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ALC Review: When Among Crows by Veronica Roth


Release Date:  14 May 2024

Rating:  3/5 book; 5/5 narration

Narrators:  Helen Laser, James Fouhey, and Tim Campbell

Synopsis:  Step into a city where monsters feast on human emotions, knights split their souls to make their weapons, and witches always take more than they give.


Pain is Dymitr’s calling. To slay the monsters he’s been raised to kill, he had to split his soul in half to make a sword from his own spine. Every time he draws it, he gets blood on his hands. 


Pain is Ala’s inheritance. When her mother died, a family curse to witness horrors committed by the Holy Order was passed onto her. The curse will claim her life, as it did her mother’s, unless she can find a cure. 


One fateful night in Chicago, Dymitr comes to Ala with a bargain: her help in finding the legendary witch Baba Jaga in exchange for an enchanted flower that just might cure her. Desperate, and unaware of what Dymitr really is, Ala agrees. 


But they only have one day before the flower dies . . . and Ala's hopes of breaking the curse along with it.

 

Review


I’ve read many of Roth’s books.  I haven’t really liked many of them, though.  Divergent and Carve the Mark blew me away, but despite Roth’s great prose, I just don’t connect with the endings of the stories.  When Among Crows gives off combo vibes from The Monsters of Verity and Carve the Mark, with a bit of Slavic mythology and wittiness, but I found myself wanting when the story was over.  Roth’s style frames stories in wonderful ways, but the characters and plot devices seem to repeat themselves or borrow from other things since Divergent and Carve the Mark—both series I loved at the start but completely hated by the end.  When Among Crows started fabulously, with a great interaction and setting, a total attention-gripping and what-the-heck factor, and curiosity-piquing opening.  If the whole novella had the tone and setting of the opening, I would have been awestruck and completely enamored.


There’s no question that Roth can compose a descriptive, atmospheric sentence and place the reader in magical worlds.  The problem for me with this story lies in the inability to keep me in those worlds.  I’m picky about the fantasies I read with modern settings.  Because they’re set in our world, the fantastic element feels like it’s lost in the setting.  If I get a modern setting in this world, I want the rest of it to be so amazing that I forget what world I’m in.  When Among Crows does not do that.  Every place Dymitr and Ala visit reminds me where I’m reading about, and it’s jarring.  From the underground fighting rings to the penthouse high rises, this story may have been well suited as a mafia romance instead. 


If a setting or a plot don’t transfix me, usually great characters will save a books for me when all else fails.  While Dymitr intrigued me at the start, by the time I realized what his mission was, he did not seem to grow on me.  Add to that Ala’s complete 180 at the end of the novel with no arc of transformation to make sense of the change, and I can’t connect.  The villains in the story seem to be standard in a lot of the fantasies I’m reading right now—so much so that I feel it’s not coincidence.  I like my villains a bit more organic and less pushy trope. 


On a brighter note, the narration for When Among Crows proved stellar, and the narrators were so wonderful, I really had a great time listening to them tell me the story despite my general dissatisfaction with the narrative itself.  I do highly recommend giving this one a listen.


My profuse thanks to Macmillan Audio for the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.


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