First Lines: The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn’t angry or drunk. She was desperate. Burning down the church was really a last resort; she’d already broken a girl’s nose, smoked in the dormitories, cheated on her first exam, and verbally harassed three of the nuns.
As many of you know, this came in this month’s OwlCrate and Uppercase Box. So I figured I needed to get it read, since I have two of them staring me in the face. And I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary stuff lately, so this was something different.
Kate Harker wants to be as heartless and fierce as her father. For five years, he’s abandoned her at six boarding schools. Now, after getting kicked out again, she’s coming home to Verity. She knows this is her chance to prove she’s just like her father. August Flynn can steal your soul with a song. He’s a monster, but he wants nothing more than to be human. Verity is a city divided and crumbling. Kate and August are the only ones who clearly see both sides–human and monster. They could be Verity’s only chance at surviving. But how do you know who’s the hero and who’s the villain when you can’t tell which is which?
Alright. Let me start by saying that I love this philosophical question about what makes a person a monster and what makes them human. (It’s essentially the same question Belle has to ask herself in Beauty and the Beast. Hence: “He’s not a monster, Gaston. You are.” …I didn’t even have to look that up.) So I loved this play on things that Kate is human wishing she was as ruthless as a monster while August is a monster wanting desperately to be human and normal. Also, it really helped develop the characters, if you couldn’t already tell from the very interesting first lines.
I also liked the lore of Verity, how the city divided into two and how the monsters formed. It all kind of has a dystopian feel to it, without actually being at that dystopian level. Like, during the day, it more or less feels like a contemporary story with a little bit of paranormal simply from the existence of monsters. But at night, that’s when things turn dark and creepy. It actually felt like a more realistic story than I expected it to be.
Generally, I liked Kate and August. Sure, I was more partial to August. As a monster, he feels like he constantly needs to atone for his darker needs. He just wants to play music without hurting anyone. Kate is fierce and willing to do whatever she needs to to get the approval of her father. And that usually means torturing/killing someone. She has to balance that need to have power through fear while also wanting to be normal. Personally, I thought it was easier to relate to August’s atonement than it was to Kate’s desire to hurt people, even if it was guided by a desperate need for approval.
I was even pleasantly surprised that this book doesn’t have a drop of romance in it. I knew it wasn’t supposed to, but I guess I still expected something. But the way it plays out, it doesn’t even need a love story. In fact, I think it would have hurt the story to have one.
But I did feel like the pace was sometimes slow. The beginning of the book was good because we were getting to know Kate and August, Verity, the monsters, etc. After a while, it just slows down. It still kept moving, sure, but it wasn’t as action-packed as I expected.
Part of that might also come from the fact that I wasn’t 100% invested in the story. I don’t know why. I just felt distanced from it all. I enjoyed it, but I never felt like it was a page-turner or something that made me bounce in suspense. The word that came to mind when I finished was “lackadaisical”. Weird word choice, I know, but the story kind of flits around a little and I think that’s why.
Totally an interesting concept and I’m interested to see where the series goes next.