Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally best-selling author Veronica Roth's stunning new science-fiction fantasy series. On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not - their gifts make them vulnerable to others' control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives and reset the balance of power in this world? Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra's currentgift gives her pain and power - something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother's hand: She is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows. Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive - no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive - or to destroy one another.
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So, I really wanted to like this book, but I had a really hard time with it. I felt like I was losing track of the characters and even at the end of the book, wasn't entirely sure who was who. I even had a hard time with the names- genderless so it made it even more easy to lose track of what character was who. Maybe it's because I didn't have a physical book to go back and review who was who- though I've never had that problem with an audio book before.
I think that more care needed to be taken when introducing new worlds to a reader- it felt rushed and there was no way for the reader to remember what world was which. I like the premise of the book, but wish more care had been taken with building the main characters. I didn't care about them at all by the end. I also felt like the villain was trying to hard to be villainous. The best villains are the ones that are relatable and human. The villain in this book felt like a bad Disney character. I am really sorry I didn't like this book, but there you have it.
A couple of hours in, feeling a tad bored and confused, I read the reviews on Goodreads. I was rather surprised at all the “This is racist! This is ‘ableist!' Don’t read it!” reviews. And of those who had formerly given it a good review back peddling, “Well, I didn’t see anything racist or ableist but now I’ve seen the light” sort of stuff. On Amazon at least, some of the comments correct the incorrect examples in the reviews. Some reviews counter the unpersuasive arguments of early reviewers. I imagine there will be more to come.
The whole ableist thing—the equivalent to “racist” expect it refers to the “differently-abled" (formerly known as "handicapped") or in this case concerning chronic pain—was even more ridiculous. The main female character, Cyra, suffers from chronic pain, more like chronic agony. Frankly, at that level of pain I don’t see how she could realistically function. But she does, barely. At any rate, I can speak to chronic, disabling pain and Roth didn’t write anything offensive AT ALL.
Cyra is initially pretty unlikeable (though Roth did an excellent job of making the reader understand her and even root for her, particularly as she becomes a better person through her relationship with Akos), but calling this “ablesit”—even the word is even annoying—is absurd. If the author created a British character who was the “bad guy” would there be a hue and cry that she were anti-British? If she created an evil old woman, would the author be called out for “ageism” and sexism?
Enough on that subject.
So what about the story? I vacillated between “it was ok” and “I liked it,” and finally decided on 3 stars. It's hard to say I "liked" something fairly violent, where few good things happen, but it was pretty well done and was not without hope. The hope, and the main relationship in the book saved it for me.
The world building was somewhat lacking. I never did come to a conclusion about whether things were technologically modern, IN GENERAL, or not. Obviously space ships and gene locking mechanisms for the door speak to technology, but I really didn’t have a clear picture otherwise. I was a little confused at first, as we are dropped right into the story with no idea what kind of world this is. What information we do get unfolds gradually. But it wasn’t quite enough for me.
All the crazy names drove me to distraction and sometimes (because there were so many characters), I got confused about who was who. Might have been easier if I had been reading instead of listening. Not sure.
Roth did an excellent job with Cyra—both her growth as a person and the relationship with Akos, which never sinks to the awful YA level of 10,000 descriptions of kisses (perish the thought that it should go further than a kiss in YA! Sigh.) and pages and pages of how it makes the character feel. For this reason alone, adults will probably enjoy it much more than the usual YA fare. And no stupid love triangle, which is another YA trope that bores me to death. And yes, it bored my when I was a teenager too.
Roth did an even better job of her portrayal of Akos. ‘Nuff said.
In the end, it was a pretty good story—good enough that I’ll read the next one as soon as it's published.