Listen, I am so tired of books I like, but not love. It’s stressing me out, and I just am in a desperate need for a 5 star read and a new book to love. Please. As per usual, I requested this book on Edelweiss because witchy families and beautiful covers make me weak. And I expected a really rich atmosphere and complex family relationships and a focus on Russian folklore and myths. And the frustrating thing is that I almost got it. We could have had it all book. Rolling in the deep. But we did not. So let’s chat about that. But this cover? It’s doing the most and I love it. I want all books to feel as their covers look. Is that too much to ask for?
The Wise and the Wicked follows Ruby Chernyavsky whose family fled Russia a long time ago and ever since then, the women of her family mostly lost their powers, except for their power to see their Time, or the moment when they die. And Ruby feels detached from her family’s history for the most part, but when her great-aunt Polina dies and her death doesn’t match her recorded Time, things start to unravel.
There was so much to like about this book. Matter of fact, if you follow me elsewhere online, you know I have been talking about how much I’ve been loving this one. And I was loving it.
First of all, I really enjoyed the writing. It’s very immersive and the author manages to create this really encompassing atmosphere right off the bat, which is why I was sure this book was gonna get a high rating from me. The book starts with a house and a family of women who may or may not be witches and you are sort of thrown into their family dynamics and secrets and it all makes for a really compelling atmosphere and setting.
The characters were interesting. I really liked Cece and I really loved Dov. I think they were really good characters and I loved how their dynamic with Ruby was explored. Cece is Ruby’s cousin and absolute best friend, and I really enjoyed how their relationship developed throughout and how they dealt with certain things that happen. I think close cousin relationships are really rare, and I love that it was included (although, I think it’s mostly because they’re Russian). And Ruby’s relationship with Dov was really pure and felt real (for the most part), so I really liked that. I also really loved Ruby’s sisters and I really wish they got more page time, because I really found them interesting and I would read a book about them.
And the novel had a lot of momentum. There’s almost a mystery element to it and it was a great driving force for the novel and the book really did keep me engaged and I feel like there was a lot in the book to keep you interested.
There’s also queer rep in here, which we always love! There is a prominent sapphic side relationship and also the love interest of the novel is a trans boy. So that was great to see!
However, around the middle, things started to annoy me, and the book I was loving started being just a meh read, for a number of reasons.
First of all, the main character, Ruby wasn’t my favorite. She isn’t a memorable character, but on top of that, her choices make no sense and she constantly said things that clashed with things she was doing and it was really frustrating.
On top of that, the event that triggers the unraveling of secrets and starts up the final revelation and resolution of the plot was SO UNNECESSARY. Like this is the event that stirs shit up and it makes no sense in the narrative. It could have had a point, with a simple alteration, but it was… a choice to do it and I just looked directly at the camera like on The Office when it happened.
Also, this has got to be one of the most unsatisfying endings I read this whole year. It was incredibly rushed and it was so messy and it made very little sense and I think it dumbed down what could have been a really complex narrative. On top of that, I really felt like the book was trying to give nuance to villians, and to say that people aren’t inherently good or evil, they’re just people, but it did the exact opposite. It was a very Middle Grade ending in terms of making things very black & white when it comes to villians (which isn’t a bad thing, I love Middle Grade, but that’s not what the book was trying to do, and it showed). And I just found the ending and the resolution kind of cliche.
A lot of potential, and a book I initially loved, but that kind of went downhill for me. It was a really meh read for me personally, but I do think that it could be well-loved by other people. If the things I mentioned aren’t that important to you, then you might enjoy it more than I did.
Did you happen to see this book around? Have you read it? If yes, what were your thoughts? I’d love to know!
*I was provided with an eARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions stated are my own.*
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