Firstly, I’d like to say that my rating in no way reflects the controversy surrounding this book.
My rating is based on the fact that I found it slow, mostly boring, the world-building lacking and a pointless ‘romance’. I would enjoy it enough as I was reading it, but only in certain parts. I wouldn’t reach for this book after putting it down, which is never a good sign. The ‘romance’ was so dull but I feel that it could have been built on if any effort was put into it.
On to the controversy.
I feel some of the criticisms being thrown at this book are somewhat unfounded. I read this book keeping in mind that people have been slamming this book as racist and ableist. I cannot really comment objectively on either of these things but I will say, readers who were saying the Shotet people are portrayed as barbaric and all POC have potentially misread certain parts. I feel that the barbarism came from Ryzeck and his father, but there was a glimmer of hope when the Shotet people sojourned to the water planet and found treasure in other planet’s trash. I thought this scene and the festival earlier on portrayed what the Shotet people were originally like, people who embraced different cultures and saw them as beautiful.
Also, they were not all POC and this was brought up quite a few times. They stare at Akos not because of the colour of his skin, but due to the fact he walks and acts so differently to them.
And also, the Shotet language was described as harsh while the Thuvhe language was eloquent and beautiful, which made me think of Russian vs French.
Even though Akos originally saw the carve marks as barbaric, once Cyra explained the significant cultural meaning to him it made them seem less barbaric and more a sign of rememberance and important to the Shotet people.
As for the ableism, I have heard Roth saying chronic pain is a gift, which I can completely understand people who suffer from this every day to have issue with. I understand that she called it a ‘currentgift’ in the book, but I was reminded of Rogue from X-men and her so-called ‘gift’. Though I certainly have no defence for that.
I would recommend reading Sabaa Tahir’s response to the criticism. She is a WOC and can comment on this criticism with more authority.
Either way, I doubt I will be picking up the next book in the series.