Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the ARC. It hasn’t affected the contents of my review.
I liked this, but there are some pretty significant things keeping me from giving this any higher than three stars. The biggest problem being that several of the twisty details and reveals make no sense, and we get no explanations for them. Some of this I guess I can write off if it turns out this will be a series [note: yes, it will be a series, it was just announced], which the very last sentence seems to imply is the intent, but I was left really dissatisfied and I don’t actually know if this is book one, so I’m still counting this as a ding.
This is a story about five kids who started playing a Japanese card game, and then under circumstances they never talk or think about, left one of their friends behind for dead. Now, four years later and seemingly haunted by the ghost of their friend, they have reunited to finish the game in hopes that they can bring him back from the creepy Japanese underworld slash gameworld he has been stuck in for four years.
Right away, I thought the decision to have four POVs was the wrong one. This is a short book, and two narrators would have bene more than okay. I would have chosen Emerson, but probably Maddie would have been the one the author would have chosen, and then Dax. The decision to have all the kids be POV characters just meant that it took me way too long to actually get invested in the story and the characters, not until the 50% mark. And there really wasn’t any narrative purpose behind having them all as POV characters.
The second thing, as mentioned above, is how incomplete this book feels. It needed fifty more pages at least. The ending was the worst, as we go from the kids playing the game, to somehow having everything wrapped up and fixed in an instant. I literally listened to the ending three times just to make sure I hadn’t accidentally tuned out and missed something, but I didn’t. It read like the author couldn’t figure out how to explain what happened so she just decided to skip the explanation entirely. The explanation, and the climax, which is only the most important part of the book. I kind of can’t believe her editor let her get away with it.
The game aspect wasn’t really used enough, in my opinion. The only truly satisfying game portion of the book involved the kids playing Truth or Dare with younger versions of themselves. That was the only genuinely great part of the story.
There is also an entirely unresolved subplot involving an empress wanting to come back from the dead and rule the world. Again, if there is a sequel, I suppose this isn’t an issue, but it’s unclear.
All in all, not mad I read this, but I could have been reading something better.