Review: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

16221851Tell the Wind & Fire is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone.

The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life…

Rating: ★★

ARC acquired through NetGalley.

I have one word for this book: boring.

But first things first: this book is a retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities and honestly it isn’t something I’ll ever do because I’m not interested in the least, so there are things in Tell the Wind and Fire that were lost to me. But the concept here is cool: years and years ago, the magic came, divided into Light magic and Dark magic. The Light magicians need the Dark magicians to drain them, since after some time the Light magic becomes to much for them to bear, but they don’t want to live with the Dark magicians (they are bad… because they are, I guess). So what did they do? Simple: two cities instead of one, a Light city and a Dark city. Dark citizens can’t go to the Light city, where everything is perfect, and most Light citizens wouldn’t even think about going to the Dark city since everything there is bad.

So, Lucie is our protagonist. She was born in the Dark city despite being a Light magician and when she was young her mother was murdered and her father put in the cages to die. With her Aunt Leila, Lucie managed to save him and became a symbol: the Golden Thread in the Dark. Now living in the Light city and dating Ethan Stryker, the son and the nephew of two of the most powerful men in the city, Lucie has everything she wants… until things go horribly wrong.

What made me dislike this book? First, Lucie is boring. She is a character I could’ve liked if she weren’t so dramatic (the book is in first person and sometimes Lucie’s musings made me want to scream) and… bland. I didn’t like any of the characters either; Ethan is even more bland than Lucie and really annoying sometimes too. I mean, there is a scene where Lucie confronts him about his privileged life (white, rich, heir of a powerful family, never had anything go wrong in his life, probably straight and so on) and his answer is basically “so… all this time… you despised me…” and I just, what? This makes zero sense and What About My Feelings, really?

The pace was really weird too. Tell the Wind and Fire starts strong and then Lucie spends pages and pages telling us about what happened to her in the Dark city… while the main storyline lay forgotten, paused. I’m pretty sure there are smarter ways to show a character’s backstory. There was no reason to put the readers through this infodump.

Third, I have no idea of how the magic works. I mean, what exactly the Light magic does? And the Dark magic? How does one learn it? There are limits to what the magic can do? And where the magic came from? Did it just appear out of nowhere? Much of the worldbuilding was left to the reader’s imagination, and while I do think it can be done, here it annoyed me because so much wasn’t clear.

And finally… well, the book is boring. The plot itself is boring. Even when things are happening, it is boring. There is no tension and nothing is interesting. I had to drag myself through this book, and it wasn’t pleasant. Carwyn was the character who could have been interesting, the highlight of the book, but his transformation wasn’t well done. It came out of nowhere and ruined him for me.

Notes on diversity: almost none? I mean, there is a side character who shows up in two scenes that wears a hijab, so yeep, a Muslim character. But, like I said, she doesn’t show up often and isn’t that important to the plot. Everyone else is white and cis and straight, as far as the reader knows. Also, there is a lack of women and girls in this book, seriously.

In conclusionTell the Wind and Fire is a book with a nice premisse that wasn’t well executed. I would give it one star, but the first 10% and the last 20% were good, so… 2.0 stars.


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