Today’s book was pitched as being something for those who loved The Night Circus and The Bear and the Nightingale so obviously I snapped up a digital review copy and got very excited for what was to come.
Alas…I found this book to be less than wonderful.
A life-changing journey.
Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.
The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.
And Marea will never forget what she learns there
I’ll start with the things I liked about this book – which was mostly the ideas. I thought that some of the elements of this book were very cool. I liked the idea of the City of Murmurs, I thought that the mermaid element was nicely done and I appreciated that the ‘freak show’ ship wasn’t the entire book (I had a moment of fear that this was a circus book masquerading as something else but that wasn’t the case).
There are a lot of good ideas in this story, sadly for me they never coalesced into enough of a coherent whole for me to enjoy the reading experience.
It took me a long while to get into reading this book, I think in part because it has quite a slow start, it takes a while to get from the ‘normal’ into the ‘something changed’ portion of the story and I’m not sure how much added benefit you get from experiencing Marea’s childhood in such detail. I think a quicker more montage-esque sequence would have allowed for more exploration of the magical aspects of the story? I think you do need that backstory to inform the character but it meant that I wasn’t excited to pick up the book and it felt like a stilted beginning.
I didn’t mind Marea’s character, though, as will become clear as this review goes on, I don’t think I was able to fully understand why she does some of the things she did because of how hard I found it to engage with the story. I liked how her understanding built across the length of the book and while it isn’t an amazing character growth (she feels very young for almost the whole book where I would have maybe liked to see more maturity from her in later chapters) it is character growth nonetheless and in such a story that is important. I thought her self-love journey in the story was also good, and I appreciated that it took place slowly and in stages – it felt much more realistic than some other narratives I have read where it just takes one moment of ‘no wait I am great’ and suddenly characters who previously hated themselves are blithely stripping off like it’s no big deal.
I am not one to shy away from flowery writing – quite often I really enjoy some intense descriptive prose. But something about this text felt inaccessible to me like it was too aware of the sentences to allow me to fully fall through the page and forget this was a book. I never like a book where it feels as though each sentence has had someone agonise over it – it makes for a book that not only doesn’t flow well but in this case, the narrative felt like it was shouting ‘don’t you think this was a great sentence?!’ at me, rather than letting me just experience the writing. In a book like this, it feels as though you’re meant to fall into this weird and wonderful world but when held back by the writing in this way I found I just couldn’t enjoy it!
The WLW storyline was appreciated in the sense that I will always like a book that has some LGBTQIA+ element to it. I also thought it was interesting to have a relationship where the expectations are spelled out from the start – not enough casual relationships where the casual nature is communicated exist in fiction – but I didn’t find myself rooting for either of the romantic entanglements mostly because I never felt as though I was fully in the story.
This book, this world, has a lot of elements and, as I said at the start, I’m not sure all of them ever came together in such a way that the story felt coherent. Whether that was my inability to focus on the story or not, it never felt like I was reading something complete – instead, I was left with the impression of a number of ideas and a vague idea of what the story had been.
This was a disappointing read for me for a number of reasons, but I will say that I found the last few pages, the epilogue to be very satisfying – that was probably my favourite part of the whole book and did give me hope that perhaps this is a book that will appeal to those who appreciate a more loosely woven story. While I would prefer some more work done on worldbuilding and making sure that we understand the layout and structure of The City of Murmurs there are some good elements there that could be pulled out into something really great.
This book wasn’t for me personally, I think it could have done with a bit of a tighter focus but the text was such that I couldn’t access the story in the way I wanted to.
My rating: 2/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
Feathertide publishes July 30th!
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What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know in the comments below!