My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I won this book via a Goodreads giveaway which in no way colored my review. In fact, it’s the only reason I’m reviewing this because I don’t DNF books I get in exchange for a review. I would never have finished this had I gotten it from the library. But, you said, you gave it three stars and I did that for a couple of reasons. The idea that everyone has a twin and may not be able to survive without the twin (not to mention the rare single born or the chimeras known as amalgams) was a fascinating one. That alone was worth a star. Also, it might be a case of it’s me and not the story. Maybe if the political landscape wasn’t’ what it is right now I might have enjoyed a dystopic story like this, but I just couldn’t bear reading a story about an oppressive religious led government promoting the hatred and villainization of a minority group. (I suppose the other way to see it, is that let’s see this thing mirroring real life and how the heroes defeat this sort of evil, but I was just not in the mood). Some of it was the book which is overly long. It took 140 pages before anything happened, no seriously, I took note and another fifty after that for anything else to happen. World building is one thing, but this thing is nearly five hundred draggy pages (the last fifty are the only ones with any action of any kind). Had this been a trimmer, more fast-moving book I would have liked it better.
So, woven into the religion of this world is a Noah’s flood like story where god destroyed the wicked but in this case the moon split in two destroying much of the world and afterward for some inexplicable reason almost all births are twin birth and be it fraternal or identical their bond is tight, so much so that most will die if their twin does. If they in fact do not die they become the titular diminished, relegated to the lowest levels of society and are expected to go insane. Families are expected to cast the Diminished out and if it happens as a child, they are sent to the temples to be raised by the anchorites as near slaves and are either sold off at sixteen or they become the Shriven or the Suzerain (which I thought were the same thing but apparently aren’t but now, because it took me nearly four months to finish this monster I’ve forgotten who’s who.) and then they are used to take out any Diminished who become a threat. The single-borns are considered nearly divine and become the rulers. The amalgams are the bogeymen of this world. They’re chimeras, twins where one twin has been absorbed into the others body leaving signs in coloration etc. (oddly no mention of conjoined twins).
The story is told in two alternating points of view, Vi Abernathy (true name Obedience) and Bo Trousillion. Vi is diminished, living at the temple and Bo is to be the next king. So literally the first nearly 150 pages is world building showing us their lives before they get wrecked. Vi ends up heading to the island of Ilor which is wilder but that’s where two of her childhood friends went. She’s concentrating on seeing them again but on the trip over meets the twins Mal and Quill who help her. Bo’s life is really turned upside down when tragedy happens and then the Queen tells him the truth about his life. Learning everything is a lie, Bo needs to catch up with Vi who is more important than she knows. The Shriven, however, are out to stop him and catch her. Mild spoiler - Yeah that happens between page 150-200. We don’t see the Shriven until the last 50 pages. So much could have been trimmed.
On Ilor we meet Swinton, a young charming thief who gets by anyway he can and attaches himself to Bo (who falls for him hard) and is probably the only reason Bo makes it anywhere alive. Vi, now close to Quill and Mal is sent to work at a mansion and to be a gift to the owner’s wife, Aphra (who is special) and we meet Myrna who helps Vi settle in. I’m bringing this up because honestly Myrna, Swinton and Aphra were more interesting to me than Bo or Vi. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I didn’t love them either. Vi is unpleasant and Bo coddled, which to be honest is perfect casting for the lives they lived but I didn’t really care that much about them. For example, Vi is supposed to be a strong girl but she does idiotic things and thumbs her nose at people who could destroy her without a second thought. She does it so often that I gave up caring about her and all the drama she loved to create. I gave a lot of points for Bo being gay but took them all back when it has the stereotypical bad ending for a gay couple in a fantasy story (eye roll) so hopefully it works out with Swinton.
Because I don’t know. Nearly 500 pages and there was no real ending. It was all a set up for the second book in the duology. I will say the twist at the end with what the Suzerain is really doing (and Bo’s family’s role in it) was interesting. I’m not sure it’s interesting enough for me to read on. Maybe I’ll get it at the library, maybe not. I’m leaning to not. The pacing was so bad in this I'm not sure I'm up for 500 more pages of it. (no lie it seems like Bo and Vi get to the island at the same time when they have to leave for it weeks apart) And one of the reasons was how slow it was and the other is what I’m going to put under a major spoiler cut. Right now. That’s your warning.
So, Bo is to be the new king. He learns about the lies surrounding him and that he must go after Vi. The queen tells him so. He knows his mentors have been spying on him and maybe had a hand in the tragedy that upended his world, so he won’t be taking him. The queen knows this young man has never been anywhere on his own, that he’s a coddled rich boy and she sends him to an island that is wild and has a rebel faction rising up against the rich. She sends him with barely enough money to cover the trip and sends no one with him. Yes, time is a factor, but she knows he needs to go, maybe faster than she though thanks to something stupid Bo did but she doesn’t plan to send a guard or a guide. She sends her heir out into a hostile world with nothing.
My only thought is ‘she wants him dead.’ I summed it up for friends and that was their take on the situation. If Runa wants Bo dead, we don’t see evidence of it (outside of someone questioning why the queen sent him off alone) but it makes no sense so literally the last nearly 300 pages I kept expecting him to be betrayed by the queen. It really bothered me.
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