Published: July 6, 2021
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Series: Standalone (?)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 336 (Paperback)
My Rating: 2.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
From the author of Mask of Shadows comes a dark and intricate story of a girl who must tether herself to a violent ruler to save her crumbling world.
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.
What did I just read? It was certainly dark fantasy, which is why I requested What We Devour in the first place, but… wow. It was so confusing! You just get dumped into a world that clearly has some issues going on, but nothing is ever actually explained. I’ll be honest, I almost DNF’d this around the 30% mark but apparently I’m a masochist because I kept reading. It was just interesting enough to keep me turning pages, even if I didn’t care about the characters or the end of the world.
Lorena Adler is dualwrought, meaning she can use the power of both the noblewrights and vilewrights, which I think of as little invisible shoulder demons. She can both create and destroy and she isn’t bound by any contract like most wrought are so she can literally do anything she wants if she can make a big enough sacrifice (memory, pain, blood, etc). She has been hiding out in a village since leaving the capital city Mori several years before to prevent being scooped up and bound by one of the nobles. She’s safe until the Heir comes to town and finds out her big secret when she tries to save her boyfriend’s father from being arrested for treason. Lorena is carted back to the capital, agrees to help the Heir destroy this big magical Door that they sacrifice people to every so often, and begins researching alongside the other wrought – Basil, Creek, and Carlow.
So many concepts and plot lines are introduced so quickly that I never quite caught up with what was going on until near the end. The pace was so rapid that I also never found myself caring for any of the characters whatsoever, which is not good for a character driven book. There was some worldbuilding, but if you asked me to describe what anything looked like I couldn’t tell you – not even the castle or the lab where they spent so much time. Lorena and Alistair (the Heir) are clearly morally grey characters which is becoming more common in YA fantasy. They are definitely not good, though they strive for what they believe to be the best thing for the citizens, but the means they use to achieve that are often horrible and bloody.
There are many individual components of this book that I should like (and often do like in other books) but they don’t mesh well and because I never connected to the characters this really didn’t work for me. It felt almost slapdash and sometimes the ever present violence seemed more for shock factor than anything else, even if the magic system often requires a terrible sacrifice. I mostly read to the end to see what happened and with a little hope that it would eventually grab my attention. Sadly, it never did and I won’t be continuing on with any future books that may come out in the series (the ending definitely left room for more).