“There are worse things than death, Miss Stern.”
Published: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 476 (Kindle)
Series: Alex Stern #1
“All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down.”
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Trigger Warning: sexual assault, rape, abuse, trauma
Hey all! As you can see from the start of this review, there will be some very mild spoilers here and there because I had a lot of feelings about the actual content of this book that can’t really be ignored in my overall review. If you wanted a quick little synopsis of what I thought and don’t want to be spoiled, you can read this: this was a spectacularly crafted novel that started out slow and picked up at the very end, with lots of magic, revelations, and some more problematic moments.
I want to break it down and talk about what I did and didn’t necessarily like. I was kind of shocked that this was only a 3-star read for me because I went in fully prepared to absolutely adore it, but it didn’t work out that way. There are some fantastic reviews out there and some not so stellar ones, so it maybe seems like you either love this book or you don’t. I only saw about a handful of 3 or 4 star reviews, so I guess I’m in the abnormal area!
I thought this novel was super original. I haven’t read really any adult fantasy novels, YA was my main genre up until a year or two ago, so this was really different from what I usually read in the area of fantasy. I really enjoyed the different elements here and I thought the overall plot was so interesting and intricate and I was literally left guessing right up until the very last page. One of the problems that arises here is that the beginning of the book is so slow, like I think part of the reason it took me so long to read this was the fact that it was really heavy to read and also started too slow. I don’t think I really got into it until I was over half-way. Not that I didn’t enjoy the first half, it was just a slow kickoff.
This novel is like it’s own universe inside another universe and that was both interesting and bit of a struggle for me. This book just piles on the information, especially in the first half, and I felt completely bombarded with information and people and Latin phrases. I think this is gonna be problematic for me once the second book comes out because there was just so much information here. I need like a Lethe cheat sheet lol I didn’t hate all the information, in fact I thought it really helped the novel along. It was almost like the book just expected us to know and grasp all this, which is where I think it lost me.
So, plot is great (but a little slow), the atmosphere and tone of the novel is spot on, but let’s talk about characters. This is also where the book kind of looses me. I didn’t really like a single person in this book. Alex is a great main character because she has a lot going on and SO many secrets, but I didn’t feel anything for her, which sucked. Dawes, Darlington, and the slew of other characters we get introduced to (and there are a lot), just didn’t do anything for me. I don’t know… there wasn’t really a lot of character growth from anyone, maybe aside from Dawes, who seemed to revert back to her old, shy self at the end of the book. I just didn’t find anything that I was looking for within the characters. I did like that everyone was shady as hell, though. Nothing like treachery and uncertainty to really hook me.
You know, this book was both a hit and a miss. I gave it 3 stars because I can’t deny that I enjoyed reading it and I really thought it was interesting, especially the second half where it picked up a lot. However, there were quite a few parts/pieces of this novel I didn’t like. I’m hoping that we can get a faster pace next time, some more substantial character growth, and maybe less ghost rape? (Yes, that happens in this book and I thought it was a little too far fetched for me.)