Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Published by: Clarion Books on April 5th 2016
Review Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Plot: Magic meets A Tale of Two Cities
Review: Brennan introduces us to a New York City that is divided by economic status and magical ability. Wealthy, “light magic” wielders live in the Upper Eastside, while the “dark magic” wielders slum it further downtown. There is civil unrest, and most of it surrounds a tragic incident that involves Lucie, our protagonist. Interesting, right? Except there were far too many problems with this book, and here’s what went wrong for me:
- Let me start by saying I have never read A Tale of Two Cites. I know that I’m committing a horrific librarian crime by admitting this to you. I also know that sin will be filed away in the Great Card Catalog in the Sky, but I’ll atone for it later. I mean, I know the original is about a revolution that takes place between London and Paris. There is economic unrest, etc. I felt that I knew enough about the original plot to enjoy a retelling. I also feel that even if a book is considered a “retelling” it should still be able to hold its own as something new and distinct. Readers shouldn’t be expected to have read the origin story to get it. But with Tell the Wind and Fire, I was seriously wondering how much it has affected my ability to connect with this book, so I looked up the original plot for context.
That’s when it struck me how much Brennan pulls from the original. Many of the character names are the same, even down to Lucie’s title of “The Golden Thread”, which made zero sense to me when I was reading. The plot is strikingly close to the original too, which in retrospect let me down even more. Ignorance was bliss, and I now feel like I got cheated a little. It’s almost like she slapped in a little magic and called it new.
- Brennan rushes through her world building, resulting in a huge disconnect between realm and reader. I couldn’t relate to this “New York” or its inhabitants, because I hardly knew anything about them, and what I did know didn’t make a lot of sense This laid the foundation for the rest of the plot to feel incredibly shallow with very little build up.
- The characters drove me nuts. Lucie was too Debbie Downer for me. I get it, she’s had hardships that have motivated her to make some hard choices. Maybe there is even a little PTSD going on, but girl. Get it together. I need more personality here. All of her emotions felt washed out, and it kept me from sympathizing with her. As for Ethan and Carwyn, they are too emotionally extreme without any real substance to validate their actions. It only added to my disappointment.
The fact is, I really wanted to like this book and I’m sad that it didn’t click with me. It had a premise that was appealing, and I’m all about retellings these days, but Brennan didn’t give me enough context to bring me in as a new reader. Maybe others will have better luck with it.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Who Should Snag It: Take a chance on it if you really like light romance sprinkled with magic, or are a big fan of A Tale of Two Cities.
*I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*