Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Review: Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

Publication Date: June 23rd 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 304 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.
Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.
But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.
Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?

I was so excited for this book, that blurb seemed to tick all of the boxes: strong female protagonist, secrets and spies, set in London in 1725, it seemed too good to be true. And unfortunately it was.

The idea is fantastic, a truly brilliant concept, but the execution was decidedly lacking. Which left me feeling frustrated, bored and unimpressed. By the last third of the novel I was basically skimming.

Let’s start with the setting and language. I love historical novels, but I’m very picky about them. If you’re going to set a novel in a specific time period, that implies that you’ve done a modicum of research into etiquette, clothing and speech and that you want to bring that time period alive for a specific reason. There is a worrying trend in young adult novels where the books are being set in a specific time period, but little to no research is being done. It’s sloppy, it makes the reader feels as though the author hasn’t cared enough to bother researching properly, and leaves you with a book that may as well be a contemporary novel with some pretty dresses and balls. This novel suffers from this in spades. Completely unrealistic dress, no attempt at period appropriate etiquette and the dialogue is filled with Americanisms and modernisms. Things like sidewalk? Really?

If there is a strong enough protagonist at the novels heart then I’m inclined to forgive a lot of other problems in novels, but Arista wasn’t compelling or engaging or even likeable at points. She’s supposed to be this mysterious Lady, who trades and barters secrets and can take care of herself, but she comes across as na├»ve and immature. She doesn’t seem capable of thinking even a step ahead, never mind several. She oscillates between enjoying the power and hating it but with no real explanation or thought process to allow the reader to understand. In short, she lacked conviction. I didn’t for one moment believe that she was capable of the things she was supposedly doing. I didn’t really see any evidence of it. She is constantly going on about how people hate her as Lady A, but apart from one or two instances we never see this. A whole lot of plot points hinge on things that the reader never sees or is introduced to.

The characters are flat and one dimensional, the plot barely hangs together thanks to Arista, all the ‘twists’ were signposted so obviously that there was no tension or shock factor. The writing needed a serious edit, so much extraneous detail that really wasn't necessary and bogged the story down even further.
All in all this was a case of a novel really not living up to the expectations set up by the blurb, and one that has left me sorely disappointed that I gave up time to read it.

2 comments:

  1. SO SAD :'( I've seen a loooot of more negative and neutral reviews for this than anything else. It definitely SOUNDS fantastic. And Arista sounds like she could totally be an awesome character - all mysterious and such. AND SIDEWALKS IN 1725? OKAY. SURE. Sooo sorry you didn't like this one! I'll probably just remove it from my tbr to be honest.

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    1. It SOUNDS incredible, I was so insanely excited for it. But Arista had zero character or personality and kept making TERRIBLE DECISIONS, like WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT terrible. I have zero patience for americanisms when the author has deliberately set a book in 1700s London, I just don't understand sloppy things like that and it REALLY IRRITATES ME. Gah! Yeah, was really disappointed and frustrated with this one :(

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