My rating: 2 of 5 stars
1st try in print: This came recommended, but the first 100 or so pages didn’t grab me – or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood. It had holds at the library and I didn’t feel like getting even further in and risk feeling like I needed to finish it just because I’d read so much. Maybe another time.
2nd try on audio: The moral of this story is to trust your gut. If a book doesn’t grab you, it’s okay to quit even though people you trust rave and it wins awards like the Cybils. The premise was intriguing, and the beginning of the story sets up lots of potential themes. The father with his star reading, the heartstone, the complicated family relationships, midwinter twins, kids raised in near-isolation thrown into a rough world. But one after another, Young drops the ball on all this potential. The story becomes action-driven, rather than character-driven, which is fine if the action manages to hook you. It sure didn’t hook me – the cage fighting was the first thing to put me off, and by the time the big showdown at the end arrived, I was only interested in seeing whether she’d leave us with a cliff-hanger or a neater resolution.
The characters had great potentional – Saba’s adoring attitude towards her twin Lugh and her near-hatred of little sister Emmi could have had some great nuance, but other than a predictable build-up of affection for Emmi, nothing much happened. Like another reviewer pointed out, Saba has an incredible ability to fight and interact with the wider world considering her isolated upbringing. Others have compared her to some awesome kick-ass heroines, but she lacks their prickly likableness. The romance is dull and the heartstone’s role painfully predictable. I kept expecting various intrigues – I wanted Lugh to turn out to be a huge jerk, just because Saba idolized him. I wanted the king to be more interesting, but he was simply bizarre. I wanted more.
The audio version is nicely done, though, all things considered. The dialect that comes across as distracting on the page feels natural when spoken aloud, and Heather Lind does some good voices, nicely distinguishing characters.
Source: both versions from my public library