Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

 #1 in the Silver in the Blood series
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Is it too early to call the Biggest Disappointment of 2015? 

Because Silver in the Blood is the forerunner right now and I'm heartbroken about that.

I love Jessica Day George books, but lately things have been kinda rocky. Is it me? Is it the author? Maybe an editor?

I don't know, but I can't shake the same complaints I had with Princess of the Silver Woods of thin, under-developed characters, flimsy world-building, and an overall unpolished feeling of "should have spent more time at the drawing board."

Structure, basics, and what to expect 

Silver in the Blood uses both letter writing between the two main characters, their diary entries, and third person narrative styles to tell the story. I'm mostly ok with this in theory, but the execution here made me scratch my head and wonder at the point of all those letters/diary entries. They just felt like unnecessary filler and I don't think they added anything to the story that we weren't already getting with the main part of the story.

 Then there's the pacing. It's slow. The blurb tells you straight out about The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke, as well as their shapeshifter heritage and the big prophecy, etc.

So, while the blurb doesn't quite spill ALL the beans, there's like, only a clarifying bean or two still left in the bag.

Which means I really don't want to spend over 150 pages figuring out the blurb. And having the two main characters deny the very obvious truth, over and over and over again.

Even if the blurb hadn't given everything away, it's still painfully obvious what is going on here and while maybe younger middle graders might not put all the pieces together that quickly, this is not a middle grade book. This is Jessica Day George's foray into "older YA" (there's nudity! and murder! and bad language! and "adult situations!"), and any teen is likely sharp enough to figure out the Big Reveal very early on.

A note on that target age thing 

Ok, so I said this is an older YA book because of content. I could also swear I read something about the author herself warning readers that this was a darker, older-audience book. And, yeah, it kinda is. Thematically.

Tone wise? It's total fluffy Jessica Day George middle grade fare. Down to the plucky oh so cute heroines who magically save the day with streamers and puppies and the cackling cardboard villains who are just big meanies. (None of which is a bad thing, in a middle grade book.)

Except there's the nudity and murder and stuff. Which of course isn't anything new for middle grade books, but it IS something that doesn't really belong with the Jessica Day George middle grade reader crowd. The things in this book might trouble some of my more sensitive younger readers, but the whole package is likely to make the older readers roll their eyes.

So, target audience conundrum, exacerbated by misleading marketing. A librarian's dream come true! Yay!

Back to those characters 

The two main characters are basically very shallow stereotypes of The Flirt and The Shy One, and neither of them are particularly likable (or, again, middle grade appropriate).

Dacia, The Flirt, was kind of reprehensible with the way she led on not one, not two, but THREE guys and then went back and forth between them based on who had the most power, prestige, good looks, wealth, and protection to offer her at any given time. Nice, right? This attitude holds true throughout the entire book.

Lou, The Shy One, wasn't quite as awful as Dacia, but she was nothing to write home about either. Sure, she didn't string guys along. No, instead she used her empowering transformation to...fall in love with an unworthy guy. 

I don't remember the exact translation now, but upon their initial meetings, he basically called her a slut, like, out of the blue, while he was stalking her (he hunts her kind) and engaging in behaviors that scared her and led her to give him some cutesy nickname along the lines of The Bad Man, but he was totally flirting so it's ok now! Or, well, he was actually stalking her family to annihilate their evil, but he noticed she was pretty, so, yeah. She just kind of let that whole Bad One thing go because of charming good looks and stuff.

And this is post-empowerment-Lou!

Both leading ladies engaged in such inexplicable, poor, and disrespectful decisions that I just can't get on board with them.

Why no DNF? Why ANY stars? 

I don't even know. I was hoping for better? My strong history of loving Jessica Day George books?

After the Big Reveal things took a turn for the crazy and, while this wasn't a turn to the crazy good, it was at least a turn away from the mind-numbingly boring first half and to the "oh the hell with it!" zany. At that point I threw my hands up and went with it. It was awful, but at least it was entertaining...ish.

Bottom line 

I'm a slow learner, but at this point I'm starting to absorb a few lessons: Jessica Day George is no longer an auto-buy author. I'm even hesitant to request any books for review (except the final Castle Glower book). Her books are now at cautionary library first level, and they're no longer at the top of my TBR, if they're on it at all anymore.

This is a sad day, but Silver in the Blood turned me off so hard.

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like:

Click on the covers to go to my review/Goodreads


  1. Oh, that awkward moment when an auto-buy author is no longer an auto-buy. Such a shame that this one didn't work out for you, especially since you loved most of her previous books.

    It's also always really sucky when content wise it's for older audiences, but so obviously written middle-grade style (or vice versa). It makes it so difficult!

    And those characters sound horrible. I'm sorry, I don't think I could find a guy who calls me a slut and then proceeds to stalk me in any way attractive. Of course, that's just me. That's just creepy. Ugghhh and leading guys on? I can sometimes at least love to hate that person when it's a secondary character (that is hopefully redeemable by the end), but not the MC. That's just something I can't root for.

    I'm sorry this book didn't work for you and took her off your list of auto-buy. That's always a sad day. But don't lose hope! Perhaps she just in a rut? Hopefully any future books will bring back the feelings you felt reading her older books so that you can enjoy her books once again.

    All the best,
    Mackenzie @ Oh, For the Love of Books!

    1. *sigh* yes, I hate that awkward moment. It feels like a betrayal on both sides. :(

      Yes, the voice/age mismatch is SO frustrating!

      Yeah, I don't know what was up with the characters at all! They also did huge personality shifts with no explanation or growth (or, well, there was an explanation but it wasn't very solid).

  2. Ouch. This read sounds like it was downright painful. From the horrifying characters to the mismatch in tone vs. theme and the blurb that gives everything away (I hate it when that happens!), this sounds like a trainwreck. I will be steering clear and am only sorry you slogged through this one! :(

    1. Yeah it was a mess. A ton of readers loved it though! I'm not sure why and how we have such different experiences, but I guess that's one of the joys of books.

  3. Staying clear of this one for sure :).

  4. I actually had a different reaction when I read it, but you make a lot of good points here! I didn't really buy Lou falling for that guy in the end, and I completely agree that it had older reader thematics while sticking to a younger reader voice. That said, I still really enjoyed it and liked the unique setting. But her Princess of the Midnight Ball series was better.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the book more than I did! I SO wanted to love it, so I'm happy to hear you did. :)

  5. I think my review ended up fairly positive, but I went back and forth on this one. I was very close to not finishing it just because the pacing is so frustrating. You can dangle suspense at me for only so long before I decide that, you know what, I don't really care what the big family secret is.


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