Published: September 1, 2015
Received: Egalley from Netgalley (Thanks Disney-Hyperion!)
I was so excited for this book. I loved Lackey's Elemental Masters books and her Valdemar books, plus dragon (!!) on the cover of this one. What could go wrong??
Apparently a whole lot.
This seriously felt like a first novel of an untrained writer. I kept thinking to myself, maybe this is her first book written with a ghost writer? It did not read like a Lackey novel at all. Even the world-building was incredibly subpar compared to her other novels. It felt like she had the barest bones of an idea, and she figured since she was writing for a younger audience that she didn't need to put in as much as effort. I was so disappointed.
The premise is great: Hunter Joy has been secretly training in her mountain village for years, but has now been called to the big city (Apex) to join her Uncle and pick up training there. Typically any hunter goes to Apex to train from the beginning, so Joy must keep the Masters and Hunters of her home village a secret. With her pack of "dogs" (creatures from the Otherside who work with Joy), Joy must keep Apex safe from the variety of dangerous Othersiders that crossed the barrier years before and have been slowly creeping past the supposedly safe zone of the city.
However, Lackey also failed a bit at executing the premise. She combines a lot of different cultures to create this "futuristic" society. Basically she says that no culture was entirely right, but each of them seemed to get a little bit of it right. However, this comes across as really insensitive to cultures and traditions. I kept having to ask myself, "Is this racist? This feels a little bit racist." And I've gotten to a point in my life where if I have to ask myself that question, it probably is. Although, I'd really like the input from someone of a culture that was included to read it and talk about how they feel.
This is entirely exposition. It's set-up for the series. It has the barest of plots to keep the book moving forward and feeling slightly more than entirely character introduction, but I feel like 80% of this book could have been cut out. I was also frustrated with Lackey's method of writing for this book which was entirely "tell-don't-show". Sure, this book is written in first-person, but I don't think that's the problem. The problem was that instead of showing (through character actions or sensory input or descriptions), Lackey spent most of the book having her character tell us what was happening or what had happened or what she felt. I felt like the successes of the book were few and far between but they came when Lackey remembered to show.
Overall, this would not be a book I would recommend to fans of Lackey's or fans of dragons or fans of fantasy dystopians. Perhaps after the sequel comes out, I will be more of a fan. I mean, I spent 354 pages reading about the characters, I do kind of want to see what happens to them.