Dudley writes with a good sense of pace, and the novel’s premise is imaginative. Jewel is a likeable protagonist, although her godlike artistic talent and her perpetually flawless good looks might not endear her to teen readers looking for relatable protagonists. Damon’s romanticized characterization early in the book does a little too much to foreshadow the revelation of his malevolence, and he tends to steal scenes as the antagonist. Dudley’s tone can be uneven: while some passages ripple with intensity and lyricism, others lack nuance, blunting the impact of the story.
Where Dudley succeeds is in creating a tense, mysterious atmosphere. Damon’s style of magic, trapping his victims in his paintings by stealing their spirit while painting their portraits, is inspired. The trapped women themselves are well-rounded and intriguing side characters. The novel’s themes are pertinent in the #MeToo era; part of the book’s appeal is Dudley’s Lolita-esque dissection of the machinations of a much-older predator. This tale is both cautionary and empowering, and YA readers in search of a topical urban fantasy will find a lot to love.
Takeaway: Teen readers seeking an empowering tale about female solidarity against predatory men will appreciate this suspenseful urban fantasy.
Great for fans of Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper Cypher.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A