by Colleen Houck
There were so many things that I loved about this book, and a few things that annoyed me.
First, the world-building and magic systems are wonderfully imaginative and interesting. I was entranced with the magical setting and the witches, warlocks, vampires, werewolves, goblins, and succubi that populate the OtherWorld. They each have particular powers and traits that were fascinating to discover as they are explained through the plot. I also really loved the steampunk feeling of the world, and how automatons and clockworks are integrated with magic power.
I enjoyed the different main characters and supporting characters. They are all well-rounded and deep characters with their own intriguing backstories and varied personalities.
However, I did not like that there is an all-knowing third-person narrator who tells the reader what is going on in the minds and hearts of the characters at various times during each scene. Multiple POVs is a pet peeve of mine, but it IS well-written here, so it didn’t annoy me too horribly.
I loved the intricate plot with many mysteries and strange occurrences. There are a lot of moving parts and hidden connections between characters, and it all comes together really nicely in the end. But the ending does feel a bit deus ex machina, and I wish there were more of a denouement in the last chapters.
I also really liked that it deals with scary things like ghosts and vampires without being too scary. It’s creepy and weird and ghoulish, but I was never actually scared and it didn’t give me nightmares.
Another thing that annoyed me was the romance. Three different men fall in love (one of them was insta-love, two were over the course of many years) with Ember, the young witch, and it was pathetic to see them falling all over each other to court her and getting jealous and picking fights.
I also got sick and tired of hearing about Ember’s gorgeous clothes, and her beautiful hair, and her ample bosom, and her soft skin, and her electrifying eyes, and blah blah blah blah. Okay, I get it. She’s perfect and gorgeous and sweet and a very powerful witch to boot.
She literally has no faults. Oh wait, yes, her one fault is that she’s also adorably stubborn. Omg, look how charmingly stubborn she is! She’s just so headstrong and stubborn and independent. Look what a cute little stubborn witch she is. Okay okay, we get it.
Don’t get me wrong; there were many things about Ember’s personality that I really loved and I found interesting. All the characters have this truth to them that makes them feel like real people, but then they do some stupid romantic thing and I roll my eyes.
The funny thing is… there IS a wonderful romance that was gripping and beautiful and real without any stupidity, and that was the side romance between two of the supporting characters. Their romance felt true and deep and lasting, and not once did I roll my eyes. Now why couldn’t the main romance plot have had that kind of meaningful and weighty storyline, with real relationships between people who have known each other for a long time and gradually and naturally developed feelings for each other?
One thing I DID like about the romance is that it’s quite clean, with only a few kisses and one time what a gentleman lies down on Ember’s bed when she is injured and they fall asleep next to each other with nothing else happening. I think this would be appropriate for an older teenager to read. The kisses are a little steamy, but nothing too inappropriate.
I have gone back and forth between rating this 3 or 4 stars, and I guess it’s 3.5 stars from me. 5 stars for the plot and the world-building. 4 stars for the characters and the writing style. 2 stars for the romance.
I know I’m criticizing it a lot, but I really enjoyed reading this book! I’m glad that I bought it. I will definitely keep it, and I recommend for others to read it too. The good definitely outweighs the bad in this book!