*all reviews are spoiler free*
Title: A Darkly Beating Heart
Author: Lindsay Smith
Series Status: Standalone
# of pages: 258
My rating: 3/5 stars
This is a weird, weird book. I received this book through BooklyBox because it was this month’s fantasy book. And I don’t know if this is even fantasy, or I guess not traditional fantasy.
Most “fantasy” books to me involve world building, supernatural elements, or things that don’t exist in our world. But this book doesn’t really have any of that. I mean there’s “time travel” but nothing else to claim this book as fantasy. But looking past the flaws of it’s genre I was much more interested in this than I thought I would be. My main world/setting critique would have to be that this should have been a contemporary. Take out this vague time travel and weird historical background and it would have been a pretty great contemporary.
Then there’s this main character, Reiko. Reiko is so dark and hateful that getting into this story was hard because you could feel the hatred pulsing throughout the book and it made it really hard to relate to. That being said Reiko gradually began to grow on me because she really reminded me of Adelina in The Young Elites. The similarities are there and Reiko definitely has that hatred feel to her that possesses Adelina throughout her series (I have not read the last book in The Young Elites series). But also there were so many other minor characters throughout this that I felt like I should have cared about but I just didn’t.
One of the things I really did like a lot though was that fact that there was a main character who isn’t straight. I feel like this is becoming more normal and I’m glad but fantasy still tends to fixate on main characters fitting the cookie cutter form for an epic. So I’m glad that this book challenged those notions and added in LGBTQ+ main characters.
But the main overall problem for me is this book’s length. 258 pages? How does anyone tell an entire fantasy novel in that time and get the reader connected? It’s really hard and unlikely and this book just felt rushed at the end. It started off with a really slow build to even get vaguely fantasy and then once it did it rushed it full force with little to no explanations. It had an odd pacing because of the time traveling flip flop but made it relatively easy to follow what was happening.
I have conflicting feelings on Smith’s writing style though because it was flowing easily enough that it wasn’t hard to read but it also continued to be very repetitive where we are continuously reminded of Reiko’s seething hatred every couple of pages. So I haven’t exactly made a decision yet on her writing style. Maybe I’ll try another one of her books and see if I feel differently.
Overall this book wasn’t bad but there were definitely fundamental problems with it and I would not categorize it as “fantasy” in the traditional sense. But it did include nice elements like being LGBTQ+ and having such a dark main character.