I started out not very into this book, but I got more into it by the end.
I was confused about a lot in relation to the world and plot. It could’ve been just me having trouble focusing and struggling to absorb all the info, but I’ve seen some other reviewers also say they were confused. It was a world entirely different from ours (perhaps it was somewhere in our galaxy or something, but that’s beside the point), with magic and a bunch of different planets out in space, and they did things differently, but it wasn’t explained, you just had to figure things out from context throughout the book. It was also hard to keep track of characters because there were so many, many of them had long Ancient Greek/Latin names that were difficult to remember at first, and they were constantly being referred to in different ways (sometimes by first name, sometimes last name, sometimes House number, sometimes position) which meant even more you had to figure out and remember and keep track of. That’s especially hard for me to do with audiobooks. There’s a sort of index at the front of the book you can use if you have a text copy, at least. I eventually managed to grasp and remember and keep track of most things, I think, but still not all.
I got more into the story when they started kind of solving puzzles and mysteries because at that point it became more like a murder mystery competition with The Westing Game vibes (albeit much bloodier and with necromancy), and I had a better handle on things and some plot to grasp onto to. Things got super twisty and mysterious and tense, and it was fun when we did finally get some answers and saw how certain things all added up.
I never felt that invested in the main characters, but I will say the author did a good job of taking a large group of characters and making them all unique with their own personalities, strengths, and motivations.
Gideon had her humorous moments. She was, in many ways, a simple person. She liked food and fighting and pretty girls and just wanted her freedom. She also showed compassion to some of her fellow contestants and even Harrow.
I was most interested in Palamedes though. Ahhhhh, PALAMEDES. I freaking love this man. I think I might be in love with this man? He was quiet and reserved when we met him, but behind that was a well of strength and conviction. He was steadfast in the lines he drew and would absolutely speak up and fight for what he believed in when it was called for. There was so much confidence and absoluteness behind his words and actions. And when he busted out with those angry, impassioned speeches, I swear it was one of the sexiest things I’ve ever read about. He was incredibly smart, incredibly loyal, incredibly passionate about what mattered to him, and incredibly kind toward people who deserved it. The more I learned about him, the more I liked his character and the more I wanted to know about him.
There was possibly an enemies-to-lovers romance hinted at, but I’m not 100% sure. At first I thought, “No way, everything Harrow has done to Gideon is too awful,” but eh, I was able to change my mind and accept the possibility by the end.
I listened to the audiobook for this, and narration by Moira Quirk was great. She was good at doing lots of different voices and accents to differentiate characters, though some did veer into cartoony territory. Voices for male characters were decent enough (maybe didn’t exactly sound male, but they weren’t bad to listen to either). She had an English accent, and some side characters had other European accents. She brought the book to life in a good way. It takes a talented narrator to handle this many characters so well.
There were things about this book I really liked, and others I didn’t. It was confusing, but the murder mystery element was fun, and I at least got to enjoy all the twistiness in the end. I wasn’t sure if I cared enough to continue, but after seeking out spoilers about something, I decided it was worth continuing onto the next book.
Anyone who likes necromancy, space, mystery, gore, twists, and possibly f/f romance.