I wanted to like it, I truly did, but there is simply nothing here worth pretending is acceptable...
There WILL be spoilers in this review, and crude language (not all of it me cursing at the thing, but some actual quotes & paraphrases that address SJM's tone)... But for now, let me say, this felt like a knock-off stage production housed in a low-rent theater, created by a psychotically invested artiste of a wanna-be director and acted in by 2 people who kind of care about the director and therefore managed to drag their half-resentful friends along to auditions...
The prose is limp and lame, her dialogue tagging conventions are irksome, and the metaphors she uses are very galaxy-brain bits of nonsense that feel like symptoms a dangerous drug-high. Also. There's no plot. Like at all. (I'm all for character-driven stories, but seriously, for character-driven narratives to be at all effective, the characters have to be slightly more exciting than damp cardboard... Final non-spoilery points: there was too much sex that didn't do anything to contribute to the narrative, the mental health handling (read: dismissal) was pretty insulting, and it was way too frickin long a lead up for a predictable, boringly obvious ending that rendered all of the hyper-attentive foreshadowing utterly useless.
Beyond all that, the new covers are hideous.
I liked the House and the blossoming of female friendships. But that's about it...
I wanted to like this one, I really did. It's just been a few years of SJM not writing up to her potential, but still showing that potential... I walked into this with low expectations, high hopes, and a careful detachment that would let me read this without my dislike of Nesta getting in the way of my enjoyment.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Nesta. I've just always found her rather irksome; she was annoying but interesting enough that her purpose as a foil to her sisters worked rather well. She was never main character material because she was never meant to be. SJM actually did alright with fleshing her out enough to hold up a main character role, but Nesta just isn't a piece on the board. She's not significant enough to the world to NEED to be anything more, which means she's just there far too much of the time to be interesting as a central figure.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Any story needs its side characters. To promote a side character to MC status is difficult, but can be done, so long as you reframe the rest of the narrative along with them. SJM didn't.
Which means that all the elegant character building and world crafting she put into the first three (*cough* Frost and Starlight was a travesty that I will forever ignore *cough*) just evaporates. Because to make Nesta seem fleshed out and solid, the rest of the characters became pitifully flimsy cardboard cutouts of themselves.
Like even Mor and Azriel were barely there and only the slightest bit participatory. It was tragic. Az had a few good quips, but it was an SNL skit of Clinton with Bengazi compared to the world-shaking political impact of the Shadowsinger's true glory.
That was the main thing for me. This was a character-driven story without any truly great characters... And zero plot. 700-something pages of hints and preamble, but with zero follow through.
Again, here there be spoilers. Very direct, spoilery spoilers: