Thank you Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: One cold, crisp night, Jack Sommers was faced with a choice—live forever according to the ancient, magical rules of Gaia, or die.
Jack chose to live, and in exchange, he became a Winter—an immortal physical embodiment of the season on Earth. Every year, he must hunt the Season who comes before him. Summer kills Spring. Autumn kills Summer. Winter kills Autumn. And Spring kills Winter.
Jack and Fleur, a Winter and a Spring, fall for each other against all odds. To be together, they’ll have to escape the cycle that’s been forcing them apart. But their creator won’t let them go without a fight. (Amazon)
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 2 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
If someone of flesh and blood embodied the concept of a season, what would that life entail? I don't think that I ever got an answer to that simple question. That's my main bone to pick with this novel: things are never quite concrete.
Our world has four seasons, each waning and renewing depending on the time of year. As their respective seasons, Jack, Fleur, Julio and Amber “manifest” them. They go through a cycle of hunting each other so that they may take over as the standing season at that moment, and send the one before them “home.” The season that is then eliminated is kept sleeping in stasis, after which time they awaken again, train, and then go out into the world to find and kill the season before them and repeat the cycle. They're immortal after Gaia gifts them with the power of their season at the moment of their human death.
That's the gist that I got from what the book told me before things started to develop. Because, unfortunately, we don't really get a lot of information on how things occur. Yes, obviously, we know the basics of that which comes to pass during each season because we live these seasons in our every day lives. But as characters in this story, we never live any certain period of time during their “reigning” moment over their section of the world. I don't know what usually happens when Jack resides as Winter. Does he touch things and freeze them? Does he blow cold breath on people? Does he just walk around aimlessly, day to day, covered from head to toe in frost, and then go to sleep only to wake up and do it again the next day? We never get any insight into what it really means to be Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn other than a peek of their abilities in times of crises.
We are told, again and again, from the start of the novel, that Jack and Fleur are in love with each other. Because seasons are kept apart and are not allowed to bond with one another on penalty of torturous punishment that can end in a final death, this is forbidden. Jack and Fleur's romance never hit home for me. Yes, they are sweet together. Yes, they obviously fight to save each other. Yes, they have that Romeo and Juliet vibe going on. But I was more attached and fond of Amber and Julio's romantic moments because they got to flourish in front of me. Rather than have the point hammered home, I got to witnessed it. And because of that, it became more realistic for me. Throughout and nearly until the story's conclusion, I resisted Jack and Fleur. By the end, I accepted it almost to the point of it being brainwashed into me.
There are a lot of things that feel incomplete about the book.
I don't see how realistic it is that Chronos—who apparently sees into the future and can tell one's fate—doesn't pick up on the fact that a group of four seasons, along with their four handlers (those who partner up with them and are their protectors, and eyes and ears while on the field), are going to escape from a compound that has reportedly tight security. Even if they managed to slip past him, are there no cameras in there? They spend so much time monitoring them once they're out in the world, but apparently they don't keep a tight leash on them in the one place where they can also get together? No alarm goes off when a season breaks into an area that's not meant for them? No one keeps track of the employee smuggling these people out into the world? None of the spying bees and smazes that follow them around report back on what they're seeing? Okay then.
Once they're out of the main compound, it's one thing after another. Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly fond of stories that move at a face pace, full of twists and turns with plenty of obstacles in the way of the leads when they try to accomplish a goal. But the action kept being thrown at these eight characters in a way that felt forced. As if the author felt that this needed to be as difficult as possible, rather than it happening organically. Wherever they go, they attract attention to themselves even without doing anything. There's always either a Gaia/Chronos agent nearby, or Chronos' guards are constantly finding them, or other seasons are trying to hunt them down as bounty, or humans find issue with them for no concrete reason. Rather than going on a smooth ride through the story, it was like being constantly jolted by rough breaks.
Lyon and Gaia's use of Jack, Fleur, Amber and Julio to overtake Chronos felt shallow. Lyon subliminally feeds Jack the necessary information so that he may get the idea to escape (which Lyon more so refers to as a rebellion). Gaia puts the four of them in nearby areas because she assumes that they will be attracted to each other, and what do you know, what a coincidence that they are. I don't understand what is so special about Jack, Fleur, Amber and Julio. I still don't know what makes them the right people to help stir others into this take-down. Once again, I am being told to take this at face value, but I'm not given enough to believe in it.
I had a very difficult time letting go and embracing this story. I wasn't fond of almost any character save for Amber and Julio at times, and Woody. The backgrounds for them were flat, and very lacking in detail or depth save for what was absolutely necessary to know in the moment. The chemistry between them as a tight group did develop as the novel progressed, and was believable as far as what comes to pass when a band of individuals is forced to work together in order to survive.
This appears to be the first in a duology or series of books, though I'm doubtful on the necessity of this. The story ends without much room for further exploration, and everyone appears to be settled where they end up.
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