Review: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)
“In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?”
This book had two things that attracted me to it: one, I’ve liked the author’s other books; and two, it was billed as a re-imagining of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Now granted, I haven’t read that book, but I’m always up for an interesting re-telling. Given that the Dickens novel is a classic for a reason, I hoped that Brennan’s novel would engage me simply by virtue of a good story.
Well… I have mixed feelings about this novel. Oddly enough, one of the things that drew me to the book is one of the things that I thought didn’t work well–the author’s writing style. I enjoyed the snarky humor that Brennan used in her other books, but in this setting, it felt kind of forced. I’m not sure why plot and style didn’t mix, but it could be that the more serious subject matter of this story didn’t lend itself well to that kind of dialogue.
I’m not sure I really liked the characters either. Lucie is billed too much as a “chosen one” figure, the focus of the Dark city’s efforts to foment a revolution, but she doesn’t really have the qualities to pull off that kind of role. Ethan, Lucie’s boyfriend, is too good to be true and kind of blends into the background. Carwyn, from the Dark city, was more interesting, but spent too much time trying to be witty.
Balanced against these failings are some memorable moments. Brennan’s wit may not fit well here, but her ability to conjure a scene sometimes rises above the novel’s other issues. I was especially struck by the cages that are used to punish Light magicians–the descriptions not only of the cages but of the people in them and the atmosphere of their location was very evocative. And the ending of the book did make me stop and think “Wait… it’s really going to end like this? Whoa…”
In the end, I think I have give this book a neutral rating. Other reviewers seem pretty polarized about the novel, either loving it or hating it, but I saw elements of both opinions on my own reading.