This review will be different to my usual style and WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. Please be aware of this before reading.
Please note: I am a white reader, and as such reccomend that when available you listen to POC readers on the topic of Racism in this book. If any POC readers would like to get in touch about way the racism in this book is discussed in this review, please get in touch here.
“Ignorance is no one’s fault, but once you’re made aware of your lack, the choice to remain oblivious is when you become culpable.”
Compared to the first book, this book had much more of a unique voice. It was easier to read, and felt far more alive. Unfortunately, a lot of the writing was repetitive to the stage it cut the flow of the story. The author ended up saying the exact same thing in 3 sentences with no additional information in any of them, or sometimes multiple times within the same sentence.
“Behind a desk, the short, stout man who had spoken at their meeting beamed up from his place behind the desk”.
There were enough of these instances that the book definitely could have benefited from another round of edits. It would have helped the writing so much, and would have made it less clunky. A lot of the sentences simply didn’t make sense, with or without context:
-“Her muscle memory had trained her to flow with the battle as if it were a river.”
-“She gaped at him as her equilibrium floated.”
-“The puddle of longing from her own water as it moved against her inner thighs.”
Yes, that last one was a full sentence.
The plot suffered from a lot of contradictions; Nox has a panic attack that spans pages because she’s scared of the water in the river, but then less than a page later she’s sat on the side with her feet in with no explanation as to how she suddenly overcame her fear. Amaris, the girl who literally has the power to force people to do what she wants just by telling them to and has recently and regularly used her power says the words: “I don’t like that word— obey. It’s not in my blood.” That isn’t exactly a contradiction, but it just felt like a fall-flat joke.
We also had no consequences for any of the plot-points: Gad tears his wings, but it’s fine because next chapter they’re fixed and better than ever. Amaris has a problem? Someone else will solve it for her. Nox has a problem? Don’t worry, she can fuck her way out of it. None of the individual plot points had a lasting effect to any other aspect of the story, and the entire thing felt entirely disjointed.
The dark Fae in this book all have darker skin tones, regularly described as copper or bronze.
The text at one point considers that it’s Nox’s Dark Fae blood that gives her a “predisposition for sneaking”, and Gardriel, the other Dark Fae character, states he has an “aptitude for locks.” Being criminals and being sneaky are two racist stereotypes often pushed on real world Black people. Even suggesting their ethnicity as the reason for the skills in the characters is perpetuating this stereotype.
When discussing other powers, it’s said that “Some fae possessed voyeurism, an ability to remain unseen to anyone around them, save for the glow of their eyes..” Voyeurism already has two English definitions, both of with have negative associations when considered out of context (the context usually being BDSM):
1. Enjoyment from seeing the pain or distress of others.
2. The practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.
Using this word for a power equal to invisibility implies that the dark fae use it for nothing but inappropriate behaviour. It’s such a strange word choice, and it’s impossible to argue that Piper couldn’t consider the connotations of changing the definition of an already established word.
In a later scene between Nox and a white-male, nox is trying to convice herself not to sleep with him. Earlier in this Novel and in the previous book Nox is described as a Succubus, but sudden;y the narrative is changed to the Succubus being an animal part of her that she keeps caged.
“The succubus banged against its cage, howling to be released.”
A few sentences later, Nox reliquishes this train of thought and determines she isn’t a monster but the following sentence she “battled for her own sense of self control, confident that her human half was fighting her fae half with whatever goodness and decency it possessed. She pictured her demon half with wings and fangs and talons, but her human half had responsibility, love, and consent.” This implies that her Fae half-the half that provides the melanin for her darker skin-is an evil, unloving, unresponsible, consent dismissing monster. It’s a ‘strange’ way to treat the only non-white race that regularly appears in your book.
Luckily, the Raascot fae aren’t the only POC in the world. Unfortunately, the other characters are treated no better. A priestess at the temple of the goddess is desribed as having onyx and obsidian skin, and having “rope-like braids.” We never find out her name, as she dies early in the novel. We see her later in a flashback, where she is seen giving birth to Amaris. She never concieved the baby naturally, and it was placed in her by the Goddess. She is this universes version of the Virgin Mary, except-apparently-far more expendable. She is literally descirbed in text as “a vessel” for the white-skinned child. I guess this makes Amaris Jesus. I think it’s possible that Piper considered having Amaris born for the lone purpose of protecting nox would be enough to equalise whatever harm this portrayal caused, but that isn’t how this works. (Not to mention Nox literally got whipped for Amaris in the first book, whilst Amaris has done literally nothing to protect Nox.)
