I have mixed feelings because ultimately this had some incredibly interesting characters and a beautiful story! So I want to tell people about it. But the way it was written was so confusing, especially in audio format.
If you asked me what POV this was in or whose POV it was in, I would say all of them and everyone’s. Third person, second person, first person, even first person plural. And it didn’t switch in different chapters, it switched constantly, from sentence to sentence. Not even just switching, but strange in ways I can’t describe. (You can see it a bit in the quote I share below.) There were also stories within stories within stories, also constantly jumping around. I found it confusing. Even more so because I was listening to the audiobook and couldn’t see italics or new lines or anything to delineate shifts. (This is not the fault of the narrator! He was great, but I’ll talk more on that below.)
All that being said, it felt like a purposeful choice, rather than an accidental blunder. I think the author did it for a reason. The writing choices gave the book a certain dreamlike feel that I don’t think it would’ve had otherwise.
And the characters were so interesting! Keema, always so determined. Jun, filled with so much guilt for his blood-soaked past but wanting to do better now. But I was especially fascinated by the three Terrors. So terrifying, as the title implies, and so, so interesting. The First Terror, who always seemed so calm and reasonable but could control the elements with his mind and had no compunctions about killing brutally, and who loved his sons but only insomuch as you can call something so harmful love. The Second Terror, who could control a person by simply telling them what to do or think or feel and who was capricious and almost childlike in his cruelty. The Third Terror, who I won’t say too much about but who deserved so much better, and I genuinely felt bad for him, despite how scary and deadly he could also be.
The relationship between Keema and Jun was slow-going and sort of subtle throughout most of the book, neither willing to admit to any feelings, perhaps because they had bigger things to worry about, but there were some lovely moments and some fun moments, and it was beautiful.
Also, this just really cracked me up, from when they were reading each others’ minds (hidden just in case you don’t want to spoil the funny moment):
I glanced at Jun to make sure he was all right, and Jun growled, “I’m fine,” though it was obvious he was not. “Fuck you, not obvious,” Jun muttered.
There was also disability rep since Keema was missing an arm.
The audiobook narration by Joel de la Fuente was great! He sounded natural, he did different voices for most characters (though I sometimes wasn’t sure if it was Keema or Jun), and his emotion always suited what was happening. I think he did the best anyone could’ve with such a uniquely written book. But I don’t recommend the audio if you struggle with audio format or are new to audiobooks. As I said, the way the book is written might make more sense if you’re able to see if with your eyes. But again, that is not the narrator’s fault. He was great.
Overall, the POV shifting and the stories within stories had me often feeling confused and disconnected, but I can see why some people loved this book, and I still enjoyed the fascinating characters and what was ultimately a beautiful story.
Anyone who likes unusual use of POV and knowing the thoughts of many characters, stories within stories, beautiful love stories, and fascinating characters both good and bad.