I have very mixed feelings about this book. It’s something I might recommend to others if they were interested, but, at the same time, I couldn’t really get into it.
Plot: The plot was kind of unpredictable, which I like. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t know what I wanted to happen. That was cool. But in the end, it kind of disappointed me. There was some growth, it seemed like things were teased at, then it seemed like there was kind of backwards growth, then I’m not really sure. It was also a slow story, and I found myself losing interest. But it was slow in a way that gave it an almost unsettling, otherworldly feel, so props to the author for evoking that feeling.
Romance: Maybe it’s just me, but the description made me think this would be more of a romance. It’s really not, which was fine for me, but might disappoint some people.
Believability: I had some believability issues with the android stuff. *SPOILER* Nell basically just connected some artificial limbs and wires to a special AI computer chip her father just happened to have, and voila! And somehow this android could feel not only his own emotions (which, hello, why did no one acknowledge the whole AI-feeling-emotions thing?) but also emotions that were imprinted on all the limbs he was created with. *END SPOILER*
Retelling: What I did like about the story was that it seemed to be a Frankenstein retelling, with the way the MC wanted to create life (in this case, an android), the way she became kind of obsessed with it, even the incorporation of lightning.
Characters: I never really understood Nell, or her obsession with creating artificial life, or why she pushed everyone away the way she did. I didn’t find her very likeable or interesting, and characters generally need to be at least one of those two things for my enjoyment. I found myself far more interested in side characters. I wanted to know more about Julian with his secrets, and his mysteries, and his brilliance, and his grief. *SPOILER* (Or maybe not brilliance and grief, maybe just madness and an obsessive desire for power and prestige, but that still would’ve been interesting.) *END SPOILER* I also wanted to know more about Oliver with his connections, and his ambitions, and his unrequited love.
World: I never fully understood the world. I didn’t understand the epidemic (or whatever it was), what it had to do with computers, and why it caused people to be missing pieces of their bodies. I didn’t understand this new post-apoc/dystopian place these people had set up and why some lived in the Pasture and some lived in the Pale.
Inclusivity: It was nice to find that the world this book was set in was LGBT+ inclusive. I think the MC might have been bi/pan (it was never directly stated, but there were times when she would think things like, “I’ve never courted a boy, or a girl for that matter,” or wonder if she was flirting or fighting with the pretty barmaid). There was also casual mention of LGBT+ background characters.
Writing: I didn’t have anything against the writing itself, it might’ve been pretty at times (it’s hard to me to tell when listening to audio), but I didn’t love all the POV choices. The book was mostly in 3rd person limited from Nell’s POV, but there were a few short chapters in 2nd person from Nell’s POV, and a few in 1st person from Io’s POV talking to “you” (Nell).
Audiobook Narration: I enjoyed listening to Alana Kerr Collins and her Irish accent, but all the voices sounded the same, which could be a little confusing. I also didn’t see the point in having dual narration, considering the second narrator (Alan Smyth) didn’t come in until 6 hours into the 9-hour book and hardly had any chapters.
I feel like there’s a lot of negativity in this review, but I didn’t hate the book. I liked some things, disliked others, but overall just wasn’t that invested or into it. It wasn’t quite for me, but I think some people will love it. It does have an unpredictable and surprising, maybe even thought-provoking, story.
Anyone who likes Frankenstein retellings and slow-paced stories that don't necessarily go in the direction you're expecting.