I feel like we don't need much in the way of plot summary at this point, no? Violet, being a somewhat withdrawn and bookish sort, wants to be a scribe but finds herself forced (by her mother the general) to follow in her older siblings' footsteps and attend Basgiath War College, where she will either die (most likely outcome) or survive to become a dragon rider (very least likely outcome). It's all very Top Gun if the other flight cadets were also allowed (sometimes outright encouraged) to murder you to get ahead as opposed to just be the better pilot. If you survive training, you get the chance to bond with a dragon (Dragonriders of Pern, anyone?). But not everyone is chosen. And even if you are, the goal is still war and partnering with the dragons, who don't really give a ripped stitch for humans except in the sense that they both want to keep their homeland theirs, to defend Navarre from attack.
So. The comparisons to Sarah J. Maas abound—the A Court of Thorns and Roses series in particular. The romantasy moniker (not my favorite subgenre title, for the record) seems to have been firmly attached, though I really feel like we don't get enough quality either in this case. But. I did go in with certain expectations of what I might find. And somehow I just did not expect to come out feeling so underwhelmed. On basically every level. What I loved was Violet's dragon, Tairn. His voice was a gruff and resentful delight throughout. But it took so very long to even get to his arrival in the story. The global pacing felt off to me. Long swaths of time spent training with actually very little detailed description of the training and how it worked organically to bring cadets together or introduce chasms. Factions formed, wings were assigned, and yet all of the side characters remained hazy at best. I wanted to know them better; I wanted to be able to feel Violet's care for them and theirs for her more. But I felt like we were told they had gelled into a loyal group (and that so-and-so was the villain) but we didn't ever see it happen. It just was and that was meant to be enough. My kingdom for some dialogue with meat on its bones.
Speaking of villains, I longed for increased subtlety on the whole. Xaden, the much vaunted enemies-to-lovers love interest, was so clearly never even remotely trying to kill Violet. I mean, so clearly I could scream. Was he hiding something? Of course. Was he any kind of credible threat to Violet? Heavens, no. And for better or worse, I think he should have been. I adore a good enemies-to-lovers tale as much as (yes, fine, probably more than) the next girl, but this wasn't even trying to be that. It was just all so obvious from the jump that I felt myself skimming—which I just never do. As a rule. Particularly if the wordsmithing is sparkling. That was not the case here. Not that it has to be if the characters are vibrant and the pace is exciting. See: SJM. Pace exciting? Check. Characters vibrant? Check, check. Whereas here, every twist was telegraphed so far in advance, with little to no nuance layered over the top, that it was a challenge to believe Violet was buying any of it either. I liked her. I just never knew her. And I wanted to. Because I believed Tairn—the only creature to jump off the page and sink his claws into me. Because he was Tairn. Which meant she had to be worth it all. I guess, in the end, I just wish everyone else had had claws, too.
I am not here to rain on anyone's parade. I love it when we collectively love tales to utter distraction. I just didn't fall on that end of the spectrum with this one. I'm not sure why this experience prompted me to pop back on and write up a review. I rarely write full reviews of underwhelming reads (though I've had rather a string of such lately). But maybe I'll come back soon with something I loved. Because there have been those, too. As for you, did this one hit the spot? I know I'm in the overwhelming minority.
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