“Gates of Thread and Stone” is an example of a book that I see and it stupefies me – the title, cover, and summary seem promising enough, yet something feels off about it, an inner warning going off that says not to hope for too much from it. But it’s difficult to deny a chance to read the book right away, so seeing it in the Read Now section of Netgalley seemed like a sign to give it a try, so I did.
The summary of the book clearly reflects its contents: they are as plain and vague as the synopsis on Goodreads. The disappointment began from the very first paragraph and continued to accumulate over the course of the novel. “Gates of Thread and Stone” follows, yet again, what some authors have established as THE YA book formula – you’ve got the rough, tough heroine with a secret and the power to single handedly solve all the world’s problems, you’ve got her best friend she loves but hasn’t been able to tell who also secretly likes her, and you’ve got all your little elements of magic and fantasy. Simple enough and not too bad when at least executed properly. This one wasn’t.
Kai is a hypocrite, to lay it down right away. She’s not as tough as she tries to be or at least how the author tries to make her seem. Her ogling over Avan were scoff-worthy and borderline ridiculous. At least if we had some more context on their past relationship as friends I’d be able to let it slide more, but the constant blushing about their hands grazing or her later comparisons of him to the sun were too much for me to bear, and I’m the kind of person that usually doesn’t mind cheesy kind of romances. But Kai is weak. She’s illogical, despite her attempts to calm herself down and think rationally when trying to save Reev. One specific detail that really irked me was her referral to “the prostitute’s knife” or “the prostitute’s map” over the course of the story. Ok, I get it that it belonged to a prostitute when she originally gave the objects to you, why keep repeating it over the course of the story whenever referring back to them? Why not just say “the knife” or “the map”, especially considering that the prostitute isn’t a significant character at all? It coloured Kai’s character in a very negative way for me. It’s one thing to establish how dirty and “immoral” a city is and mention some of those details, but it’s another thing to keep bringing one of them up in such an uncalled-for way. It was difficult to root for Kai when I didn’t like anything about her.
Avan and Reev were alright, both of their relationships with Kai on what I’d call a passable level. Reev’s your standard brother who tries to care for his adopted sister and then goes and does something reckless in order to keep her safe and more or less happy. Avan was underdeveloped as an independent character, Kai’s infatuation with him being the only thing that coloured who he was which, referring to the previous point about Kai, isn’t a good thing. Some details about Avan I didn’t understand – what’s the story with the tattoo? What’s the deal with him being that ridiculously attractive that kai keeps bringing up his potentially shady past and how he doesn’t care about gender? What in general is this soap opera that I didn’t sign up for?
The plot is, needless to say, unoriginal. The world building is poor and it felt more like it was slap-dashed together to create some kind of background for the central teenage drama that takes up the main focus of the story. I have only a vague idea still about the mahjo war and who the sentiles were and how the whole city worked. It was way too vague for my taste. At least give it some substance for me to not feel like I’m forced to go along with the whole mindless shebang. And the appearance of the immortals and the “big” revelation at the end of the story was predictable and boring.
I can’t find any positive in this book. It was dull, unoriginal, with an unpleasant lead character. These kinds of books make me suspicious about the incentive the author had to write this book, especially when it turns out like this one did. It looks suspiciously like an attempt to jump on the YA bandwagon and add nothing new to an already enormous genre. Disappointing. I should’ve trusted my initial instinct and stayed away from this one.