New York Times Bestselling Author Amy Ewing has delivered another incredible world with her new book, The Alcazar, which comes as a second installment to The Cerulean. The novel follows Sera as she tries to make her way back home. The main characters try to seek out Ambrosine Byrne, the only one with knowledge about the mysterious island of Braxos (which Sera needs to get home.) At the same time, the High Priestess’s have become much more strict with their rule in an attempt to block Kaolins, adding an additional challenge to Sera’s voyage home. This all leads to an amazing tale filled with adventure, exploration, and discovery.
I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction and dystopia, but this book still had its perks all the way through. For one, Ewing’s descriptions are absolutely breathtaking. It’s clear that she put a lot of effort into her word choice, as scenes in The Alcazar seem to pop out into real life. One of my favorite scenes from the novel is at the very beginning when Leo and Vada go to visit a market in Abaz. The market is described in a really interesting way. The stone halls are “reverberating with the sounds of people” and the booths inside the market are stuffed to the brim with beautiful silks and pieces of jewelry. In just a few short passages, Ewing sets scenes beautifully with ease. The setting descriptions really drew me more to the storyline itself and were definitely a big win for me.
On the other hand, I do think that there were some aspects of this book that struggled with character development. This isn’t to say that most of the characters aren’t great, but just that some could have been better developed. I really liked Leela’s character arc in this novel and found myself really attached to her through her bravery and courage. Along this line, other minor characters also really drew my attention and added a lot to the story. Ewing does a really good job with smaller characters and captures their personalities very well, but some of the major characters were a bit difficult for me to connect with. Sera, in particular, seemed to come off as cold and a bit shallow at points, which I found to be unfortunate.
I also would say that Ewing’s plot building is not the most effective. At many points in the novel, she resorts to a one-sentence cliff hanger at the end of a chapter to build suspense and keep the reader engaged, but it becomes repetitive and I found myself getting distracted over and over again. Apart from these dramatic endings to chapters, there isn’t that much suspense in what should have been an action-packed novel. I really wish that Ewing had taken time to layer suspense more carefully, as I feel like the novel would have been more engaging that way. As it stands, the pacing is the only thing pushing the plot along.
However, the novel does one amazing thing: it explores real life issues with confidence. One of the more interesting issues that this novel explores is that of sexuality. Sera, who comes from a city of only females, is able to experience falling in love with men for the first time in her journey to the outside worlds, which I think is a really interesting twist on typical stereotypes in our societies. Agnes also discovers her love for other women and embraces her sexuality during this novel as well. I think that this is really great because in today’s society, it’s still difficult to feel accepted at times when you’re different from everyone else. Ewing’s characters make everyone feel included and provide an accepting culture for a changing world. Apart from sexuality, Ewing is able to use her fictional worlds to explore more serious topics, something that I really appreciate. In the world Pelago, women take power and men are typically frowned down upon, which is basically a complete twist on our current society. Reading those passages was really interesting because it gave me a glimpse of another world and another thought process, which I thought was really thought-provoking.
— HarperTeen (@harperteen) March 16, 2020
Overall, I would say that The Alcazar is targeted more towards younger teens and is not exactly what I expected going into it. I think that further depth could have been added to the characters for a more engaging read, but I do heavily appreciate Ewing’s worldbuilding and her courage to explore touchy subjects within the novel.
Featured Image via Harper Collins