So don’t worry, we have many POC. They’re just all sneaky, creepy monsters that do nothing other than protect our main white character.That’s fine, right?
In a weird, meta moment Piper acknowledges that the Raascot fae are POC, and that people had issue with their portrayal in the first book. Her characters actively call it racist:
“She bit off her sentence right before calling him “demon.” It seemed a little less tasteful after he’d informed her rather matter-of-factly that “dark fae” had certain connotations.” This point, again, is dismissed when she calls him Demon again many times in the book. Calling something racist or acknowledging racism is not enough, you have to be actively against it. This book is not. I don’t know what I expected from a sequel to the book that had the POC main character whipped as not to hurt her white friends “perfect skin.”
The obsession with skin, and it’s color, continues in this sequel. Whenever we get moments of Amaris and Nox spending time together-which are rare, considering it’s their love story-the text focuses on how their skin colors look together:
-“Bronze and pearl contrasting lovingly as Amaris nestled more deeply into early-morning sleep.”
-“Nox raised a hand, appreciating just how tan her smooth, slender fingers looked against the pretty friend in her bed”
It’s multiple instances of “look how good my dark skin looks against her white skin.” Then again, maybe this is just another odd trait of the Raascot fae. They all have an obsession with skin colour, or at least I assume they must considering that’s why the flag of their kingdom is the colour it is. Piper literally says that the flag of the North is “Bronze, like the skin of its people.” I wish that was a joke. Then again, there are worst things in this book:
“Now that she knew what cursed gifts she possessed, some broken part of her wondered if that was the reason her scars had faded to their thin, nearly imperceptible lines. Had she sipped from the cup of Amaris’s love the same way she sucked the life force from her prey?”
Here, POC character actively feels bad because she worries she took some of the white characters “love” to help heal the scars that were caused by her being whipped to protect said white character. The whipping which for some strange reason is brought up regularly, though not at any point to address as trauma. So sure, Nox healed the scars with her ‘evil powers’, but apparently not enough that they don’t distress other characters when needed:
“The servant gasped at the scars that lined Nox’s back, but Nox was too deadened to flinch at the sound.”
Plagarism and existing “inspirations”
The desert country the priestess is from is named Tarkhan. Tarkhan is the real-world name of a Sikh Punjabi community that are still present today. As well as an ancient Central Asian title used by various Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-European peoples, especially in the medieval era, and prominently among the successors of the Mongol Empire.
This real-world representation continues when Nox is trying to name her Axe.
““What about Chandra?” They both frowned. Ash spoke first, asking, “Why would you choose that name?” She shrugged. “It’s from the Tarkhany dialect. I don’t speak their language, but one of my clients left a book for me once at the Selkie.”
Chandra is a Sanskrit and Hindi word, and also the name for the Hindu goddess of the moon. Piper claims it’s a word in the-unnamed-language of the Tarkhany people.
The goddess and “all-mother” in this universe is represented in a tree. The tree often goes by other names: “Bodhi, Genesis, Yggdrasil.” Bodhi is the Buddist term for true enlightenment, named after the Bodhi tree under which it is said the Buddha achieved said enlightement for the first time. Genesis is the name of the first bible book, and the two trees of Genesis are a part of Christian belief. Yggdrasil is a tree in North mythology, that is said to support the universe with it’s roots tethering the underworld.
Piper has taken existing terms-one of which is sacred to people of that religion-and shoved them into her fantasy book with no respect or acknowledgment of the original cultures. It’s a mish-mash of things that she wanted to take, so she took them.
This applies to the content too. Anyone who read the first book will know that it got accused of plagerism for being so similar to the Witcher. That didn’t stop in the second book-With Amaris, the ciri coded character-even getting the one power that Ciri gets in the Witcher show.
