Sunday, May 26, 2019

Book Review: The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Wise and the Wicked
Author: Rebecca Podos
Publisher: Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
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Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy slow burn stories filled with magic, and a bit of mayhem.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women. Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.

Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.
Put a book in front of me with any type of fairy tale aspects to it, and you can pretty much guarantee that I'm going to read it. When I saw that The Wise and the Wicked was based around Russian folktales, my heart was so happy. I love a good story with folktale roots. It's probably no surprise at all that I was very excited to read this book.

To be honest, I actually really loved about the first 70% of this book. It was a little slow, sure, but I could feel that pull back to the old stories and it kept me going. It was also so refreshing to read a book with such lovely queer representation in it and, thank goodness, one that wasn't completely built around romance. I'm all for a good romance, but it's always so nice to read a book where it isn't the most important thing ever. In fact, this story is mostly based around family. Around the secrets that they keep, the love that simmers beneath the surface, and about doing whatever you can to protect one another. Ruby and her sisters felt real to me, and I was invested in them. I always love when a family dynamic has some ruts along the road. Ruby and her sisters felt like a real family, because it wasn't always all sunshine and rainbows but the love was definitely there.

However as the book progressed it became more and more evident that things weren't going to be completely wrapped up. I won't lie, I felt concerned because this book doesn't show any inkling of having a sequel. It's true that there were some plot gaps in the first part of the book, but I let them go because I was so enjoying spending time with Ruby and her family secrets. I figured that things would be explained eventually, and the slow burn of this book wasn't really bothering me. The closer I got to the end, the more I realized that I wasn't going to get my answers. There are a lot of portions of this story that are told in flashbacks and in podcast listening form. I liked them at first. As I realized that the end wasn't going to be cleaned up though, I started to resent them for taking up story that could have been used to further flesh out the characters and the plot. I really hope there's another book after this one, because the ending is frustratingly incomplete.

Still, there's a lot to love in The Wise and the Wicked and so, like I mentioned above, I'd definitely read the next book. Dev is a great male character. It's so nice to see a sweet boy instead of a brooding one. The idea that words passed down over time can be twisted to meet the needs of those telling them was fascinating. I also loved that Ruby was unabashedly in love with a science fiction story podcast. Her addiction to the story that was unfolding in her podcast, matched against the very unbelievable story that was unfolding around her, made for a beautiful parallel in the book. If only this story had been a few chapters longer, and finished explaining some of the things I desperately wanted to know, I would have fallen completely in love.

If you enjoy stories with a slow burn, a lot of heart, and a kind of fairy tale feel to them, you'll love The Wise and the Wicked. I'll just be over here hoping that there's more Ruby coming, very soon.

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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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