Recommended: not really
For folks who like character identity exploration, for almost-meetings and vague magic saturating the real world. Not for a strong, clear plot or robust exploration of magic
In River City, where magic used to thrive and is now fading, the witches who once ruled the city along with their powerful King have become all but obsolete. The city’s crumbling government is now controlled primarily by the new university and teaching hospital, which has grown to take over half of the city.
Moving between the decaying Old City and the ruthless New, four young queer people struggle with the daily hazards of life―work, school, dodging ruthless cops and unscrupulous scientists―not realizing that they have been selected to play in an age-old drama that revives the flow of magic through their world. When a mysterious death rocks their fragile peace, the four are brought into each other’s orbits as they uncover a deeper magical conspiracy.
Devastating, gorgeous, and utterly unique, We All Fall Down examines the complex network of pain created by power differentials, even between people who love each other―and how it is possible to be queer and turn out just fine.
I really struggled to get sucked into this. It was a strange bunch of flip flopping. The first 50 pages had me hooked. By 150, it felt like nothing was happening and when I put the book down, picking it back up felt like a chore. By halfway, I was relatively invested and curious to see where it was heading. But by the end again, I wasn’t sure why any of what I read was important to the next part of the story.
My main issue was that with 4 main characters, disliking even one meant that a large portion of the story was not one I really cared about. Disliking one and being ambivalent about another, well, that’s about half the book right there that I’m not very invested in. I found Turing / The Nameless Girl to be a struggle to read through, and Jack was also not my favorite. Jesse and David had elements of interest that hooked me more, and Jack became more interesting later in the story. But overall, I wasn’t enamored with the characters and that made this a more difficult read for me. I was also caught off guard thinking Astrid was a focused character and then she was a side character at best for the majority of the novel after the start.
Even now having read the entire book, I don’t think I could really describe the plot or the main conflict. It seems clear there will be a second book, but I’m not sure why or what it will be about. The prophecy that is ostensibly at the heart of this was kind of lost, and it wasn’t the focus nearly as much as I thought it would be. I’d say the focus was more at a character level as we learned about each of them and their identity, history, and desires. That’s fine I guess, but like I said, I didn’t really care for any of them, so for me it was a dry read.
My expectations for the magic were doused a bit as there’s really very little in this. Plenty of references to witch and the need for magic, but not much actual on-page interesting magic. That’s another issue I had with the overall plot: there are clearly two sides of folks — those who want magic back and those who don’t — but I have no idea why each side feels the way they do or why either position would be problematic, etc. Why do the witches want the king dead? Or wait… do they want the king dead? Why WOULDN’T people want magic? Why did they rebel against King Nathan in the first place? I don’t know if my spacey attention made me miss these details, but I was confused about everyone’s motivation, which took me further away from caring about the story.
Ultimately, I don’t think I’ll continue this series. It’s at the level that I might pick up the next book someday, but I’m not rushing to do so, and I probably won’t think about this one much in the meantime.
Thank you to BookishFirst and Macmillan publishing for a free advanced copy. This is my honest review!