Verdict: great premises, poor narration. The interesting bits of Chinese-Malay folklore aren’t enough to sustain a narration in which the protagonist is constantly locked outside of events. 3 stars
This review will have heavy spoilers.
I really wanted to like this book more, and it’s a pity it didn’t deliver for me. It’s a Heterosexual Classic™ in the sense that the protagonist, Li Lan, in the end must choose between two suitors and two lives: a human, ordinary life with Tian Bai, or an adventurous, mysterious life with Er Lang, a supernatural creature (not going to spoil which kind… just know it’s awesome).
The twist, for a Western reader like me, comes from the folklore and setting used: the Peranakan culture, the culture of Chinese people living in the Malaysia area (the book is set in Malacca). It’s certainly an interesting context, with lot of superstitions, ghosts and demons floating in the background – enough to keep the reader entertained for the first half of the book.
Title: Every Heart A Doorway (novelette, 2016 winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novella) Author: Seanan McGuire Review by: Captain Clo Verdict: imaginative worldbuilding, unimaginative plot, stilted writing in random places.
I’ve first hear about this book around the time it was nominated for the Nebula Award, since the book also features an asexual female protagonist and a transexual male side character. That said, simply having LGBT characters does not a good book make, and for all that this novelette is definitely enjoyable, it didn’t convince me. But if you:
are looking for a fairytale-styled fantasy with an asexual protagonist (which is, let’s face it, extremely rare)
like the idea of a trans boy as love interest/charming prince
That’s what passed through my mind when I saw this Italian translation in a bookshop. Talk about cheap ripoff! I love the original covers of the Grisha Trilogy. They set the mood of the story: they use dark colours (definitely fitting for the story…), they evoke the different amplifiers Alina uses (in this case, with the shape of antlers), and they set the atmosphere for a Russian-themed story (the domes). And the lettering is stunning, perfectly merged with the rest of the cover’s design.
The Italian one? Oh my God, what a disaster. Flat. With random imagery (is that a dragon on the right side? And then a hawk? Why? And why is the girl – presumably Alina – holding a sword? Alina doesn’t use a sword! And what are those tattoos??). Cheap copyright-free font (why vaguely Art Noveau??).
It looks like it was done by an amateur. Look at the girl’s hands! What is that??
No wonder the other books in the trilogy were never published. With such shoddy work, I doubt this book sold enough to warrant the publishing of the rest. Which makes me so mad. There are so many good books translated into Italian that simply deserve better publishers.