Know what's worse than a story that makes no sense? A story that ALMOST makes sense.
Because with the former, you could just chuck it to the dnf pile and move on, while with the latter you are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of promise, hope then disappointment that ultimately ends in someone getting pissed because she spent an entire day suffering from a migraine… without any pay-off.
Legend has it that there once was a great war waged between wizards where they built tall towers to amplify their powers. To put an end to all that silliness, one wizard, whom henceforth shall be called Not-Sauron, brought together the five elements of the universe and created an ultimate weapon to wipe out all the baddies (vague much?).
But Not-Sauron's assistant had a change of heart and using the very weapon, killed the boss instead and sent the other wizards away (I know, it wasn't explained either). He/She tried to destroy the weapon but his/her powers only managed to split it into five, hid the pieces and set five guards (weards) with the power to shift into a specific animal to look after each piece. But who watches the watchmen? Why, the soft-hearted assistant of course (Leodweard), who can shift into any of the five animals and can see the pieces despite being hidden.
This is the mythology that our heroine, Megan Banks, gets entangled with. The privileged daughter of an abusive, domineering mother and an indifferent father, Meg fashions her rebellion by being a graffiti artist at night, with the London streets the canvass of all her repressed angst. In one of her prowls, a shifter-fox dies on her arms, essentially transferring his abilities to her and leaving her with a curious piece of stone that an evil sorceress seems to be hell bent on getting.
I really found the idea of having different underground groups of shape-shifters with promising names such as The Skulk, The Rabble, The Horde, The Cluster and The Conspiracy cool and with so much promise of awesome it hurts my brain to imagine the possibilities. Is it like Divergent for shifters? When it was revealed what they are, I found it quite unique and was really invested on how the story will pan out because I wanted to see what kind of special powers these creatures have to be able to protect their stone pieces and battle the evil sorceress who has a carnivorous fog and killer pigeons at her beck and call.
Well turns out, save for being able to talk to each other (which they use for extensive bickering), they really didn't have much difference from their non-shifter animal counterparts.
Which begs the question, why Not-Sauron's assistant chose these particular creatures, at all. I mean seriously, a seven-foot black man transforms into a butterfly to protect a magical stone against killer pigeons? How? By sending them into an asthma attack? (no, there was no indication if they were the poisonous variety, by the way).
There should be a joke in there somewhere and I was so disappointed that this book failed to take advantage of the silliness of it all because it's too busy taking itself too seriously. And sadly, despite all that effort, the story still ended up this side of messy. Some plot details get introduced (i.e. each groups' unifying features/or behavior, the powers each stone pieces held, how did Meg know how to disable the fog etc.) only to be abandoned and never to be addressed again. I found the world building spotty and some of the plot devices to move the story along too elaborate for me care for, seeing as I'm having difficulty connecting with the heroine as it is.
I really, REALLY wanted to like Meg. I think I got a glimpse of what she was supposed to make me feel, but you can't just leave all her character depth in being overweight, rich and abused and expect the reader to cheer for her. I found her so very underdeveloped and most of her actions illogical. She was just too accepting of all the things that are happening to her. There was no internal conflict, no doubt or sense of self-preservation… she just went ahead and lived the life of a shape-shifting fox, suddenly bossing people/foxes around. Nothing she did made sense to me and her emotions towards her parents and the other shifters just fell this side of unbelievable. I was so severely disappointed that her being a graffiti artist didn't even factor that much in the story (save for that anemic attempt at romance).
The story felt like a lengthy investigation I don't even have the slightest idea why Meg was leading, that ultimately "climaxed" into a mystery that wasn't even a mystery. This certainly felt like a bottomless well of disappointment trickling to apathy with a few spikes of disgust in between (which is always better than apathy).
The three people in that room had been dead in a while, and the circle of lie was in full disgusting flow: maggots had turned into flies, had fed the spiders, had laid their eggs right next to the next generation of maggots.
ARC provided by Strange Chemistry thru Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Quote may not appear in final print.