I have mixed feelings about this novel. I liked the previous novel, ‘Finding Sky’, although that had things I wasn’t too happy with. Unfortunately the little things I didn’t like in that novel were blown up in this sequel. I picked this one up in the library, and though I feel like I should have enjoyed the story a hell of a lot more than I did, I just can’t. The narrative was unbelievably sexist, I just couldn’t see passed what Joss Stirling had written for her character, Phoenix.
The premise was promising: Phoenix living in an off the grid collection of Savants (people with powers relevant to the individual) called the Community, ruled by an abusive individual known as the Seer. I knew from the previous novel that Stirling would introduce her soulfinder concept, which is basically Stirling’s version of “the one” for Savants. I was curious to see how Phoenix would develop as a character and get herself out of her situation. I was so disappointed with the direction that Stirling took the characters in.
I could almost cope with the sexist git ruling over everyone and trying to exert his authority, if Phoenix was going to escape the situation. What I couldn’t cope with, was once Phoenix had been set up with her soulfinder, Yves (pronounced Eve), one of the Benedict brothers from the previous novel, he was then set up to take complete and utter control over Phoenix. This made me so angry because Stirling had a good concept and could have done her main character justice – but she didn’t! She didn’t give Phoenix the opportunity to save herself, and left it open for readers to blatantly interpret that the only way she was going to get out of the Community was with Yves taking control. The fact that Phoenix had no friend or family and had been set up to be entirely reliant on Yves for everything – NO!! Of course everyone’s going to have dreams of romance, but this was not a positive way to portray it. This gives the completely wrong impression. You should always – ALWAYS! – be comfortable with yourself and who you are, and not be reliant on anyone providing you anything.
Stirling could have given younger readers such a strong message, but she went for the path of least resistance and showed readers that the only way they’ll ever be able to make anything of themselves in life is if a partner does it for you! Which is complete and utter bollocks. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt – as much as Stirling tries to dress it up in this novel Yves’ behaviour is so controlling. Which will make young impressionable girls swoon over the “romance” and think it’s acceptable for boys – or girls – to do the same to them, which it is so, so not. Yves is presented as this knight in shining armour. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing remotely romantic about someone swanning in and trying to completely take over your life. There is no such thing as “the one”, so the fact that he is meant to be Phoenix’s soulfinder does not make any of the crap he does in this novel in any way acceptable. This is such a dangerous thing to be telling younger readers who this novel is aimed at. If someone is being controlling but passing it off as only something they’re doing because they love you, it is not romantic and is certainly not love. It is controlling and you should dump their ass there and then. Trust me, it’s not worth the heartache or how crap it makes you feel about yourself.
This completely overshadowed the narrative and ruined the novel for me. I wanted to like the story, but I couldn’t like the sexist characters that surrounded Phoenix. Phoenix was a complex and engaging character, but the fact she just sat back and let these sexist gits walk all over her really ruined the novel for me. This is such a dangerous message to be sending to younger readers!! I’m glad Stirling got Phoenix out of her predicament, but I think she went about this in the wrong way. I get that the romance was going to be a major part of this novel, but this could have been done in a much more positive way. It was such a shame that Stirling couldn’t have shown Phoenix to be strong enough to figure her own way out of her predicament. The narrative was well written, but the sexist crap completely overshadowed any good that came out of this novel. I would give it a 3/5, and would definitely encourage readers not to think that this novel portrays a perfect romantic relationship, because this is little more than psychological abuse. What makes me even more sad is the fact it was written by a woman!!