I so, so badly wanted to enjoy this. I mean, a WLW retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice?? That sounds made for me.
Teagan is in grave danger. A magical poison is slowly killing her, and the only possible cure seems to lie through the Bone Way in the Shadow Princess’ realm. Cress, Teagan’s wife, is determined to save her, even if it means taking the perilous journey alone. When Teagan finds out she has gone, she too sets out to the Shadow Realm in an attempt to save both herself and Cress.
Sadly, I was more in love with the concept of this book than the execution. For starters, I was really disappointed in the retelling aspect. Orpheus and Eurydice is such a heartbreaking and tragic tale, and the whole point is that Orpheus knows if he looks back at his love, she will not make it out of the underworld alive (at least in the version I am familiar with). But, because he loves her so much, he can’t help but steal a glance. In this version, the two must make it back without touching each other for 3 days. Which, like, okay, but why is that so hard?? Maybe it’s just because I’m used to long distance relationships. But I feel like a big part of the story’s meaning was lost with that change, and the way it was incorporated at the end (I know that’s vague, but I’m trying not to spoil anything).
The best word I can think of to describe the writing itself is “jarring”. Everything about it just felt really disjointed, especially for the first half. It was almost like someone took a full length novel, and then cut out whole paragraphs, transitions, and background information. What background was provided was often in reverse, which made many events confusing at first.
The main point of the story, obviously, was Cress and Teagan’s love for each other. However the characters didn’t extend much beyond that purpose. I would have loved to see more of their personalities, as they pretty much just seemed like carbon copies of each other. Two stubborn and talented witches, each determined to throw themselves in front of death repeatedly for the other. That’s all I really knew about them by the end. Nor did I enjoy the story of the Shadow Princess.
There was so much promise in her realm, in the Bone Way itself, and in her origin story. I wanted some haunting tale of adventure and love. But it was all very bland. I didn’t get lost in the world building. I didn’t enjoy the typical “she wanted power and it turned her evil”. And I didn’t buy the ending, either.
Overall it gets points for the initial idea, and the good sapphic rep. But I really wished the story had been executed better.
Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC!
Intended audience: YA
Content warnings: death of a loved one