My rating: 4 of 5 stars
*Thank you to NetGalley and Write Plan for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*
There are stories that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them. This might be such a story. It certainly is one I enjoy thinking about, discussing way more than actually reading it. Which sounds slightly negative, but it’s not necessarily.
If you just want a relaxing read, this one isn’t for you. But if you like your books dark, thought-provoking and tackling important and difficult topics such as guilt, grief, coping mechanisms and death, then keep reading. (Just know that this book doesn’t shy away from showing exactly what happens when people break and suffer, so be sure you can handle that)
I’ve seen differing opinions, but I think this book is heavily character focused. The main focus of this story is the two sisters, Ember and Solanine and their effort to slowly get to know each other again after being apart for eight long years.
But they have let vastly different lives and struggle to understand each other. On top of that, they each have their own secrets and feelings of guilt.
Embers memories were ‘cleansed’ when she was captured eight years ago and she was turned into a soldier. She fought, killed and felt nothing for years. Including the moment she killed her sisters fiancé. She is not the same innocent smiling young girl her sister remembers. Nor can she be that ever again.
Solanine on the other hand always searched for her little sister and lost many people along the way. She fought her own demons while hiding and trying to locate and free Ember.
The world they’re living in is unforgiving. A virus has wiped out most of the humans and now soldiers roam the earth to give people the choice: Life or Death. Live in the City of Graven, where dreams die or be killed immediately.
The setting was very vivid and I could picture everything, the atmosphere was very dark.
Solanine chapters were written in third person while Embers were first person which was a bit irritating at first, but I got used to it.
I think I liked Solanine and her story a tad bit more, probably because Ember was really emotionless for a large part of her story and that made it a bit harder for me to connect with her. Even though I really liked that part in hindsight. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m not going more in depth with this.
But the middle part is also the reason why I docked off a star. Ember was torn on what to believe, but she was a bit quick to change her thinking for me. I didn’t find it that plausible. Though there were some truly chilling lines here, and the feeling of the City and the people living there was definitely conveyed well.
(But, next time … dead eyes. I get it. not necessary to repeat it quite that often! And some thoughts were worded really weird, I don’t think anyone thinks like that, but oh well.)
I really appreciated that Haley Sulich went all out and wasn’t afraid to really explore the dark topics she chose to write about. There were consequences for everything and a not really a fairytale ending. And I was pleasantly surprised with certain twists. I love it when I can’t see something coming.
Tucker was a good addition to the story even though he did something which I really despise (being brave but stupid .. a pet peeve of mine) but I adored his loving and fun side.
Cahira was an interesting character and I enjoyed reading about her. She was smart and caring, sensitive and broken. And clever when her brother wasn’t. Which I greatly appreciated. Her story is quite dark, too.
Nightshade, well. Hers is a tragic story but we didn’t see enough of her for me to really care about her tbh.
Same with Kane actually, Even though I did like him and what happened with him.
The plot wasn’t the strongest point of this book imo. It was too convenient from time to time. The ending, for example, felt too easy compared to the struggle before.
But overall I quite liked this book and am still thinking about it. Which is something I love.