ARC Review: “Tell the Wind and Fire” by Sarah Rees Brennan

16221851Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

Goodreads | Amazon

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Two and a half stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Clarion Books for this eARC! This title will be released on April 5th, 2016.

I wish this was an April Fools joke. I wish I could say that I did not really rate a SRB book this low. Especially a book with this much potential and thought behind it – which is honestly the reason it’s rated as high as it is. But as much as I desperately wanted to love this book, it was impossible.

My problem with this book wasn’t that it was dark. In fact, that’s what I wanted from it when I read the description. I know that some people read SRB for her humor. Right now, don’t read this if you’re looking for humor. Don’t do it.

Our main character Lucie, is a Light magician who only escaped the Dark city a few years ago. After her mother was killed and her father was captured, she managed to create a celebrity kind of persona in order to get the attention of the Light City’s rulers (the Light Council) and get them both rescued and brought to the Light City. Now, she’s dating the city’s richest golden boy, Ethan, and everything seems to be just fine. Until her golden boy is almost killed for treason and she finds out that he has a doppleganger–a perfect physical copy of Ethan with a different personality, that may or may not have a soul. Dopplegangers are created with Dark magic to save people who are dying, and also illegal to create. So now not only is Ethan accused of prison, but also his family–the city’s most prominent–has to hide that they committed one of the biggest crimes.

Are you confused yet? I’m not writing my opening that way to be confusing; I’m doing it because I’m still confused. World building in this novel sets up a lot of really, really cool ideas, but very rarely fleshes them out or brings them into a cohesive whole. I spent the entire novel frustrated because I didn’t really know how things connected or worked or even what some things meant. Worse, some things that I thought could be really cool are never expanded upon. They’re just convenient in the moment.

The characters were also frustrating beyond belief. My Goodreads chronicles the fact that I spent the first fourth of the book slogging, almost convinced I couldn’t make it through. While the story gets better, the characters don’t really. Lucie is smarter than she pretends, but at the same time she keeps making really stupid decisions. Ethan is just a 2D golden boy trying to be a hero. Carwyn, his doppleganger, had the most potential for character depth, and has it in places, but often just reverts to the smart-mouthed sass-boy that readers of YA are too familiar with.

Speaking of too familiar, don’t even get me started on this romance. It was so 1 dimensional and frustrating–and that’s just for Ethan and Lucie. Add in the weird love triangle that develops with Carwyn and I just … ugh. It was a poster child for everything that I hate.

The story is where everything good happened–once you get around the iffy world-building. This is not a happy story, as I have said, and that in itself was so important to me. It was not here to provide a trite happy ending. Lucie is a symbol for both the Light and the Dark cities, but not because she has a messiah complex. She just wanted to save her father, and now she wants nothing to do with the persona she created. She used peoples’ sympathies to get what she wanted, outside of the larger political context. But there IS a larger political context, and she is embroiled in it whether she wants to be or not. Like I said, both cities use her as a rallying cry for their causes (revolution AND the stability of the old order), which is really cool. There is also the matter of dopplegangers, how they are created, and whether or not they have souls. This is only scratched instead of explored deeply, even though the end of the novel would claim that it was one of the story’s Big Ideas. I wish it really had been. THERE WERE SO MANY GOOD IDEAS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN EXPLORED.

I think, in the end, this is a novel where I see what could have been. It could have been SO GOOD. Especially as the story goes on, and the warping of the politics and the relationships towards the end … guys. There was so much richness and depth of idea here. It was not just another YA novel about dystopic revolution. It wanted to be so much more. However, between the characters, the setting and the romance … it set itself back. This novel is constantly fighting against the way that it is written versus the way that I could have been written. I wanted to love the setting and the characters, and I wanted them to interact with the plot in so many other ways. But they didn’t. And that is just … so, so frustrating.

I respect what SRB was going for SO MUCH. I’m thrilled that she had this idea and tried to go for it. Unfortunately, in execution, I just couldn’t get into it. It didn’t take the ideas far enough and fell back hard into some really bad YA tropes. I won’t go as far as to say that you shouldn’t read this, because I think the plot presents some important ideas on how to write a YA revolution novel that we all haven’t read 16 times before, but … beware. It won’t be as good as you want it to be.

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