So many thoughts about this book...--3/5 Stars
Okay, so the world-building was really good. This author has a way of layering world-building that makes it feel really immersive and that was enjoyable. Especially because i'm a HUGE book nerd and who wouldn't want to grow up in a magical library? Right?? The writing was solid, there were a few instances of too much telling and not enough showing as evidenced by her overuse of words like felt and seemed in certain passages, but, overall it wasn't gratuitous or distracting as a whole. Character Arcs were well developed and the stakes were REALLY high, so it held interest well.
There are a few things that were really not great about this book, and it's made even more disappointing by the fact that this was published by a big 5 traditional publisher and there are teams of people dedicated to finding and fixing these HUGE GLARING ISSUES... this seems to be a trend with traditionally published YA Fantasies lately, so i'm not holding just this book to the fire... so to speak. The first issue I had was the slow start... I had to attempt 4 times to get through Chapter one... it was literally painful until Chapter Three or Four when she met Nathaniel Thorn. Let's talk about Nathaniel Thorn and his demon familiar Silas for a second... this story suffers from protagonist confusion muddled with pesky magnet characters that help to highlight how PAINFULLY BORING AND UNINTERESTING the main character, Elisabeth is. This is why the beginning is so slow, because we don't really care and we don't really get invested in the main character's narrative... and let me tell you... she was SO STUPID. I mean, literally, her character was written to be unobservant to the point that it felt condescending and insulting to the reader.
Next, I want to discuss the reason this is a 3 star review instead of a 4 star review and that is MISREPRESENTATION. This book not once, but twice, threw in one line or one conversation that had nothing to do with plot, character development, or relationship development... announcing that one character is bisexual and another is (assumed to be) asexual.
Don't get me wrong here, inclusivity and representation are SO IMPORTANT in YA fiction, and YA Fantasy suffers the most from being the least diverse and inclusive of genre's typically. But, having a character's sexuality discussed just for the sake of making them a 'token' character instead of it being woven thoughtfully into the narrative... it's insulting at best. What's worse is the sneaking suspicion this was done to check a 'diversity box' so that it could make it through whatever hoops it needed to make it through to make it on the shelf.
I wouldn't recommend this book for the last reason alone, even though the story wasn't bad as a whole but still had issues with basic story structure, pacing, and protagonist confusion.