I got the Owlcrate edition of Amber & Dusk, intrigued by both the cover and the premise. I’ve been reading a lot of books recently where the characters don’t have extremely powerful ambitions of their own, and I wanted to read how another author takes an ambitious protagonist. With this book, however, I have a few conflicting feelings.
Sylvie is heading towards the Amber City in the hopes of achieving her birthright. Traveling in an ore caravan at first, she befriends a boy named Luca. However, Sylvie sacrifices her friendship with him in hopes of finding her place in the Empress’ court. As a legacy, she believes it is her right to be one of them.
If only it were that simple of course. Sylvie is placed under trial by the Empress. If she fails to pass, then all the time Sylvie spent seeking a place in the court will be for naught. Under the name Mirage, Sylvie needs to learn how the court runs in all of its deceitful glory.
There are some things better off not knowing, however…
Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d’Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.
So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.
But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she’ll have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.
I had moderate expectations for this book going in. The idea of a corrupt government is no new concept, but is one I often enjoy. This book met my expectations in some aspects and failed in others.
Now, I need to get this off my chest. For half of the book or so I’d say, I was getting major Shadow and Bone vibes. The entire half of the book, I felt like I was just watching a mix between Shadow and Bone and Mirage vibes. To be quite frank, I felt quite bored. The story felt so unoriginal and there wasn’t much making it very distinct. It felt like a standard story which I was quite disappointed by.
Another quip I need off my chest. I HATED the protagonist. Like, oh my gosh. She felt extremely entitled and just not my cup of tea. She fell in love with a complete jerk, and ignored the guy who seemed like a decent fellow (not so much towards the end). She wasn’t a very bright character at all, and overall I just had a bad feeling following her around. She just felt so annoying to read through the perspective of and empathizing with her was out of the question.
That being said, Selene is an extraordinary writer. There were so many times I was completely absorbed into the story even though I hated Sylvie because she wrote it so well. I just loved the writing, and I think if she had a more relatable protagonist, the story would have been so much better.
Another thing done so well that I wish was focused and expanded on more was the origin story of the world. It was so beautiful to hear the story of the moon and the sun. The beginning had me hooked. But then, all of the plot was solved within the last chapter which I was not pleased about at all. There was so much beauty and buildup within the first few chapters, but all that went to nothing after the first few pages.
The last thing I have to say about this book was that I wish Thibo and Lullaby had some more relational development. There was some banter, yes. But in the end, everything was just for plot and the way Thibo ends up feels more like a slap in the face that’s never talked about again as opposed to a meaningful development.
Overall, I liked this book in some regards but it was very predictable with how it was heading. This is a good book to read for the writing, however.