I first reviewed this book a year or so ago, and dismissed it as a badly-written load of shit with unlikeable characters and a generic plot. Now, here I am, re-reading it properly all the way to the end – and you know what? It’s not that bad. I might just be saying that because I just suffered through something much worse, but it was alright.
I’m a sucker for fantasy settings. I enjoyed the world-building in this book, the way magic worked, the conflict between magic and science, the concept of witches and crucibles, and I thought that the author did a good job of setting everything up.
Here, magic is used more for giving power to others, although it can also be used to control them. No one goes around throwing fireballs or anything. It’s very different from what I usually read in fantasy, and that was quite interesting to me.
Our main protagonist could be written a lot better, though.
Lily Proctor is a teenage girl with more allergies than hairs on her head. Everything sets her off, and I mean everything. Perfume, alcohol, cleaning fluid, the air, the temperature, the atmosphere…it’s ridiculous. Her doctors can’t do much for her and she spends a lot of time being very ill. I don’t know why she still goes to school. It seems like she’s either feverish, vomiting, going into a spasmodic fit, or just being dead on her feet.
I guess it makes you feel sorry for her, or at least it would if she didn’t spend the first few chapters being so unbelievably stupid so as to force herself to go to a highschool party, despite her many allergies to everything that moves, just because she thinks this boy is into her.
If you can get past that, then you’ll be rewarded by seeing that Lily is warped into another parallel world, where all of her allergies amazingly vanish!
Yes, that’s right. We switch from a modern day setting to some kind of magic-fantasy hybrid (yet they do still have electricity, somehow). In this new world, Lily’s alternate self, “Lillian”, is a powerful tyrannical witch who hangs people for practicing scientist and rules the land with an iron fist.
They both exist in the same world, by the way. Lily and Lillian. It gets a bit confusing, but apparently Lillian was the one who pulled Lily into her world, and tries to…uh…actually, I’m not quite sure.
You see, the next chain of events results in Lily joining all the rebels that are against Lillian (Outlanders, as they’re called) and gradually training her own powers…except that Lillian wants this to happen, and I’m still not exactly sure why because this is the first of the trilogy and I’m still a little confused myself.
Anyway. Ready for more confusion? Okay, apparently the people of this world all have a “willstone” with which they use magic. A witch can “claim” a person’s willstone, allowing herself to give power and energy to the person, but also having complete control over them should she wish to take over.
I know, it just gets really hard to understand here, because then you have people who serve as a witch’s mechanics and serve their every need…and somehow Lily ends up with three of them. Three guys. She ends up claiming them all.
Actually, she ends up claiming a lot of people by the end and giving all of them power, because there might be a great big fight or rebellion involved. Also, there’s a bunch of monsters called Woven that are the result of experimentation and try to kill people. I couldn’t begin to explain all this shit, or we’d be here all day.
Let’s look at the main characters.
Aside from Lily, you also have the three guys that end up being her mechanics: Tristan, Rowan and Caleb. Oh, sure, they’re all hot young men not much older than she is. I’m sure this won’t lead to anything.
Rowan is our main love interest. He used to be Lillian’s mechanic, and feels betrayed that she turned evil years ago. As a result, he distrusts Lily a lot at the beginning and is very mean to her. Lily (not Lillian) claims him, early on in the book, and they start drawing close and sharing memories and shit.
You know, I’m not feeling the romance here and I don’t really like him. Rowan’s a total control freak because he knows everything about Lillian’s body (being her mechanic), and also Lily. Even though she hasn’t met him before.
This guy’s a jerk and although he apologises to Lily for treating her badly, he’s still very controlling. He improves a little as time goes on, but he’s still a jerk. This is our main love interest, ladies and gentlemen, and he sucks.
Let’s move onto Tristan. Tristan is the alternate version of the Tristan from Lily’s old world – who, in her world, was a bit of a womanizer at their school and almost had a thing with her. But only in her world. I swear it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
She only shows a bit of attraction to him, however, so I guess that’s a failed love triangle right there because he only shows up sometimes. It’s a shame, because I kinda liked him. Even though he goes around sleeping with everyone and cheats on girls. I don’t know HOW, but he seems much more agreeable than Rowan. Fucking hell, man.
Caleb is the other guy with them. He has a gay lover who is tragically killed during the book, and is so tormented about it that he asks Lily to claim him and fill the gap in his heart.
Seriously what the fuck.
This is the first of many flaws in this book. We barely get to know Caleb’s gay lover at all, and within a few pages they’re dead? I think his boyfriend gets a BIT of dialogue, and we know their name, but that’s about it…
Also, doesn’t this seem a bit weird? He loses his boyfriend and asks Lily to claim instead? Imagine if he was dating a girl instead, and she died, and he immediately goes to Lily. It sounds so superficial. If you don’t know how to handle gay characters, don’t put them in at all!
As for Lily, I didn’t even like her that much. Actually, she’s easily one of the worst characters. She has all these “NO NUKES” T-shirts, talks about how she is hardcore vegan, and has a “SAVE THE WALES” shirt. (No, not whales. Wales. I assume that’s a typo.) She just sounded like a bit of a loony to me, being judgemental and constantly lording it over everyone else. I’m just glad she didn’t go on about it for very long.
I sure hope she isn’t a self-insert author designed to shove her opinionated views down our throats. Writers, take note – NEVER do that with a main character. It will make your audience hate you. Lily is the only character who acts like this. I don’t know why we’re supposed to root for her.
The plot and action of the book, overall, isn’t bad. We’ve got some decent character development…but mainly just for Lily and Rowan. Or just Rowan. Nothing for Tristan, and forget about anything for Caleb. “My boyfriend died” is about as much development as he gets.
And then there’s a questionable scene where Lily does this really weird ritual with Rowan and Tristan. She takes off all her clothes, at their request – ALL of them – and they paint runes on her.
The fuck, man. I couldn’t believe I read that. She seems alright with it, too, and teases them later about how they’ve both seen her naked. In fact, she even kisses Rowan whilst he’s busy painting her boobs.
Shortly after this, they all go to this bar where loads of girls are fawning over Rowan and kissing him and feeling him up (possibly to extract energy from his body, but really it does NOT look like that) whilst Lily watches. Many of them are dressed in skimpy clothing.
Did the author forget that the protagonist is a 17-year old girl? Did she just get horny whilst writing this bit? The fuck? How on earth was this allowed into the damn book?
Thankfully, that part doesn’t go on too long and we soon return to the plot and our generic villains, and oh boy they are very generic. One of them tortures Lily in non-physical ways later on, and the other one does all these evil scheming…which goes nowhere. I was so disappointed in their lack of activity, really. But I guess Lillian is the real villain here.
So, yeah. I liked the book, but the nude stuff felt so out of place, especially in a YA book. The world-building was great. The writing was average at best, especially during the first few chapters where Lily forces herself to go to a highschool party despite her many, many allergies. She’s not the best protagonist ever and she’s mind-numbingly stupid at times, but I guess she’s got Special Chosen Heroine plastered all over her forehead.
This is a trilogy, by the way, and just as well because we end on a cliffhanger. Do I care what happens next? Uh, yeah, I guess. Am I going to read the next book? I guess I might as well, so maybe this book succeeded in some way.
A lot of it is mindless drivel with characters I don’t like, but some of it has some nicely-done scenes with nice action scenes, so it did keep me reading. However, there are just so many flaws and weird things going on that I can’t rate it very highly. Or recommend it, in fact.