Hi, everyone, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos, which releases tomorrow! Read on for my review, links to follow the blog tour, and a giveaway.
The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 28, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Young Adult
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Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women. Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.
Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
From page one, The Wise and the Wicked swept me into a world of ancient Russian fairy tales, long-hidden family secrets, and a main character trying to make sense of the world and her place in it. The writing was immersive, the characters were interesting, but the main, glaring issue with this book that I was left feeling unsatisfied when I flipped the last page. All of the threads of a five-star book were there for me, but the ending felt so clumsy and harried that it truly affected my overall enjoyment and rating.
As far as characters go, I thought the Chernyavsky family and their complex dynamics were fascinating, if not explored to their full potential. Ruby, our main character, was a little forgettable, but overall easy to root for. Who doesn’t love an angsty teen with plenty of reason to be angsty? I loved Ruby’s sisters, Dahlia and Ginger, and I honestly wish the sister relationship played a larger part in the story. I much preferred their dynamic to Ruby’s dynamic with Cece, her cousin, who is the main secondary character in the story. It seems like Ruby only has negative things to say about Cece in her internal monologue (not all of them deserved), so I didn’t quite understand why Ruby seemed so… obsessed with her cousin? However, I did appreciate the queer rep Cece brought to the story, as it’s often harder to come out to people who you trust with your life than to casual acquaintances. Ruby’s mother and aunts and great aunts are all, for the most part, not great, to put it mildly. I liked the way the author was able to explore morality through these characters, but none of them got a true redemption arc– which, I guess, is somewhat realistic, but didn’t make for the most satisfying reading experience. I did love the Chernyavsky magic and the strong sense of family folklore. Stories about where you came from are part of every family, and I thought that was incorporated beautifully into this book.
Outside of the Chernyavsky family, there are seemingly endless side characters thrown into the story, but the standout was the love interest, Dov. His family, the Mahalels, end up playing a pretty large part in the plot, but what I liked best was Dov’s relationship with Ruby. This is a book that doesn’t focus too heavily on romance, but the romance that is present is definitely swoony. Also, I am a cis woman, so please take my thoughts with a heavy dose of salt, but I absolutely loved the trans rep in The Wise and the Wicked. (More trans love interests in YA, please!) It was such a pleasant surprise to see a trans character in a story that deals so heavily with the idea of inheriting gender-specific abilities and curses, but it makes so so much sense. I thought it was very well done.
With so many good things going for it, I fully expected this to be a new favorite. However, as the ending drew closer and closer, the plot resolutions started feeling more and more rushed. I’ll keep it spoiler-free in this review, but the *~big showdown~* was left pretty open, but I thought certainly we’d get more resolution by the end of the book. Not so. In fact, when I finished this book, I legitimately did a double take to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter. The ending was THAT abrupt. Here’s the thing: contrary to the popular opinion in the online book community, I LOVE an open ending. However, what I can’t get on board with is an abrupt ending. This abrupt ending truly soured my entire reading experience with this book and left me both confused and unsatisfied. Just something I think everyone should know going into this story!
Overall, though The Wise and the Wicked did me dirty with the ending, I did truly love the story at the heart of this book. If you can deal with the abrupt ending, I’d still recommend picking it up! (Also, if you have read this– let’s please discuss the ending, because truly, wtf.)
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Have you read The Wise and the Wicked? If so, let’s discuss in the comments! Especially the ENDING!