Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.
I had a very difficult time rating this book because while there wasn't anything particularly bad about it, I just never fully got into reading the story either. Nothing stood out to me enough that made me like it...it was just, eh. I was excited for this book originally because of the mythology. Chinese mythology isn't something that is used very often in books, and so any type of book that I find that has this type of mythology has my interest piqued. Even though this aspect of the book was good, the story just never captured my interest in the way I was expecting.
There were some things I enjoyed with this novel, so I want to talk about those before moving on to the aspects I didn't really like. So first is the mythology. The setting and the mythology is very well described and well written. I could easily picture everything, and in some ways, the story was very refreshing. I liked the uniqueness of the setting and the mythology. I also liked the fact that this story isn't about the upper class girl...it's about her handmaid. I thought this too was an interesting spin because the story could have easily been reversed. Granted, this is nothing new...I could name a handful of books that do this, but it worked well for this book and I think it deserves a mention. Finally, I did like that there is a female-female relationship in this book. Not many books do this right now, and it didn't feel like it was just put in the story (this is important to remember later on). The relationship actually had a role/place in the story, and it helped the story progress.
Now onto what I felt didn't work. First was the characters. Nothing was particularly wrong with the characters, but none of them were that interesting either. I just never felt like I could connect to any of them, and I didn't find myself rooting for anyone. I didn't hate the characters in any way, but there were only little parts of each character that I truly loved. I didn't feel like the characters were developed enough for the reader to truly connect to them. Every character just needed a little something more.
My biggest problem with this book was the romance. The romance between the main character, Skybright, and Kai Sen just felt rushed and thrown in the story. It's kind of insta-love because basically it was just one minute the characters meet, and the next they decided to be in love with each other. Half the time, I didn't even feel like they actually knew each other to even be friends! Ultimately, their romance just felt extremely unbelievable to me, and I just couldn't get over this fact while reading any scene. And then there was the lovely addition of a love triangle...at the Very.End.Of.The.Story.
This is a major no-no in my book, and I honestly was just left wondering why?? There was literally no reason for it, and again, it just felt thrown into the story to maybe add some drama. Only problem, there wasn't any drama to be had because as soon as the love triangle is introduced, the book is over. I'm not even kidding about this.
Overall, this book just wasn't for me. The plot was kind of a roller coaster, as it had it's strong moments, followed by weak moments, but it did have it's shining moments. I loved how strong the friendship between Skybright and Zhen Ni was, but there is definitely some room for improvement for this book. I think that for some, this will be a great book, but at least for me, it wasn't my cup of tea.
Happy reading :)