An eARC of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I had the chance to fall in love with The Lunar Chronicles earlier on in the year so you can imagine my excitement when a new Marissa Meyer book appeared on NetGalley. A Rumplestiltskin retelling, too (I fell in love with Small Favors recently, another Rumplestiltskin retelling), and I have a huge soft spot for any kind of fairytale or folklore influence. This one is set in Germany with a lot of nightmare horror and gothic elements, and it truly feels like Meyer did her research when weaving in these elements.
Everything about this book felt like it was made just for me. But I was still disappointed.
The pacing felt… off. The first 60% of the book moved slowly and any scenes between the climactic moments dragged and the climactic moments felt repetitive. I would’ve been happy if we had one less round of spinning straw. The threats were diminished too quickly and easily, and I wasn’t invested in the stakes. My interest picked up somewhere in the 60-80% area, and I was rushed into the finale in a way that felt exciting rather than rushed. Overall, the book just felt far too long, a short fairytale dragged out to over five hundred pages which becomes bland when you’re already familiar with the story. It ends in a way that leads perfectly into a suspected sequel which is also part of the reason why I wished this book was around a hundred pages shorter.
There were also too many scenes for my enjoyment where something exciting happened and then the main character woke up on the next page, leading to me being genuinely confused which of these scenes were really dreams (or nightmares) or if I was just misinterpreting the story. And these dreams were more enthralling than many points of the real plot (see: weird pacing). But, I will accept that this is more a point about me not enjoying this aspect of the genre rather than judging the book too harshly: I didn’t know this aspect about the book before going in.
However, I do really love the god of lies also being the god of stories, even though one of my recent reads had that quote almost word for word, so I did love the plot twist (or maybe just a reveal) at the 90% mark. Storytelling and blurring the lines between truth and lies played a large role in this book and I loved that it was used in a way to further the present plot and also tell the past without having to dip into flashback scenes and other narrators. I also did love Serilda as a character even though I didn’t love the romantic storyline that she ended up falling into. It felt out of place and unnecessary. There was such a sharp contrast between storylines when Serilda’s fighting for her life but her mind is busy thinking about kissing a boy.
Overall, I would rate this book more like 2.5 stars. There were some moments I enjoyed, but it was ultimately overshadowed by other books that did it better, and moments that fell flat in comparison to what I already love from Meyer.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.5 stars)