Review: The Breedling and the City in the Garden

Posted on May 20th, 2017 @ 21:29
Filed Under Books | Leave a Comment

The Breedling and the City in the Garden (The Element Odysseys, #1)The Breedling and the City in the Garden by Kimberlee Ann Bastian

My rating:

Blurb:

Absolute obedience, servitude, neutrality.

These were the laws that once governed Bartholomew, an immortal soulcatcher, until one ill-fated night when he was forced to make a choice: rebel against his masters or reveal an ancient, dangerous secret.

He chose defiance.

Imprisoned for centuries as punishment for his decision, Bartholomew wastes away—until he creates an opportunity to escape. By a stroke of chance, Bartholomew finds himself in the human world and soon learns that breaking his bonds does not come without a price. Cut off from the grace that once ruled him, he must discover a new magic in 1930s Chicago.

Armed with only a cryptic message to give him direction, Bartholomew desperately tries to resume the mission he had started so long ago. Relying on the unlikely guidance of the streetwise orphan Charlie Reese, Bartholomew must navigate the depressed streets of the City in the Garden. But in order to solve this riddle, he must first discover if choice and fate are one in the same.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I thought I’d like this novel more. It has an interesting and probably complex mythos, juxtaposing our world and another, Elemental-like creator powers, a Fates triad, soulcatchers, the Devil, and quite a few more—something I wouldn’t have minded dive in more. However, the way information was revealed was strange: both an info-dump and confusing, which is an unfortunate mix. I don’t doubt that, had it been presented differently, I would’ve warmed up to it.

I don’t mind a book starting in medias res, but here I felt I was thrown into a story without having enough background elements to fully grasp who the characters were, what their roles were, and why they were important. Stingy Jack, the Tales Teller, the Apothecary… After a while, it started to make sense, yet too late into the story for me to have been allowed to care about them, and too little (for instance, the relationship between Buck/Bartholomew and the Shepherdess is only made clearer right at the end; had it been manifest sooner, I may have cared about the Breedling a bit more, I suppose).

Also, some of the decisions the characters made were odd, or at least presented in a way that that made them look like they came out of nowhere, or without subtlety. I was particularly unsure about Charlie’s ‘plan’ involving the speakeasy—it made sense in one way, but not considering the kind of people would go there, as if he couldn’t have thought about that (hint: precisely the kind of people Charlie didn’t want to see near Buck).

The style was the other element that really bothered me. Omniscient point of view isn’t my favourite, so when it comes with a prose I don’t enjoy, I don’t do well with it. Dialogues were often stilted, with characters telling about their past as if they were reading from a book (I never expected Charlie to speak the way he did), and a lot of telling instead of showing. Since there were a lot of heated feelings in the story (grief, tension between gangs, wariness, simmering violence, threats…), this ‘telling’ was all the more obvious.

Nevertheless, there were good parts in the novel. Charlie especially was a relatable character: not perfect for sure, torn between his desire to follow his mother’s wishes (by helping those younger than him) and his wish to be free to live a life of his own—and yet, his natural tendencies always carry him towards taking care of others. He had to go through a lot, dealing with his grief while trying to follow his sense of duty, and no matter what, I definitely cannot fault a person for accepting their responsibilities.

I don’t think I’ll pick the second book though. It’s more a 1.5/2-star read for me.

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