“… what if I told you there was a way you could see her again?” he said. “In this world, not the next, and not in your dreams, but in real life.”
So, this review is quite different than almost all my other reviews for several reasons. One, I’m not planning to post this review to Facebook or email it out because this isn’t exactly a recommendation, it’s more a place for me to dump my thoughts. Before this blog, I actually started out reviewing books more for my own personal purposes — as a way of recording my thoughts on the stories I read — and I’m kind of returning to those roots with this review because, well, I just have a lot to say about my experience reading this book and I think it’ll give me closure to write those thoughts out. The reason I don’t do this with every book I read is that some books (even if I enjoyed them) just don’t make me want to say anything about them. I review everything honestly so when I don’t have anything to say about a book I just won’t say anything. Which leads me to… Two, I usually only review books I love and recommend and I don’t plan to rate this book so again, this isn’t a recommendation so much as it is a collection of my thoughts on this unique and different story. Three, I just feel the need to review something. The last several books I’ve read have not been bad, but they haven’t inspired me to write reviews either. Usually only the books I truly love make me want to write about them. This book is an exception. It’s… different. But I have many things to say about it so here goes…
I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this book, I was on cloud nine with giddy anticipation. After all, this author’s other series The Bronze Horseman (my reviews) is my all-time top favorite book, series, story ever. However, I was wary of the storyline in this new series though. It was quite different, to say the least. And with the trilogy not yet being complete and having nobody to tell me everything would be okay in the end I was even more wary.
Then it was released and I made the mistake (or was it one?) of reading the reviews. As a general rule, I don’t do that. I know the kinds of books I like to read and I know how to find them and I honestly just don’t read reviews. Ironic for a book reviewer, huh? But I’ve been this way for years. Nonetheless, I read the reviews for this book. And they were filled with my type of red flags and I was scared off. So I moved on to other books and left this one…
Then earlier this week I read two other books and neither one made me want to shout from the mountaintops about how amazing they were and I got into a book slump. They hadn’t been bad, but they weren’t great either… they were just meh. I was looking for something that jump-started my heart, y’know? Something that made me feel the story.
So I circled back to this book and thought maybe I should try it for myself. What’s the worst that could happen?
I read the prologue and it happened. CHILLS. I was completely absorbed by the story. THIS was the book magic I’d been looking for. By the time I finished the prologue, I was breathlessly caught up in the story, the anticipation, the intrigue. The writing was captivating and I was unable to stop reading.
“There’ll be another time for you and me.
There’ll never be another time for you and me.
As the sun moved into the crosshairs at noon, he knew. He would do anything, sacrifice everything to see her again.
I should’ve kissed you.”
This book had such clever, clever writing. Almost timeless. It felt like the now, but also felt like an age ago. It was almost impossible to pinpoint the ‘when’, even though I know the now was now, and I think that was the whole point. The writing stole the show. I think for some people they might find the writing style a little heavy, but it really resonated with what I was looking for as I read it so it really worked for me.
But an interesting thing about this book was that I disliked almost every character in it, but still wanted to keep reading.
The heroine felt… off… to me. I was wary of her from the very start. She’s not the type of person I’d like in real life or ever want to be friends with. I suppose one way to interpret her was carefree and ethereal. But another was darker, manipulative, self-serving, oblivious to how she affected the people around her. I didn’t like her as a person — not much in the first half of the book, and even less in the second half.
The hero felt naive. No, he was naive. There was no one to blame for his situation but himself. Or maybe they were truly hopelessly in love. But their love story felt… off-key. Or maybe both were true. Maybe their love was real, but also wrong. He was just consciously oblivious to warning signs all around him in a way that made it hard to feel sorry for him when things went wrong.
I think the specific problem I had with the story was that I recognized that the hero believed he was in love with the heroine, but for the life of me I also didn’t understand why. What about her had he fallen in love with? Again, we circle back to naivety. In the most extreme form. He liked everything about this woman as long as he ignored everything he didn’t like about her. But that’s not exactly a recipe for true love, now is it? Or maybe, for him, it was?
But here’s the important thing — this is where trusting the author comes in — she wasn’t trying to make his behavior anything other than exactly what it was. She wasn’t trying to normalize or rationalize it. She was just expressing it. That’s why I felt a level of safety that I wasn’t being taken for a ride with no point.
And yet the whole thing was insane. Madness. And just when I was starting to wonder where it was all going… another sharp moment of clarity hit, and again… CHILLS.
And like… it was totally barking mad. Crazy. It requires several leaps of faith to even keep up with this story. But luckily I wasn’t the only one asking all the questions. The hero was also just as confused as the reader so that made it more bearable. And also that much more intriguing. I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t in on the secrets.
Note: this is a time travel book. Not a spoiler, just a classification and statement of fact. Although honestly, I feel like I’m 50-50 at a fork in the road regarding how I interpret the story where a) it’s possible that everything described was really happening within the story, and b) I could totally see an “it was all just a dream” type ending too. So idk.
