostly suffers from a crowded field and too high expectations.
The plot is interesting – four women have been assaulted by their company’s CEO. Not only has he raped them, he has placed curses on them to prevent them reporting the assault. And “curses” is quite literal – a compulsion to buy expensive shoes or the inability to cross a new threshold, creepy crawlies coming out of her mouth when she tries to say what happened. They have to work together to figure out how to beat him. Again, this would be a magical realism thing, they are definitely in the real world.
There were things executed so well! I loved the diversity in the women, not only in skin color, but temperament and culture and background and sexuality and status. It didn’t feel like tokenism or checking off diversity boxes. I loved the way the fairy tales were reinterpreted and how the curses were broken. I loved the messaging throughout. I loved that the CEO was never given a name or much of a description or any sort of meaningful page time. That the assaults were described matter-of-factly but not graphically, and that Claycomb uses the word “rape” repeatedly because sometimes I feel like soft language and euphemisms do more to protect and swaddle the acts and those who commit them than those who have suffered.
So that’s a lot of very positive! I just have this dissatisfaction that I can’t name. I felt it was very very on the nose, and I think it was deliberate but still isn’t my favorite. I didn’t love the fake discord modern fairy tales. I wanted more rage and revenge, not just healing and justice – though I know that should be enough, I can’t help wanting a little more snapping teeth and destruction.