Most of my reads lately have come from trolling through the YA section of my library. It’s been interesting, to say the least. For one, I’ve always been the person that would curse the librarians by ordering a ridiculous armload of books online, and then stagger in and out of the doors with them. Browsing has never been my thing, really. For one, all that effort expended with hauling pounds of books in and out, and usually my success rate for a quality read is 50-50.
My main takeaway from the young adult section is that for a tall person, the B and C section are right on eye level. Any authors that have a last name that begins with A, T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z are somewhat doomed. I counted myself quite lucky that Victoria Schwab’s last name begins with an S.
I’ll do my best to write a spoiler-free review. I was happy to plunge into this world without reading anything about the books beforehand, but I’ll veer away from actual plot spoilers.
Honestly, I would expect the actual monster to be as Slytherin as it gets. Not so. The second MC in this dual-POV book is about as Hufflepuff as it gets.
To contrast, August-the-monster begins with quietly reading a book about the universe.
Kate-Harker-the-human begins by burning down a Catholic chapel.
I’m completely down for reading a book with such stark differences in POV characters. (To add to that, two POV characters of the opposite gender in a YA novel that do not feel the need to get into any sort of romance. What is this novelty.)
Also, their characters arcs were beautiful. Kate’s had more to do with disillusionment and the truth, with not feeling a desperate need to prove herself to the one person that mattered. August’s had more to do with hurtling toward destruction and rising from it again, that breaking in such a horrific way didn’t spell the end of everything as he knew it.
The unique details and the entire world made me so happy. For one, when V.E. Schwab created this fictional monsters, she largely steered away from run-of-the-mill urban fantasy monsters. One monster has vampire leanings, to be sure, but the others are quite unique. The concept that monsters can be birthed from horrific human events (terrorist bombings, for example), and use art to draw stained souls out of human beings was incredibly unique. I’ve always been slightly obsessed with stories that revolve around a specific art form, and August’s violin was special to me.
One thing I noticed was that I kept thinking I had caught the author in a plot hole, but I was always wrong (happily enough). I think it was mostly because of the circumstances I was reading in–a crowded waiting room full of small children. Confession: I was under the impression that if they just had a big set of speakers/connected to radio airwaves, they could just have August play and it would kill everyone on the other side of the city and it would all be a-ok. For one side, at least. I believe the reason I backed off that idea was because a) I don’t think it’s canonically mentioned that the music has effect unless you physically hear it yourself, and b) not everyone on the other side has a shadow, so it wouldn’t work. It was good to see how skillfully she juggled the world and the different factors that were built into the world to break both characters and kick the plot forward.
I actually put the book down in the middle of the prologue. I assumed it would just be another “#rebelliousteengirl at boarding school” book, and I’ve read too many of those in my time to be even vaguely interested. When I picked it up again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t remotely close to a boarding school story.
The two POVs were balanced really nicely. This whole story had an alternate-world-roadtrip-danger vibe that I loved. Neither POV got overwhelming or boring, which is a big deal in books with more than one POV.