I guess thing one thing I just never understood (especially in the second half of the book) was why he even liked her? Then again, he was such a naive and oblivious person that I suppose I shouldn’t question his life choices. But just… my god! Or maybe they deserved each other? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This is not a story like TBH where I actually cared about the characters the way I cared for Tania and Shura.
One thing to note though that some reviews mentioned that I don’t necessarily agree with, but it’s kind of a spoiler so I’m hiding it for those of you who don’t want to know anything about the story:
Having finished the book though, I have to say that unfortunately to me, this story just didn’t follow through on the epic it promised in the prologue. I got to the end and was a bit miffed at the lack of closure (yes, I know it’s the first in a trilogy, but still) but then I tried the sneak peek at the second book and really didn’t like the choices the characters made or the direction of the story in those first few chapters so I’m just not sure what I should do. I don’t like to give up on a story, but it’s an expensive story to continue to gamble on when I wasn’t completely in love with the first one and I’m just not sure I *care* enough about these characters to want to read another thousand pages about them. My gut feeling tells me I’m going to be disappointed because, if it’s going to turn out epic, why wait til the end to begin said epic? Why not give us a taste of it now? And if it’s not going to be epic, then I don’t want to read two more books of the same. So… I feel like I might return to this story one day. More likely I might wait til someone I trust reads the rest of the series and then just have them tell me how it ends, more out of curiosity than anything. Like, I’m curious enough to read the cliff-notes, but not invested enough to read the full story, if that makes sense.
One thing I do have to mention though — the writing was FANTASTIC! Truly, Paullina Simons has one of the most evocative, beautiful writing styles I’ve ever read. Her words are pure art and I think that’s why I read this book through to the end. If anyone else had written this story I doubt I would have even finished it but her writing is just… it’s a breath of fresh air. I truly love it.
My recommendation is that if you’re new to this author, read The Bronze Horseman trilogy instead. THAT story is the very definition of an epic love story. I read it many years ago and still fully, heart and soul, stand by my recommendation of it as the #1 best ever book and series I’ve ever read in my whole life — and it’s still my only ever 10 star rating. I’ve read countless books and not one of them has even come close to comparing to TBH. It’s pure writing perfection and I promise you it’s a reading experience you do not want to miss. Also it’s on a discount right now actually — not sure how long that discount will last but it’s usually around $12 so check this link to see if the discount is still on!
As for this book… look, if you’ve read The Bronze Horseman, don’t expect this book to hold a candle to it. But if you’re intrigued by the blurb, give it a shot. It’s certainly a beautifully written book. And hey, maybe you can read the whole trilogy and come back and tell me how it ends? Hehe.
Great review!!! I liked reading a different type of review from you!
Thank you!! It was a really different read. I wasn’t planning to review it initially but my brain was just overflowing with thoughts and it just helped to get them down “on paper” so to speak.
Really interesting review. Sometimes we are on the fence about a story, but that keeps the story from being run of the mill and forgettable. Never heard of the The Bronze Horseman previously. We read some miserable literary novel about the Siege of Lenningrad in our library book club. Eh. Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. TBH I was so turned off by the disaffected sex the heroine suffered through early in the novel I didn’t read the whole thing. When I was in St. Petersburg two years ago I learned that they have a museum of bread because of the odd things they made “bread” out of during the siege. Anyway, I not only like a happy ending, but also I like romance main characters to be reasonably likable. It seems as if sometimes the only way the author can achieve any tension or conflict is to make one of them unpleasant and selfish.
Sounds like you’ll love the Bronze Horseman! Nearly everyone who reads it agrees it’s the most epic love story ever. It’s a complete story with a stunning ending and literally has all the feels you could ever want from a book and more! I highly recommend you try it 🙂
You should have listened to the audiobook! It was magnificent.
Oh I’m sure – the writing was beautiful!
I’m half way through this book and so grateful for your review, I honestly thought it was just me. I thought my head space was in a bad place because I hated all the characters..😂 Paullina is one of my favourite Authors, but I’m really struggling to complete this book. I’m pretty disappointed to be honest.. 🥴 are there any other books you can recommend. Bronze horseman was hands down the best book.. but I’m still hunting for a great read. 🙏🏻🙏🏻
Oh gosh I’m really sorry but glad my review helped!
Here are a couple suggestions for you 🙂
Connie Hunter says
I really hope you give this series another chance. I waited until all 3 books were released before reading and I am so glad I did. I have now read the series twice. Book 2 is slow in areas and was my least favorite. But……book 3 is amazing and makes the whole series worth it. The characters are not likable by any means and I had no attachment to them, until the end. And then I didn’t want to let them go. This series can’t by any means live up to Bronze Horseman and sadly I think it will always be that way. But this story was so unique and Paullina is such an amazing writer that I really believe if you give it a chance, you will love it in the end