My rating: 1 of 5 stars
*Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purposes of review*
I need to pour myself a drink — not many books reduce me to alcohol consumption due to extreme irritation, but Traitor’s Kiss gets that dishonourable distinction from…pretty much page one. I should have known — I really should have known better.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super-excited about this book; it didn’t really seem like my cup of tea, but there was just enough in the description to make me think that, maybe, I’d be surprised. It’s happened before — c.f. something like Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones — and so, as always, I am ever the optimist, hoping that a book will exceed my initially low expectations.
Not only did Traitor’s Kiss fail to exceed my low expectations, it didn’t even manage to meet them. I don’t think there are enough negative words in the dictionary to express my disappointment, my irritation, and, by this point, my blistering fury with this novel. This is every young adult-fantasy trope I hate, rolled into one book, that doesn’t even have the decency to be, at the very least, marginally entertaining.
And the core problem lies in its protagonist. Sage is a terrible protagonist — I’m sorry, there’s no polite way for me to say this. She’s awful. Clearly the author wants her to seem “special” because, boy does she go out of her way to have Sage deliberately isolate herself from other characters. The amount of vitriolic “You other girls dress yourselves up so you are clearly vapid and shallow and I am better and smarter than all of you becuase I don’t”-girl-on-girl hate that makes up the entirety of Sage’s inner monologue and dialogue is both staggering and exhausting. It starts to feel like a personal attack from the author upon girls who either (a) like to put effort into their appearance and/or (b) have cleavage.
Now, I’m certainly not particularly invested in my appearance unless it’s a “special occasion” or I’ve got some errant whim to exert effort, but I am definitely a gal with cleavage and, let me tell you, Ms. Beaty, my possession of cleavage — something I cannot control — and wearing of clothing that shows it off — not always something I can control, but usually a personal choice — doesn’t make me, in any way, supercilious, vapid, or unintelligent. My possession of breasts has no correlation whatsoever to my intellect. So what’s with Sage’s hatred? And what’s with reinforcing her attitude as “correct” by making Sage seem special and, therefore, better when in the perspective of male characters? Women can exert effort in their appearance while also wanting to wear trousers or ride horses or push themselves physically. I know plenty of incredibly strong woman who can be both tomboyish and dress to the nines in highly feminine styles, while also (shocker!) being fiercely intelligent and well-read.
Also Sage smells like sage. Someone, please, put me out of my misery right now.
And let’s talk about the writing. Well, first off, the plot is unbearably slow. Now, I don’t mind slower novels, especially if they’re doing interesting things with character development and world-building. Except that Traitor’s Kiss isn’t, and this book is a slog. As much as this novel promises betrayal and intrigue, you’re not going to find any of it here. I mean, if anything, it betrays you by thinking it might be interesting. It’s, truly, a masochistic endeavour, reading this book, begging for it to do something interesting or, at the very least, end soon so that you can be put out of your misery.
Or maybe that was just me.
I doesn’t help that there were moments where Ms. Beaty actually wrote jump-cuts in the middle of chapters. I was so jarred by these, I actually flipped back and forth between my kindle-edition pages to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped a page. But, no, it’s true: she writes one scene going somewhere and suddenly jumps to something else without so much as a hint or even the decency of a chapter break.
This book is barely over 350 pages, but it feels like twice its length and I, for the life of me, cannot understand how anyone would want to read this unless they were (a) a fan of slipshod writing with poor world building and a special snowflake of a main character that has a vendetta upon the members of her own sex and/or (b) completely inebriated.