Coe has been shunned her entire life. She lives on a small island, probably the last bit of humanity left, where the ocean’s tides threaten to wash them away. Every day they have to climb up onto a platform until the tides go out with the 400 or so other members of her clan. She is shunned because she is weak and deformed. Missing one arm means she’ll never be very useful. She can’t fish or fight or scavenge in her condition. All she is good for is cleaning the craphouse. Joy! She has accepted her lot in life until the king falls ill and she is taken on as the princess’s new lady-in-waiting. From there on, she learns that life on the island is not all it seems and maybe the truth will set them all free. Or maybe it will lead to their inevitable doom…all one way to find out!
When the story starts, Coe is far from that brave badass YA heroine we’ve been seeing a plethora of. She’s smart, but weak and scared and….whatever the opposite of badass is. I don’t want to say pathetic, because she definitely wasn’t, but maybe a little defeated? She had this sad attitude because she knew once her sixteenth hard season (comparable to 16th birthday) was upon her, her rank would go from the safest part of the platform, the the outer edges where she’d surely meet her death quickly. And it was completely refreshing to read from such a perspective. Right now, I’ve read a ton of novels about the brave and special girl who knows how to sword-fight or use a bow or is just a special little snow-flake who manages to save the world. While Coe does have a tinsy bit of the snowflake syndrome, she isn’t like any other YA heroine I’ve read. She isn’t utterly unique, she just believes in love which is an antiquated thing to these people and her love for others is what sets her apart, even if it isn’t immediately apparent. And her confidence builds throughout the novel when she gets more sure of herself.
Then we have sweet, brave, amazing Tiam.
He’s kind and caring and tries to help everyone and a totally annoying good guy and somehow I fell for him anyway. He’s that “I’m good at everything, but I’m not rubbing it in your face” type. You know, that one who you love, but secretly you want to punch in the face because he’s so damned skilled at everything? That’s him. At first, I didn’t love him, but the further into the story I got, the more I wanted to see…which brings me to my next point…
This book has a cliffhanger…involving my sweet Tiam. For all of you who don’t know (and weren’t clued in by the author bit of this review), Nichola Reilly is a pseudonym for Cyn Balog. I have been incredibly spoiled in the past because all the novels I’ve read by her were standalones, meaning no cliffhangers. I went into this with expectation that that standard would be upheld, but no such luck. If you haven’t already read my spiel, I hate cliffhangers…a lot. I have kinda let it go a bit
because everyone is doing it (which isn’t the best excuse) and if I hated anything that ended ambiguously, I wouldn’t be able to read any YA series at all until all the books were out. Sorry Cyn, I still love you! And I love this book! I just wasn’t a fan of the particular moment you chose to end on. On one hand, it was hopeful, but Tiam…..I can’t say more without spoilers. ::sobs:: Also, love triangle alert. It’s not one of those Bella Swan, I love both of you so desperately how could I ever chose?!?! ones, but it is there. One hot guy, two very different girls, may the odds be ever in your favor.
The rest of the cast was diverse. You have Fern who I absolutely adore. She so young and resilient and happy. Even when bad things happen, she bounces back to that smile pretty quickly, definitely quicker than I’d be able to. Then there is Star, the princess, who I liked? Hated? I’m not sure? This character’s personality jumps around so much, I wasn’t sure what to make of her and our leading lady feels about the same way. Everyone else is pretty much as asshat. Finn and the rest of the crazy villagers are just that, crazy. After the king dies, they seriously lose their shit and I wanted to smack all of them. How can you do this? What the hell is wrong with you? How is this going to solve anything?
One thing I was really blown away by here was the world. This is an incredibly unique world unlike anything I’ve ever read about before. These people have lost the ability to love or even care about their fellow man. They seem to be an entirely selfish group and they don’t care how others perceive them…not that there are others. They have lost the ability to read. Let me say that again, these people can’t read. Coe is the only person on the island who knows how, a secret she guards closely. I can’t imagine not being able to read. I get that in the scheme of things and in their life style it was a superfluous skill, especially when their books would all float away, but I’m just floored by that. I don’t think I could tolerate this world without the option to escape into fiction constantly!
This novel is near perfect, only failing short at the end with that cliffhanger (I know, I’m beating that point to death). The only thing that could have made it better is a bit more from the journal. Coe has a journal that several of her ancestors wrote in and I was very interested in learning more about them. I would love an epilogue or a novella or something along those lines that is just a story (or several stories) from that journal. It has everything I have come to expect from Cyn, regardless of the name she writes under, with great characters and a wholly enrapturing story. All I can really say is this: Can I have the next one? Please?
****Thank you to Nichola Reill for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review****