Author: Sarah Rees Brennan (site)
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Magical Realism Retelling
Told: First Person (Lucie), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (violence, sensuality, some minor innuendo)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase On: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?
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Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, HMH!
In a Sentence: A tale of love, magic and revolution that began awkward but finished strong and tear-soaked.
Confession: I have never read A Tale of Two Cities. I don't believe I've even seen a movie adaptation, although I do think a half-hour Wishbone episode covered it a few decades ago. So when I was informed hours before starting Tell the Wind and Fire that it was a retelling of the classic, I was conflicted. I was a little discouraged since I'm not one for classics outside of Jane Austen, but also a little excited to offer a non-biased review among those who would compare it. So it was with both interest and trepidation that I began.
Story: After very publicly rescuing her father from torture in the Dark and securing them a life in the Light, Lucie wants nothing more than to live peacefully and enjoy her loving boyfriend, Ethan. But when Ethan is accused of treason and his illegal doppelganger suddenly appears and rescues him, her quiet life is thrust back into the limelight as one mistake after another stirs up secrets and lies and a revolution that throws her contented world into chaos. With all she knows and cares about threatened, Lucie must decide if she will continue to hide in the Light to save herself, or journey back into the Dark to save those she loves.
The story started really awkward for me, opening in the middle of sweet happiness quickly followed by sudden despair with next to no explanation about the world or the characters. I stumbled through the first two chapters lost and confused, only to get mired in a life and world history infodump in Chapter 3 that laid things out yet at the same time caused only more confusion. But despite my confusion and more telling than showing I pressed on, intrigued to see where the story was going, and was eventually rewarded as the book gradually grew on me at a point where I've heard other readers chose to drop out. Although the story was first and foremost a love story and decidedly more about character development than the magic and revolution as I would've liked, I did ultimately quite enjoy the read, and the end was strong and powerful and I cried through the last few chapters.
Magic: Essentially drawn to this book for the magic, I was rather disappointed when it turned out to be more prop than setting, a reason for the discrimination that brought about the revolution. What there was of the magic was moderately unique with unusual and dark twists, but while it felt simple enough to understand, the how and why of it - especially the rules and restrictions - were rather hazy and hard to follow. Despite the significant infodump in Chapter 3, enough just wasn't explained for me, or explained in a way I could fully comprehend, and disappointingly I never got a handle on much of it.
Setting: The world was also rather confusing. They seemed to live in an alternate, isolated New York City split into two halves: Light and Dark. These halves were separated by a wall and not supposed to mix (despite a train that ran through both of them), and yet at the same time they couldn't live without each other for magical reasons and were therefore forced to intermingle... somehow. Overall the whole world structure just didn't fit together for me, and I never made much sense of it.
Characters: For most of the book Lucie was an ostrich with her head in the sand, hoping that if she went with the flow and ignored the discontent around her it would just go away. This made her rather sloppy and susceptible at first, but the more mistakes she made the more she rediscovered the strength that she had embodied as the Golden Thread in the Dark, and by the end she was a force to be reckoned with. Carwyn was an emotional tug-of-war of mild affection and firm disgust from beginning to end, which made the final chapters both easier and harder to read. Overall though he was a complete jerk who's sass fell flat for me, and like Lucie I seriously craved Ethan whenever he was around. Perfect boyfriend Ethan was a bit too perfect in my opinion, but it was a soft and sweet perfection that, paired with his innocence and big heart, made Lucie's struggle to protect him worth rooting for.
Conclusion: While the beginning was a bit of an awkward and confusing struggle, the book gradually grew stronger until it delivered a powerful and tearful end. If you enjoy dark, tragic tales of love against the odds, then I recommend giving Tell the Wind and Fire a try.