Dragons. Art. Revolution.
Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.
One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.
But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.
What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight… – Goodreads
Thanks to NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.
While I’m glad to see that many people loved this book, it may be my most disappointing read this year. While the varying levels of queer representation in this book are fantastically well done, that aspect doesn’t make up for everything else that is severely lacking in the story.
While initially I was pretty intrigued by the world and characters, at almost 60% of the way through the book I found myself wondering what the point of the book actually was and where this story was even going – if it was going anywhere. At more than halfway done I should have had some idea. At the 80% mark I finally had to admit that I was bored and had been for much of the book. By the time any action actually happens, it felt too little too late.
Further, the dragon – which should have been the most interesting part of this story – felt constantly like an afterthought. The dragon is off stage throughout most of the book and feels like its just a decoration for the main character. Speaking of which, Jebi spends the majority of their time not wanting to do anything that they are doing and boy, will they not let you forget it for a second. Their thought process became so increasingly repetitive throughout the book that I started skimming their exposition near the end.
The end, which I had some serious problems with and what ultimately made be take this from a 3 star to 2 star review. The final destination decision for the characters makes absolutely no sense in the context of the rest of the book and was not explained how it was even a possible or realistic choice. The book also just stops rather than actually ends with an unacceptable amount of loose ends for a stand alone novel. The “ending” is in fact so open that I had to double check that this was not the first in a series upon finishing it.
I have quite liked Yoon Ha Lee’s writing prior to this book and was not expecting a story and characters that ultimately just felt flat with relationships that only work if the characters (and readers) agree to completely gloss over the nasty things people do their “loved” ones.