Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway (ARC): War Planes, Politics, and Intrigue–Not For Me

3 stars

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to inherit the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines.

When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, Athan’s father devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan on a mission to gain intel in Etania. But when Athan falls in love with Aurelia, who he’s spying on, as diplomatic ties waver, they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

🌸 Depends on the type of reader–if you like more dense, adult-like writing, then you might want to try this! I don’t think it has a lot of appeal to a lot of teens, though? It was just A Lot to take in + if you like the writing style of books like The City of Brass, you might want to give this a shot!

add to goodreads here

I feel like I’m just not the right audience for this book? It’s a YA book and it’s almost WWI-ish with the world developments (planes + guns + such), but in a fictional world with lots of politics.

Huge emphasis on the lots. So much politics. And fictional countries. And political maneuvers because ~war~.

I was attracted to this book because of the cover and because friends liked it, but I feel like I’m just not the right person for this book? It’s almost niche in the way that the people who will like it most typically like:

  • war/military stories
  • more dense/adult writing style
  • politics and political maneuvers
  • a decent number of countries and proper nouns to know/remember

Which, for some people, will sound awesome. But for me, it ended up being more like

  • too many men in this book why are you all fighting with guns please stop fighting
  • zzzzz
  • sorry i didn’t catch your political maneuver the dense writing distracted me is this Moby Dick
  • is this a Three Dark Crowns reenactment because there are sooo many Proper Nouns someone help me

Yeah. Oof. I’m definitely not the right audience–on a scale of personal enjoyment I would have given this a 2, but on the scale of “is this an actually decent book?”, I’d give it a 3.5 to 4.

First off–the gender disparity.

There are so many male characters in this book and so few female ones–I count 6 female characters with names (Aurelia, Aurelia’s mom the Queen, Aurelia’s friend Violet, Athan’s mom, Athan’s sister, Heathwyn the nurse) and maybe 3 max without names? (unnamed maid #1, unnamed maid #2, that one girl on the street).

And then I can count at least 10 named male characters instantly, and hundreds of unnamed male characters. (Athan, brother #1, brother #2, brother #3, Athan’s dad, Aurelia’s brother, Aurelia’s betrothed, Aurelia’s uncle, Cyar, Malek the flyer, G-something the flyer, Seath).

(And no other genders represented.)

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve read a book with this many cis male characters in sooo many years and it’s actually startling. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just that . . . it’s very man-dominated because it’s a man-dominated world.

And that’s kind of where my problem kicks in?

Because this is war and historically war is a man-dominated sport etc. etc. aka the women are often not given as large of a role? The only woman that was given like the same sort of political savvy was the Queen.

And all of this is fine, but I think Hathaway never addressed the sort of gender roles that were in play and how the equality is Not Present, and I didn’t like that? I wanted at least a little more commentary about how all of this is being dominated by men, but I didn’t get that.

Also, I’m pretty sure the only same-ish age girl friendship (Aurelia and Violet) does not pass the Bechdel-Wallace test? Like, all they talk about are boys and I can’t remember 1 decent conversation they really had that didn’t somehow come back to boys/marriage to boys/etc.

And also, I didn’t even really like them as friends because I feel like Aurelia consistently reduced Violet into a pair of breasts? She like, never talked about any other qualities of Violet except that “she has breasts and dudes like that they’re always staring down her shirt.” And I just wasn’t really into that and I think Aurelia doesn’t deserve to have a friend like Violet who has her back when Aurelia only sees Violet as a walking pair of boobs. :/

The writing style + proper nouns combo was not for me.

Adult fiction is hit or miss for me, especially because the writing can be too dense and I don’t necessarily have the time + commitment to really dig into a read. I took the time to dig into The Kingdom of Copper because I love the representation and I love the concept and I loved the first book.

But I just . . . was not in love enough with the concept to want to put all the time and energy into deciphering the story? The writing style was not only just kind of more-stuff-packed-in-there, but the addition of a lot of countries and proper nouns for the countries made things confusing and I just decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to decipher the intricacies of what was happening.

