Where “Hilt Cyan” starts is not where it ends, at all. Go with me on this one: Meet, Georgia, a mercenary sniper with cat ears that lives in a steampunk-esque world full of magic and floating land masses that make up the different lands, and where magic functions in a unique way in each area. A world that is both incredibly advanced with flying hover-limos, and fairly primitive with characters still needing to empty out chamber pots. The main character comes from a broken home, one where her being a lesbian is problematic; a sin against their bird-like god. Her sexuality is partially what sets Georgia on the path she’s currently on. Kicked out of her home and struggling to survive, Georgia is in and out of prison, until she nearly gets caught taking out her latest contact. Enter Henry, the VP of a high tech company that offers Georgia the chance to become something greater, to become someone with a purpose and unlimited power—he offers her the chance to become a Shiron, as long as she can survive a death match competition first. No pressure, right?
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this novel. The concept is interesting, and I love the representation that’s present in the story. But there is a lot of jumping from past to present that often had me confused as to where we were in the actual timeline. That being said, some of my favorite sections were of Georgia’s past and learning about her struggles, and how she became the sniper she is. I was often distracted by what appears to be random uses of italics, but even that had a purpose by the end of the book, but that didn’t erase my earlier distraction, even if it explained it. I thought the world building was unique and a lot of fun, the characters are interesting and well crafted, but you don’t see a lot of either the world or some of the characters, so the world building could come off a bit flat at times. The author doesn’t shy away from strong language either, which I personally enjoy but just be forewarned in case you are sensitive to those four letter words. There is also some lovely artwork strewn throughout the book that I really loved, so there’s that as well.
So why do I feel odd about this book? First, let me start by saying I enjoyed it. I really did! I liked the competition, I liked the main character a lot and her struggle, her not wanting to be a bad person, but still doing bad things. You can really identify with her, even with the cat ears! The blending of magic and technology is also something I am a big fan of and wish more science-fantasy books had. But it was the conclusion of the book that left me a bit baffled. Not because it’s confusing; everything gets wrapped up well, making this a great one off book even though it’s meant to be the first in a series. But the end had some real “Stranger than Fiction” vibes, all the images of the book are revealed for the metaphors they are meant to be, and the book takes a massive turn from where it started. Vague, I know, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers here. It was an interesting ending, a twist I didn’t see coming, and I applaud that! But I wish there had been better set up for the twist so the payoff could have been the “whoa!” moment I think the author was intending it to be. But the ending, and how everything gets explained, did undermine the overall charm of the story, because the rest of the world building, what there was of it anyway, was wonderful! But the ending detracted a bit from that, in my opinion.
There is a lot of genre blending in this story with the steampunk, science-fantasy, and the literary genre it touches on based on the messages woven into the ending itself, so the novel occupies a very unique space in the book world. Maybe too unique? I’m not sure, it depends on the experience you’re hoping for. But I promise you, you won’t see the ending of this one coming! Still I was hoping for more from the ending I guess? That’s the only way I can put it. But really, I need someone to read this so we can talk about it! But because I am having such a hard time pinning down my feelings about this book, I’m still unsure if certain elements worked or not… I’m giving this book 3.5 stars. And thanks to the author for providing me a copy for an honest review!
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