State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
Publication date: 01 March 2018
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 464 Pages
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
This is a spoiler-free review
I didn’t know much about State of Sorrow going in. Not only did I completely misread the blurb when the book was announced (I thought it was a contemporary book — don’t ask), I just picked it up on blind faith due to the cover and the author. I enjoyed The Sin Eater’s Daughter and was hoping for more strong, yet quiet heroines and lush language.
Sorrow – for that is all she brings us.
A people laid low by grief and darkness.
A cut-throat race for power and victory.
A girl with everything and nothing to lose…
By day, Sorrow governs the Court of Tears, covering for her grief-maddened father, who has turned their once celebrated land into a living monument for the brother who died before she was born.
By night, she seeks solace in the arms of the boy she’s loved since childhood. But one ghost won’t stop haunting her, and when enemies old and new close ranks against her, Sorrow must decide how far she’s willing to go to win…*
I’m going to come right out and say it — this book was incredibly slow to start. I usually give a book 100 pages to capture my interest before I DNF it, and I’m not sure why I didn’t do that with State of Sorrow. The reason for this slow start is that there is so much setup that needs to take place before the story can really get going. Although this was artfully done and didn’t feel like an info dump at all, I thought it was pretty slow paced until about page 160. That is a long time to stick with a slow book, but I really ended up feeling it was worthwhile.
State of Sorrow is a beautifully written, thoughtful, and unique take on the ‘girl rising to power’ narrative that we see so often in YA fantasy. The world that Salisbury builds is bleak and sad, but also beautiful in its own way. It has a unique and more modern feel, despite the fact that it feels like a cursed fairytale land — I was reminded so much of the classic Sleeping Beauty kingdom. The impact that the state of perpetual mourning her father has implemented is crushing. Buildings are crumbling, the people live in fear of the Decorum Ward seeing a hint of joy, and the pleasure has gone from life. Some of the best parts of the book are when characters from Rhannon get to taste sugar, see art for the first time, or crack a smile without worry.
What I really want to talk about is Sorrow herself. While the side characters are fantastic (Luvian is a sweet baby angel and one of my recent overall favourite characters), Sorrow truly dominates the story with her well-crafted character arc. I’ve only read two of Salisbury’s books, but something I’ve noticed is that she doesn’t seem interested in the typical YA fantasy ‘strong female character’. While many of the ladies that dominate this genre are more of the ass-kicking type, Salisbury’s heroines are strong in a much quieter way. This is particularly true for Sorrow, who has suffered for her entire life. Despite this, she wants to stand up for her people and end her father’s oppressive regime. I found Sorrow to be a character that one can easily admire. She’s certainly got her flaws — in fact she has quite a lot of them — however she always strives to do the right thing. I am sometimes frustrated by YA heroines, but I sympathised with every decision Sorrow made.
I feel like I can dig very deep into the various characters, the politics, the tensions, and the plotting of this novel, but that would involve a heck of a lot of spoilers. I think that this is a book that’s well worth giving a chance, even if you find it a little slow to start like I did. I love how different this book felt, particularly in a genre like YA fantasy that tends to be a lot of the same thing. State of Sorrow is a beautifully told story and I cannot wait for the next one.
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Have you read State of Sorrow? Is it in your TBR? Are you one of the lucky ones who got a hardback edition from FairyLoot? Let me know!
*Copy courtesy of Goodreads