Which is kinda bad, I know. This book would rate me a 2/5 stars for being not dedicated enough. But it was just a lot to take in, and I wish something was done to make it more digestible. The map is helpful, but a glossary explaining the political alliances would also have helped me.

And some highlights:

So, it’s not a bad book–it just wasn’t the book for me? I wasn’t crazy in love with the concept and the style and just idea in general didn’t end up attracting me as much as I hoped it would.

But I think Hathaway still deserves a lot of points for the fact that she did create this crazy monstrosity with all the politics and intricacies and that must have taken so much planning?

Just because I didn’t necessarily enjoy reading it doesn’t mean that what she created wasn’t incredible. Because what I did catch of the politics was really well done and I think Hathaway deserves serious applause for that.

Plus, the slow burn was actually pretty good and I think Aurelia and Athan are cute, although I wouldn’t be too sad if someone died. Sorry.

Overall, this was a good book, just not for me. Really, it would do so much better in other people’s hands than mine.

Thank you so much to Macmillan and Tor for hosting a giveaway and sending me this advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!

Are you excited for Dark of the West? How much do you like world politics?

10 thoughts on “Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway (ARC): War Planes, Politics, and Intrigue–Not For Me

  1. yikes, that cements my original impression that this was Not For Me. I’m sorry it didn’t appeal to you, but I have to confess I snickered at your bullet point reactions. TOO MANY MEN is definitely a problem for me, especially if they’re just being macho and gunning each other down, nah, I’m good, thanks.

    also, I always go on about the need for more female friendship and it irritates me that here is a book that COULD have done that, but screwed it up by having the heroine be so dismissive of her friend! why??? it just makes her look like an asshat, how are we supposed to like her?

    segue: I remember reading Paper Towns and didn’t like it very much because the protagonist was SUCH a condescending douche and looked down on his BFF and basically thought ‘well, I’m a loser, but thank god he’s much more of a loser than me’. sure, it may be realistic, but I didn’t enjoy being in his head at all. the movie was so much better in comparison because I didn’t have to deal with all his whining and unpleasant headspace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah!!! I think this *is* something people might like but I’m just not really for it and for some people the bullets would have sounded amazing, but for me it was just not great. I’m glad this was helpful for you though to pass judgement! and yeah the female friendship annoyed me SO much ahlaksjfflkj

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I only read around 10% but already felt it was too dense… I like the language in my books simple and straightforward and I don’t think I got that here… Not sure when I’ll get back to it …
    You really have a lot of patience to finish… Great review Vicky!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was definitely a lot to take in! And if you do try again, I do hope it ends up sitting better with you then!

      I am stubborn and don’t want to break my streak of not DNFing ARCs ahahaha! It’s where all that patience comes from. But thank you + I’m glad this review helped verbalize your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry you didn’t love this, Vicky. I’m actually reading it right now, and find that I’m enjoying it, but mainly because I like the historical fiction feel that it has. It definitely is a dense book, language-wise, so I can see how that can turn off readers. Something I am noticing though I’m a little over 100 pages in is that the two MCs feel too young. Maybe that’s silly of me to think… I hope you do find something you enjoy soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you’re liking it though, Nicole!!! It was sad because I’m just not really into this type of style of writing + storytelling. And ahah omg that’s funny because they felt really old to me (war. and such.) but no worries! I have my fingers crossed about my next read!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm, it’s funny because the points that you listed that didn’t work for you (dense, complex politics, warring kingdoms) is everything that I like. I was hesitant after reading the synopsis because it sounds like typical fluffy YA fantasy that tries to take itself seriously but is really about the swoon romance. I might actually give this book a try, though I’m not sure how I’ll take the adult fantasy detail in a YA package will work for me. Great review Vicky. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah! if it sounds good to you then you should definitely try it. I tried to show how the book interprets very differently to each type of reader (i.e. for me it was ehhh not great but the things I don’t like are things other people might like) so i’m glad this helped!


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