This was an okay read. A bit of murder with a slice of mystery and a dash of stubborn kid. Even though it had all the ingredients for YA awesome it didn’t quite reach its full potential.
Firstly, I like the world. It’s easy to understand and get into without all of the overdramatised and forced situations these modern YA novels have. Especially the Dystopian ones. For the most part, the characters were clearly defined. The way the hierarchy of the book worked also wasn’t hard to understand. Overall, as I said, this book definitely had good bones. There is no disputing that. I loved a lot of things about it. The way it played out just didn’t fit.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t like the main character. She never seems to hit a learning curve. Scylla looks like an outsider because her mother was not from Devovea so that was an interesting dynamic. But she was born into the higher court and it doesn’t seem to be hindering her much. The one annoying thing about a city with fairly advanced modern tech is the idea that women can’t be soldiers. It seems so foreign because usually future or differently advanced worlds don’t subscribe to such things. The Crown is a woman and essentially she is in charge of everything, so the men being all weird about the women soldiers in the soldier camp was odd. It didn’t fit the story when not only was the main character a female who trained with them, but the Crown, and the head of the rebellion are also female. So the way this connects to both our lead and the story as a whole seemed pretty far off.
So my first gripe with her is her unwillingness to believe her dad is a murderer. She’s so quick to suspect her best friend’s dad, thus ruining their friendship. Rightfully so as I was def team best friend in this scenario. And even when he points out that she refuses to suspect her own father but his father was easily suspected it didn’t affect the way she progressed to the story. It didn’t end there. Even after receiving pretty damning evidence about her father, she’s still team dad. She is so inconsistent about this. Always saying anyone could be guilty but in the same breath uttering what type of daughter would she be if she abandoned her father and putting him right back on the innocent table. Her dad was anything but innocent even if he didn’t commit the crime and her unwillingness to accept this while simultaneously expecting her best friend to get on board with her throwing his father to the authorities was selfish at best.
Then she doesn’t attack the ‘The authorities won’t help me so I’ll just solve the case myself’ angle well. She jumps to conclusions without enough evidence to convince the authorities to follow through. And even after being told all she is doing is wasting their time Scylla never adjust her tactics. She still just finds minimal evidence and expects the detective to follow her even when every time this happens her suspicions turn out to be proven wrong. It’s hard to get on board with her when the main reason she keeps finding other suspects, with weak proof, is due to her massive unwillingness to accept her father is involved. And her not learning and evolving how she gets information in an attempt to prove to the detective she’s not just trying to clear her father’s name but instead trying to find the killer even if it is him makes it again hard to connect with her.
Then there are other missed opportunities. Like when she thinks she can threaten the crown. Someone who has the ability to wipe her out with a command and the crown doesn’t even threaten her. Just takes ignores the blackmail like it wasn’t even offered. So Scylla learns nothing about how you can’t just say what you want without consequences. Seriously I wouldn’t just threaten the ruler of a country especially if we are alone so it’s my word against theirs and especially if I’m just a teen investigating a case I have no business in. Yeah, I was more than a bit miffed this wasn’t used as a learning point for her just like how she didn’t learn anything from her interactions with the detective.
Also, she is forever going on and on about how the government is supposed to do the right thing. Sigh. No matter how much evidence her quest for justice proves this wrong every time she encounters corruption she is shocked and bemused by it and preaching a moral code. She literally lives under the roof of someone who is part of the system. A system she is rebelling against and wants no parts of, how can she be against how the government treats the people yet so shocked by the corruption within it. That is so contradictory. It’s hard to believe she doesn’t understand how the system works. She mentions it being faulty but on the same token also complains about doing illegal things. You can’t have it both ways you are either trying to bring down the corruption or you are complacent and part of it. It was by far the most annoying thing about her. Saying she wants to do right by the people and then being indecisive and siding with the system she knows is corrupt because when it conveniences her she suddenly has faith in the justice system.
Basically, she just does what she wants to do, throughout the entire book, and the learning curve, consequences, accountability for the blatant disregard of the feelings of her only two friends, even the wishes of her not-so-good father, and the detective never materialises. She doesn’t seem to come out at the end learned of anything.
Then there was the moment when a rescue was going down and, even though she should not have done a thing and was told not to do a thing, she takes one of the people away unnecessarily. No matter what that person said there was a safe place prepared for them and a meeting could’ve been arranged without her deviating from the mission at hand. There are no real repercussions for again doing what she wanted instead of considering the cast around her and what she should and doing that instead.
And the last thing she did, when asked to be a spy for the rebellion was say that’s illegal. This bit happens after the killer is named and apprehended so it’s not a real plot spoiler. But after all she finds out, about the Crown, about her father, about the actual murderer, about what happens in the lower levels of the city and actually being part of the rebels for a brief moment, her response is “no that’s illegal”. This is what I mean about her contradictory morals. After already crossing the line numerous times, and each time having this same battle, where are now at the end of the book and she’s still saying no. She should be all noed out by now. How is she not immediately saying yes? Especially when the Crown offered a job as her protege which she did not want to accept because she doesn’t want to be part of a corrupt position. But, through fate, she is now in the job she doesn’t want and given a chance to fix the system and with an entire book of evidence that proves she needs to do this, and even with her saying she wants to fix things, she’s still saying no and has to be convinced to start the change she has already admitted is needed.
This one act sums up my opinion of her. It’s like no amount of evidence could change how she refused to see her father as guilty. Her lack of faith in the system, and the evidence to support this, didn’t stop her on multiple occasions from saying some moralistic stuff about how it should work like she actually had faith in the system. And then, the final act of her contradictory actions is played out once more at the extreme end of the book.
I actually go into much deeper detail about it in the video review but ultimately Scylla falls into my least liked category of YA heroes. The ‘I’ll just do what I want, when I want, however I want, other characters be damned and at the end when I save the day I won’t be held accountable for all my bad decisions because I saved the day’. I’m def triggered by this character trait.
So why still three stars with all of this? It was easy to read. Even though the ending conclusion was much too easy and for the length of the book didn’t have enough clues to support it. Even though you could guess who there weren’t nearly enough bread crumbs to mislead or lead to this conclusion. Things happened, and they were resolved and then it was on to the next clue. With multiple POV’s setting up misleads and real clues would’ve been much easier. Still, even with all of this, the story had good flow, it was entertaining, it had amazingly fun side characters, they didn’t make it in the written review but they get more voice in the video. Overall this was a decent attempt at a murder mystery and the broken and often complex inner grey area of politics where nothing is either good or bad. And, most importantly, everything, and I mean everything I have issues with are so prevalent in YA that I can confidently say that people who are fans of this genre will love, love, love this story and more than likely think I’m just a hardass and overreacting. For this reason alone it gets a hard recommendation.
Within its genre and target audience, this book should be a hit. It just wasn’t enough of a hit for me to cross over into, ‘I didn’t like it but it’s so perfect for its genre it gets four or five stars anyway’ territory. So again read this story, chances are high even if you don’t love it you won’t be mad you added it to your books completed file.