I’m sad to report that I was somewhat disappointed with this book. It’s received such rave reviews for this book and the subsequent books in the series.
I’ll start with the good stuff.
The idea and the world the author created are great. The novel takes place in a city called Rosewater in Nigeria. The events span between about 2040 to 2066. Basically, the life of the main character Kaaro. Rosewater comes into being because an alien entity emerges from the ground. It further can heal everything it is confronted with (or sometimes hideously transforms them, which is one of the things that irritated me, which I’ll get to).
I also really liked the idea of the Xenosphere, which felt like the realm of thought (the best way I can describe it). And if you’re “a sensitive” like Kaaro, you can go there or pick things out of it. For example, for much of Kaaro’s life he’s a thief, being able to tell from the Xenosphere where valuable things are (because people think about them). It was a well thought through concept as well, as the Xenosphere gets created in a way by the alien entity. It was great and a nice sci-fi way of explaining these kind of psychic powers.
And I was going with the whole story until about 2/3rds of the way though. The novel jumps back and forth between events in Kaaro’s live, with all the different strands culminating at the end. But the thing was, they didn’t really work. It got really muddled with too many strands intermixing about 2/3rds through. It ultimately ended with a bit of a ‘meh’. It also felt like some of the strands were introduced quite late to figure out how to end the novel (basically, it felt a tiny bit Deus ex Machina). The main story line was nicely tied up at the end but there was no consequence, probably because the big story line needs to resolve in the future novels. However, it felt that this left too little resolution to justify all that reading, it was just like I said, a bit of a ‘meh’ ending.
The main thing that I really disliked was Kaaro. He’s not a really likeable character. And it feels like the author knows this, as a report by another person in the book calls him all the things I don’t like about him (eg being sexist). Basically, he can’t meet a woman without a) commenting either positively or negatively about her looks b) getting aroused. It was just a bit over the top and really took me out of the novel, time and time again. I can understand it happening once or twice, but it really was a main feature of his character (again, the report on him describes him as a satyr). So it was entirely intentional and I just found it completely distracting and VERY MALE GAZE-Y.
I think he changes in a way that is intentional for the author: basically he goes from quite a sad, apathetic person to an active person. This is all down to love, presumably, which again is introduced *very late* in the novel and in a way seems a bit unearned. Maybe it’s because we don’t see any development throughout most of the novel and then suddenly he cares because he’s in love with his new found girlfriend. But it just, by that point, seemed very inconsistent with his character and I just didn’t buy it.
There were also some strange inconsistencies with how the world worked. For example, once a year something would happen with the alien and people would be healed. But also they might be horrible transformed. This was never really explained with the book (even when they explained why people were healed at the end) and I felt it was an inconsistency with the world building.
Anyway, disappointed, not sure I’m going to bother with the rest of the series unless someone can convince me that it has far less satyr-esque content.