We also have a magic quill, where the other side of the conversation appears on the page as if written by someone in the room. As well as a tall room full of blue, floating orbs-all of which show you old memories using Magic. Both of these are well-known moments from the Harry Potter series (Tom Riddles diary, and the hall of prophecy.) Could this be a coincidence? Sure. The issue isn’t that Piper decided she liked these ideas-it’s that this book is just idea on top of idea, sandwiched together but none of the ideas are hers. She’s taken from different existing stories and cultures and shoved them together to create a book without changing enough to make them not instantly recognisable as their original source.
Following on from Nox’s fears of being constantly sexualised in the first book, she continues to be constantly sexualised in this book. At one point she has run away and has nothing but the clothes on her back:
“”Don’t get me wrong. We love seeing you like that, but you’re going to need something more practical if we have any hope of traveling,” Ash said as he eyed Nox’s tattered dress. Malik frowned sympathetically as he evaluated her. Red welts lined her arms, her cheeks, and the exposed places of her chest and legs from the scratching fingers of twigs and brambles. Malik grimaced at Ash’s choice of words. It didn’t feel right to objectify their newly acquired travel partner. Not only had she saved them, but clearly she and Amaris knew each other exceedingly well.”
I was pleased to see Malik acknowledging this, and I wanted him to call it out, yet less than a page later he’s doing it himself:
“He couldn’t speak for Ash’s resolution in self-control, but resisting the urge to turn was no small feat.”
This is followed by a description of how beautiful Nox is, and again mentions her body. It’s tiring, and we’re constantly being told how sexy this girl is, as if there’s nothing to her other than her beauty and her need to Protect Amaris. This is futher projected during the following paragraph, where Nox is simply showing Malik a directional arrow on a pocket watch:
“She leaned in conspiratorially, closing the gap between them as she pressed the pocket watch into his palm. She was too entranced by the spelled object to appreciate the nervous tremble of his hand. If Nox could have heard his thoughts, she may have empathized enough to take several steps backward. She wouldn’t have wanted to make him feel uncomfortable, after all…Malik’s throat bobbed and he hoped she missed how loudly he’d swallowed. Try as he might, he couldn’t keep the blush of shyness from coloring his neck. Goddess, she smelled good. The brush of her skin was the softest touch of velvet. Somehow, after days of travel, she still smelled like fresh plum pie sprinkled with cinnamon as it cooled on the window ledge.”
Somehow, this too is sexualised, and it gets tiring; to the stage that Nox mentions in passing that she “had a client” and the men have to stop thinking about the world-saving quest they’re going on to consider the thought of having sex with her:
“There was a shuffling and adjusting of postures that may have implied the men were undergoing a triumphant effort not to picture what it meant to be one of Nox’s clients.”
Amaris and Gad also have issues with what is an attempt to be Sexualisation. Whne Gad is offering to help her unlock her powers, he asks for a verbal confirmation. The exchange as followed:
“I need a verbal confirmation.” Amaris sat in a state of shock as stars began to populate the sky. It was hard to know how much time had passed before she found her voice. “Yes,” she said finally, mind and body still whirling with disconnect.“
After giving her confirmation, he then proceeds to choke her in her sleep. There was never any mention of this before, just that unlocking her powers would be rough. When she panics and lashes out at him-new power unleashing-he practically mocks her.
““Oh my goddess, you can’t be serious. Snowbird, witchling! Snowbird! You didn’t even try the safe word! Besides, I did get a verbal yes from you yesterday before even considering exercises that might help unlock your powers. If you want to stop, you have to say so.””
How was she expected to say the safe word if she was choking and couldn’t breathe? And here, Gad actively admits he didn’t warn her that he was going to do this. It’s assault and his apology is nothing more than a “crooked, apologetic half smile.” But don’t worry, because a couple of chapters later Amaris decided she actually liked nearly being killed, and apparently it turned her on. this led to a sex scene in which this violent assault and near murder was apparently the foreplay? In the one trigger warning for this book this is described as “Consentual breathplay.” except choking someone until they force you off is not breathplay, and it’s not consentual if Amaris didn’t know it was going ot happen beforehand. I think Piper was attempting to add BDSM into her story, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This, however, was not BDSM. BDSM has strict rules, and is all about care for your partner.
Overall, this is not a book I’d reccomend. You may not agree with everything in this review, but I like to think the quotes from the book speak for themselves. Please listen to POC and own voices reviewers when considering book content that relates to them.
This was a complete review in terms of opinion but did not comment on every aspect within the book.
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