by Christelle Dabos
Translated by Hildegarde Serle
First sentence: “It’s often said of old buildings that they have a soul.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: The main character is engaged, but other than that there’s nothing “objectionable” (at least that I read). It’s in the teen section (grades 9+) but if a 6-8th grader is interested, I’d give it to them.
When my rep for Europa pitched this book, the first thing I told him was “the cover is awful”. Yes, it fits with the other Europa titles, but, really: what kid is going to want to pick up this book?
But it’s a huge deal in France, he countered. And it’s supposed to be sweeping and epic. So I picked up a few for the store, if only to support Europa’s first foray into young adult fiction. And then I nominated it for the Cybils, so I’d force myself to read it.
I’m sorry. It’s awful.
I liked Dabos’ world building: she’s imagined a world where there are a bunch of floating “arks” populated by different families with different magical skills. I really liked our main character, Opheilia’s, magical skill at reading items — she can tell the history of the owner through their items, and she wears gloves so she doesn’t accidentally read other people’s histories without their permission. But, Opheila herself was a huge pushover. I think she was supposed to be cheerily mousy, but instead I just got annoyingly wimpy. She’s been given in an arranged marriage (arranged by the heads of her family, I assume?) to Thorn, who is from the Polar ark (I think), and whose family’s skill has to do with illusion. Except, once on their ark, Sophie finds out that everyone is at each other’s throat and she’s in the middle of it.
At this point, I was more than 200 pages into a nearly 500 page book, and I bailed. It was just going nowhere too slowly for me. The only thing that was holding my attention was the world, and there wasn’t enough of that to make me care enough to keep reading. (And I thought Rowling was overly wordy!) So, I bailed.
But, I suppose, if large, very French, fantasies are your thing, then this one will be perfect. They’re just not my thing.