Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene
Published by Scholastic on November 27, 2018
Series: Amber and Dusk #1
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 368 pages Source: OwlCrate
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Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.
So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.
But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.
This book has such a pretty cover. The OwlCrate edition is a beautiful purple and orange gradient and the cover aesthetics are everything I love. It has perfect purple end pages. It’s so, so pretty.
I wish I liked the book as much as I like the cover.
The first word that comes to mind in describing Amber & Dusk is “clunky”. There are the bare bones here for a decent story. It reminded me of a cross of Mirage and Red Queen. There’s an interesting magic system and characters that could be interesting if there was a little more care taken. There are also a lot of cliches. I don’t mind cliches, generally speaking, if they’re compensated with wonderful characters, beautiful writing, or original twists. I don’t think Amber & Dusk accomplished this. There was a lot of telling in the writing – in the setting, in the world building, and in the characters. The reader is often told to accept the details rather than discovering them. As a reader, I felt much less invested in the story because of this.
One of my biggest complaints is Sylvie/Mirage. She enters the story as a refugee on a caravan, and she single-handedly saves the caravan – huzzah! Her character continues on with the same snobbish self-importance. The reader is never given the opportunity to love Sylvie, because we are told stories about her past and told what she is feeling but we don’t discover her story and we aren’t affected by her emotions. The “telling” aspect really affected every aspect of this book, spoiling one bit after the next.
Sylvie wasn’t my only concern about a character (note: all characters have two names, as if there weren’t a bunch to keep track of already). Lullaby had character potential, but she was pushed a bit into the shadows. There is one particular good scene with Reaper, but I never felt like I had enough time about him to be as wretched about the plot as Lyra Selene was hoping. That’s how I felt about most the characters. I’ve met them, but I don’t really feel anything toward them. No attachment.
There was also a love triangle… I think? I believe there was an attempted love triangle here between Sylvie, Sunder, and Luca… but… I’m not… sure? I think it was supposed to be a love triangle, but it was clumsy. Again, not enough emotion for anything to feel potent.
I know I’m being redundant. The fact is, the way Amber & Dusk was written – flat and dramatic – so deeply affected the way the book came out. Brusque and unattached. I didn’t care for Sylvie’s cockiness or the ease with which Sunder, Luca, and the other snuck around the supposedly dangerous court. The book was predictable and the ending unexciting. At one point, Bane “snarled” and “wept” within two sentences. “Luca’s eyes narrowed to skits of fire” is another prime example of the literary flourishes she tried to include. I just don’t think it was successful.
All in all, I was absolutely disappointed in Amber & Dusk. I thought there were some interesting elements, but I didn’t enjoy Lyra Selene’s writing style and there wasn’t enough originality in the story to hold my attention. At the end of the day, I’m grateful it was a quick read. It was not for me.
Amber & Dusk will be donated.
Aesthetically, this displeases me, because as I stated at the beginning of my review, I quite like the cover of this book. I also usually have very good luck with OwlCrate’s books. I think this is the first one I’ve read that I didn’t enjoy? Just sort of a bummer. But ultimately I would have DNF’d this if the pacing had been a bit slower.
This book goes on the donation pile and I’ll bring it down to a local thrift store. Hopefully from there it will find a new home and someone who loves it!
If you had magic, would you try to join the royal court? I don’t think I would, personally. I’m not crazy about propriety, too many small niceties to remember and worrying about offending someone! Tell me what you’d do in the comments. 🙂