I haven’t read fantasy in forever, and I can’t even tell you why. I’ve just been thirsting for a lot of YA contemporary lately, along with the occasional dystopian and paranormal YA novel. But I saw Jake Bonsignore’s book on Facebook in one of the Like events for Facebook Pages, and the cover immediately drew me to the book. I am not ashamed to admit I do judge a book by its cover. With so many books competing against one another for shelf space and online space, books nowadays have to have some reason to excite the reader, and his cover lured me in to read the blurb. Then the blurb itself excited me, and I bought the book, despite the protests my bank account made (we’re all good). In any case, let’s get on with the review.
Breena Taljain’s life nearly comes to an end when she comes across the Patriarch, a man so steeped in hatred he has all of Purgaire living in fear. His assault on her occurs because her mother’s addiction put them both in debt and left Breena a practical street rat having to work at a seedy bar just to pay for her own chance at existence.
Then you have Galbrecht Atalir, an alcoholic doctor dealing with the death of his entire family at the hands of the Patriarch. Breena and Galbrecht’s paths cross when he discovers Breena is his newest patient. In order to relieve her suffering, he gives her a drug that sends her to an entirely new world so far removed from Purgaire that Breena does not want to leave. However, when Breena’s health itself begins to decline, she finds she must journey to a harsh world in order to overcome the tribulations of her own mind.
I just want to say that what interests me most about this book is that Breena’s state in the hospital coincides with what’s happening with her in Araboth. At the beginning, when Galbrecht’s drug is working its magic, she is in the beautiful Araboth with achingly vivid, beautiful descriptions. But then Galbrecht realizes he can’t keep giving her more of the drug, so Breena is soon plunged into the hinterlands, a harsh, harsh wilderness filled with terrifying creatures that seem to represent the monsters of her own mind. It is such a psychological thriller that reminds me of Flavia Bujor’s Prophecy of the Stones, except it’s done one hundred times better, and Breena is a fully fleshed character struggling to stay alive against all odds. Her friends are there to compliment her and to help her remember that life is indeed precious, in spite of the appalling life she lived in Purgaire.
The pacing of this book is fast, super fast, so if you’re into psychological thrillers, especially of the fantasy variety, you’ll tear through this book. One moment Breena is living in Purgaire, scrounging any bit of money she can get from her perverted boss, and the next she is on the streets trying to outwit the the Patriarch, only to find herself nearly murdered at his hands. Then you go on to Galbrecht, then to Araboth, then Galbrecht again, and it’s a rollercoaster of intense emotions and varying points-of-view that are very colorful to read. This novel is a third person omniscient book, but Bonsignore does it so masterfully that you can’t wait to see what all the characters are thinking as they’re doing what they’re doing.
The Patriarch himself is so chilling to read about because he kills mercilessly and is responsible for a good majority of the addicted druggies in Purgaire–which is what makes Purgaire such a hostile environment. Since everyone is so contingent on the drug the Patriarch dishes out, people are heinous and have lost their humanity somewhere in the drug addictions, so people like Breena suffer in the process.
Breena is an incredibly strong heroine who, despite all the pain she has suffered, fights through and refuses to give up, especially knowing it is possible for her to have the life she deserves. As someone who has struggled with suicidal ideation, Breena herself is an inspiring character.
Galbrecht is also a very likable character too because of his unrelenting desire to help Breena, in spite of not knowing this girl. He refuses to lose his humanity in Purgaire.
Overall, this book deserves its full 5 stars. It is my type of book: both dark and fantastical. I can’t think of any YA fantasy books I can easily compare it to, but I very much look forward to his sequel, Awakening the Fire.