Ughhhhh. This book was AT LEAST 1.5x longer than it needed to be.
I'm sad about that, because I really, really wanted to like it. The premise is super interesting, and I want to know more about the world in which it's set. The society's structure is fascinating, the settings are beautiful, and there's so much one could do with the idea of a sub-class of humanoid creatures designed/bred for one purpose and denied humanity. There was SO much potential here, but...
Oh my GOD was I bored. So bored. Almost the whole time. I felt zero connection to any of the characters, I cared next to nothing about the plot, and the writing was mediocre at best.
Characters: In books, TV shows, and movies, I know things have gotten bad when I'm rooting for a character to die. I'm thinking, thank goodness, one less person to deal with. I didn't care about what happened to any of the characters, and while they were well-rounded and each had their own unique voice (which, points for that, because it is HARD), I just... didn't connect with them. I can't put my finger on why.
Plot: Battle between science and religion? Cool, sign me up! Political intrigue and murder plots? Maybe, I'll check it out. Which random member of a crappy family gets to sit on the throne? Hardest of passes. Unfortunately, this book leaned way too hard on the latter two and barely skimmed over the first. I want to hear more about the Hellionic* religion! I want to know more about the disaster that destroyed all knowledge! How did the humans survive the event? How did some books survive it? Why is it so important that knowledge be suppressed? Give me all of these details! I don't care about a cheesy love story and somebody complaining about not knowing what to do with her life and who-plotted-what! The basic conflict, the main thing that, at the beginning, seemed like it would tie the whole story together, was totally forgotten within a few chapters.
Writing: I am not one of those writers/reviewers who abhors adverbs in general. They absolutely (ha) have their place, and I think it's silly to "ban" them altogether. However... I see the rationale behind the advice. Once I realized that this book used so many adverbs, I couldn't. stop. hearing. them. I'm not going to pick a specific example from the book, but there were many (many!!!!) times where I mentally substituted a stronger verb instead of the adverb+verb combo that I read. The writing was also sooooo repetitive. There were SO many "sharp glances" and "searching gazes" and "searching faces" and "long moments." SO MANY. I think - for example - that the exact phrase "scorned lover" was used THREE TIMES in ONE PARAGRAPH, with one more use on the following page. Mix it up a little, please! I'm sure this contributed to my overall boredom. This could've easily gotten another star with a little bit stronger writing.
It's not terrible; just don't go in with sky-high hopes.
*forgive any spelling errors; I listened to the audiobook.