What even is reviewing?? I feel like I haven't picked up a book in years. (Okay, it's been days.) I've actually been reading this one on the DL for a couple weeks now, courtesy of the publisher, who was kind enough to gift me a copy when I expressed my interest in it being a feminist!fantasy novel, because I think we can all agree that what the world needs right now is more strong women kicking serious butt.
At first, it didn't click for me that this is the same Dylan Farrow who is the daughter of Mia Farrow. Which, at first, gave me some trepidation because celebrities don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to writing YA. Just take Kendal and Kylie Jenner's dystopian novel, REBELS: CITY OF INDRA, or Hilary Duff's paranormal romance, ELIXIR. Neither of which are reputed to be, um... good.
HUSH is a pretty decent fantasy story, though. I liked it, even if I didn't love it, and I think younger readers will enjoy it even more than I did, especially if they're a fan of authors like Shannon Hale. In HUSH, writing is forbidden because of a mysterious sickness called Blot, which basically discolors and poisons the veins. In this world, words have incredible power, and people called "Bards" can use them to do powerful spells.
Shae lives in a poor village that depends heavily on the Bards for good weather and growing crops. Having a brother who died of Blot, she's somewhat of a pariah, and when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, her lot in life only worsens. Of course, everything changes once Shae decides to confront her mother's death, despite "murder" being a forbidden word, and of course, her investigations end up making her even more ostracized than she is and catch the attentions of dangerous and powerful people... where she discovers that she, too, is more than she seems.
I'll be honest, I don't really see how this is a "feminist" fantasy. There is an insta-lust between her and one of the Bards, and I never really got the connection between them. She doesn't have any particularly positive relationships with any female characters, apart from a servant who helps her out for literally no reason other than "us women have to stick together" (yes, exactly that). Actually, a lot of the people who screw her over the most in this book are women, which isn't very feminist. The biggest girl power moment is when she turns down a marriage proposal-- not because he's a bad person but because she just isn't that into him and doesn't want to settle. You go, girl?
To be clear, three stars is a positive review (I keep getting comments from people on other reviews who don't seem to get that??); it just means I had some issues with the book that kept me from really loving it or liking it. This is a somewhat generic fantasy novel with an interesting take on the whole "magic is forbidden" trope, but the MC is kind of a Mary Sue and it ends on a wicked cliffhanger without much closure. YA fantasy fans are probably going to love this (and the gorgeous cover won't hurt). I found it passable, and it was refreshing to see a celebrity with decent writing chops.
I'd be interested in reading the sequel and seeing where she goes from here.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars