Kate 2.0. WinKate98. There you go. Move along.
The long version? (Let’s be honest–there’s always a long version, right?). The long version is that I’m grateful to the Andrews for trying to pull it together during a pandemic and a national political disaster enough to give fans a book. As they wrote on their blog, “We meant for it to be a small bright spot in what is a dark time, and we hope it will do its job and lift your spirits, if only for a little while.” So, kudos and thank you.
Once the plot starts taking off, it is absorbing. For me, that was roughly after we reached the end of the serial installments. At a certain point, there’s just so much momentum that it ends up being a continuous action scene. It went quickly enough that it felt novella-length. Many of the characters we have seen before, although there are a couple of interesting new ones. I especially liked one who noted,
“He’s right to be paranoid. This is a city of fools, incompetents, and madmen. I haven’t felt this young in centuries.”
Speaking of the serial, there were some updates and reworks, which I appreciated.
But (and still being honest–there’s always a but), it has some short-comings. Most of my complaints with Andrews have to do with their romance-writer predilection. Everyone in the series is always beautiful, striking, or unbelievably hot, except the children, who are all elfin and adorable, once you wash the grime off. I’m not kidding. In this book, the rather ‘plain’ Julie Olsen, Kate’s adopted daughter, returns to Atlanta with a new face, the result of a complicated fight and prophecy. Was it a battle-scarred face? No. Was she strangely otherworldly, in a way that gave people chills? No. Was she beautiful enough to literally stop people in their tracks, or mid-sentence? Why, yes; yes, she was. I do get a bit tired of reading about it, but it could be me. None of my other books seem to do that (reviews recent reads). Nope.
More importantly, some of the writing seemed rough. That’s right. I said it. I don’t know what happened–has it always been there and I never noticed? A significant portion of the book is explanations. About the blood armor. About magic waves. About prior events. About why she looks the way she does. About her history. About her adversary. And, in a particularly weird digression, about representative government. So. Much. Explanation.
And the counting! Let me count the ways: “There was only one way for [redacted] to exist,” “Two things could happen,” “Selling an [redacted] required three people,” “I had a choice: I could burn to death, or I could be impaled,” “I had one shot. One chance to get close,” “I had many failings, and the overwhelming need to be in control of myself was one of them.” Did they always do this? I feel like they might have. It’s like they fleshed out an outline with reasons (“okay, what would happen next?”) and decided to list all the options for the reader.
One final note–I’m entirely conflicted about the Knight Rider joke. To then call it out? I don’t even know–that’s some crazy world-breaking. On the whole, though, I’d say I enjoyed it, despite never being a member of the Julie fan club. I don’t know that I’m in the Aurelia fan club either, but as a version of Kate 2.0 (or WinKate98), I’m interested. Besides, I appreciate that anyone could get anything done in 2020. Here’s to a better 2021, and sequel.