Every so often, I hit upon a very specific genre I don’t link. Mysterious-game oriented YA books must be one. Caraval and Ace of Shades give off similar vibes (and that brief description is the best I can think of to compare the two) and I didn’t particularly enjoy either of them.
When her adopted mother goes missing, Enne travels to New Reynes (the Las Vegas of this fictional world) to find her mother. She seeks the help of hot-shot street lord Levi, a choice that pulls her into the darkside of this mostly dark city.
The biggest success of this book is also its biggest failing. It does a great job of building suspense. The early in the story big reveals are awesome, even if out of thin air. Unfortunately, the suspense never has a sucessful fallout. Some cool things happen during the built up Shadow Game, but the game itself? Pretty boring and not at all worth the hype.
That does lead me to a strong positive this book, however. The two main characters, Enne especially, are pretty great. Enne starts the book as quiet and out of place and turns into a badass bitch (in a good way). She is inexplicably alluring to everyone she encounters, but it works. I liked her a lot, and it kept me going through this story. I like Levi as well, if for no other reason than he is pretty different from the guys I’ve grown accustomed to reading about in the past few months.
Even though I enjoyed the characters in this story, which is usually the most important thing I need to like a book, I found myself disliking the rest. The atmosphere didn’t appeal, the follow-through of every big plot point is disappointing, and the conflict is weird and complicated. A lot happens in this book to “raise the stakes” but it didn’t resonate with me the way I think it was supposed to.
It’s not a bad book. If you read and liked Caraval, you will probably love this one. It’s just not a book for me. There are good aspects, but I disliked the rest so much that the good aspects didn’t bring up the weight of the story for me.