Top critical review
This story is full of holes! Please help me understand!
Reviewed in the United States on January 31, 2020
***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!***
This book had me waiting around for Ashton Kutcher to show up and tell me I was being punked. The plot itself is as old as time: someone with unique abilities is destined to save the world. But the execution was so incredibly haphazard, that was left with millions of questions that the editor should have asked before saying it was good to go.
I've listed some of them here, if you can answer them, please do!!
1. What was the point of having a spirit face if it was such an embarrassment to have someone see it? The book said it makes you stronger and more connected to your special abilities, so why would that make someone feel ashamed? Wouldn't you feel naked without it? Like an archer without his bow? Also, if it's so embarrassing, isn't it like an extreme form of exploitation to have the wrestlers show their spirit faces for entertainment? None if that made sense to me.
2. What was the point of masquerades? They seemed to be a somewhat restricted form of magic where you were able to summon a great being from beyond. Were the ones we encountered in the book just the worst ones or were there good ones too? Like masquerades that would come out of a termite mound and help you study for your math test. Were the summoners supposed to be able to control them? This was never explained in the book.
3. Why doesn't Sunny have any basic survival instincts? In order to become privy to something that she doesn't know anything about, she has to swap blood with one classmate and one stranger. She even mentions the fear of AIDS but does it anyway! Why?? Even if she was beyond curious (and it didn't really read like that in the book), shouldn't she have insisted more on a more health-conscious option? Fine, she does it and I guess doesn't get HIV. Now she has to cross a bridge using a power she just learned or she'll get eaten by a river monster?? Fine she makes it, now go through this dangerous forest where people get killed all the time. She barely survives... sure. Now she's spending afternoons with older men that she doesn't know and her parents don't know where she is. Sunny!! Wake up, girl! These are not smart choices! You are going to get snatched or killed! Not at one point in the book is she thrust into unavoidable danger. They give her a choice, and despite the fact that she doesn't know ANYTHING, she does it anyway. Why?
4. The money! So they keep saying that the only way to get it is by gaining knowledge, but then you can spend it!! Then can't you also get it by providing goods and services like every other monetary society?? So when you give merchants the money does it just disintegrate? And if so, what incentive is there to have a shop? The idea sounds nice, money for knowledge. But without envisioning a new system in which that makes sense, it don't work. Also, in the end, they killed people and got money. Are sunny and the gang now professional assassins? Guess it's good for kids to know all their career options!!!
5. What is the age range supposed to be for this book? One minute I'm reading about two men fighting to the death for sport, the next I'm reading 10 pages about a soccer game. One minute I'm reading about an adorable little bug that turns rubbish into art, and the next I'm reading about kids getting their eyes gouged out by a serial killer. The book has no cohesion in that sense (or any sense).
6. What was the point of Sunny having a foot in both worlds as the author put it? She never uses this skill the whole book. She doesn't even try to use it. They bring it up multiple times, but it has no bearing on the plot at all. And they said there were leopard people all over the world, so I assume some of them are white. They have white skin, does that make them ghost-like and thus connected to the spirit world?
7. Why was it specifically mentioned that the Black Hat was going to mix the poison he was giving to the sacrifices with Fanta? Why?
8. Why was nothing adequately described?? Most of this book was dialogue, and boring dialogue at that. This is a fantasy novel. Many more of it's pages should have been dedicated to describing this new world. Saying someone had "black, black, black" skin is laaaaaazyyyyyy!!!!!!!
9. Why is every single character sassy and hot-tempered? Thay are all so quick to fight either verbally or physically. It was exhausting to read. I wanted them to grow up, learn to work together, trust each other. In the end, they all just did their own thing against the bad guy until they were incapacitated, and then Sunny INEXPLICABLY does some juju that saves everyone.
10. Why were all the adults absolutely worthless? Sunny's parents' only response to her breaking the rules is beating her. She didn't appear to be a disobedient kid before. Why didn't either if them ask her if something was wrong? All the teachers basically tell them to do life-threatening tasks to see if they're worth anything, and if they die, whateves, life be like that and you don't matter. Wow. Except for when we've run out of covens to send to their slaughter against Black Hat. Thanks. And even when they weren't sending them to their deaths, the teachers really didn't have much to offer them except constantly reminding them that life would go on without them.
11. How is it acceptable to just brush off the fact that they NEVER RECEIVED AN EXPLANATION FOR WHY THEY, INSTEAD OF THE EXPERTS, HAD TO FIGHT BLACK HAT???? The freaking kids even asked! How many kids did they send to their deaths?? Why couldn't they have done it??
12. Why weren't their more examples of how magic is used? I felt like I didn't get a strong idea of how magic is a part of leopard culture. How have they used it over the centuries to shape their society? Why aren't there any formal magical schools for new learners? I assume there are more laymen than masters, why is there this weird mentorship program? How is magic used in daily life for people that don't want to be masters? I also wanted more information about how one could move in and out of leopard and lamb society. It seemed rather fluid, but I wanted more information.
13. Why didn't we meet any other magical students? I felt like I couldn't get a good grasp on how these kids were developing as compared to their peers. How did their lives differ? Were Sunny and the gang having a harder or easier time learning? Were any of them prodigies?
14. When Chichi didn't want to reveal her age I was like, well this is a pretty boring thing to make a mystery in this book. And then she and Sasha start dating and it's like, okay. Funs over. How freaking old are? State your age or step away from the minor.
15. I didn't feel like the author did a good job describing Nigerian culture. I felt like I was getting the Wikipedia version of what the country is like. It read like the author had never lived there for long and didn't really emerse herself in the cultures there. I especially felt that she did a poor job depicting African-Americans. Either get into the racial complexity of American culture or don't, but having one of the few African-American characters shout, you have no idea what it's like to be a black man in America and then talk about how he wishes the buffet had fried chicken and collard greens made me feel like she watched Friday, and was like, yeah, I get black people now. I know none of that was a question, but it had to be said.
16. Last thing, at one point, the author calls the actions of the Black Hat, "debauchery." Throwing eggs at a house is debauchery. Switching the salt and the sugar is debauchery. Skipping class is debauchery. Murdering and/or mutilating children is not debauchery.
Anyway, overall, bad book. Poorly written, full of holes, unbelievable and unlikable characters, and no cohesion. The story read to me like the author put a whole bunch if cool ideas into a hat, put them randomly into an empty journal, and then tried to connect them with loose dialogue and transitions. Just because it seems cool, doesn't mean it works!! Sometimes you have to let go of an idea you really like for the sake of the general readability of the novel.