(GoodReads summary here.)
What’s this? Me, writing a review? Which implies that I actually finished a book???
That’s right, folks! I managed to find time to finish not one, but TWO books in the past two weeks. A slight caveat, though: I started both over the summer (oops). But that’s not the point!
This was an interesting one for me in terms of the circumstances in which I read it. When I started Infinity Son, it was via audiobook and listened to probably a little over half, not quite 3/4 before I called it quits with audiobooks for the time being. Then I missed my window to claim an eBook through my library, so I had to wait even longer for my next hold to go through. I finally got my second try a couple of weeks ago and panicked because I wasn’t sure I would actually have time to finish it in the 3 weeks I had it. Fortunately, I was actually in a reading mood for once last week, and since I didn’t have that much left and I found it was a quick read, I managed the last 35-40% or so in one sitting.
All that being said, the odds were kind of stacked against me liking it since that’s a bit of a wild ride, especially compared to my usual reading habits. And yet I really, genuinely enjoyed just about everything in this book, which kind of surprised me. I don’t really know why I expected to not like it, since I generally really love Silvera’s books, but I thought that between my half-listening, half-reading and just how long of a break I took in the middle, I wouldn’t be to shift to reading or be able to get into it again. But that was not the case!
Alright, enough rambling about my sad reading circumstances and onto the review, where I will continue to opine about listening vs. reading but to a lesser extent. There will be a pretty big spoiler towards the end that I’ll do my best to keep vague, but as per usual, there will be a warning before we get there!
I wanna start with what I felt was strongest throughout the novel: the setting. I generally don’t find myself drawn to urban fantasy: with certain exceptions, I tend to like my urban/contemporary books realistic and my fantasy books decidedly not realistic. But there is just something about the magic of a New York with magic that had me completely enthralled. I think Silvera really struck a balance between the real and the fantastic, which tends to be where I have issues with this kind of book: there’s either too much that’s real so that I don’t get the fantasy I crave, or there’s too much fantasy that I get thrown off when real-life things appear. Magic is central to the story, but at the same time, there’s so much that is completely ordinary. I just thought that the ambiance of the whole story and setting was phenomenal. This seems to be a minority opinion, and while I do think it could benefit from a bit more explanation of the world and the way it works, I had no problems with just being thrown in, which was surprising for me but it’s been known to happen.
Once again, Silvera has created such amazing characters that just jump off of the page. Brighton and Emil are the perfect narrators, and I love the way they are foils to each other without being polar opposites, which is one of my favorite tropes/relationships, especially between main characters. They were both so believable, and even though they don’t agree on everything (ok, most things), I could see things from both sides, which I think is a great indication of Silvera’s understanding of how people actually think and interact, which I find to be a common thread throughout his books. I truly think that his novels are masterclasses on writing complex characters who you root for even when you don’t see eye to eye with them, and that’s not something that’s easy to do. He also creates truly dynamic characters that are consistent in their characterizations, which isn’t something I see done often, let alone done well. Emil grows as a character, yet, by the end, he still feels like Emil, and the same goes for Brighton. I know the series isn’t over yet and they still have journeys to go on, but I know that this will still be the case throughout the series.
And can you say “badass side characters I would read whole series about?” Because that is everyone in this book. I can’t remember who Silvera has said will get POV’s in Infinity Reaper, but whoever they are, I’m excited for them; there are no bad options for a side character to get more page time for the rests of the series. It’s just a wonderful cast of characters overall who compliment each other wonderfully and strike that same kind of foil among themselves as Emil and Brighton do.
And Ness. I really was unsure how I felt about him at first, and I’ve never really considered myself to be someone who feels drawn to the kind of dark, tragic category of characters that Ness kind of falls into (The Darkling is who comes to mind immediately, but that’s not a great comparison), but I really found myself rooting for Ness as soon as he strolled onto the page. Although his character arc and plotline are both a little cliche and trope-y, I felt really invested in him anyway. I think there’s a lot left to explore with him, and that makes me really excited for Infinity Reaper.
Speaking of all those characters, I really don’t think there are many authors who do multiple POV’s the way Silvera does. He manages to keep a consistent tone and voice throughout the book while giving each character’s POV their own little quirks that give them a unique voice to the point where I find them totally distinguishable based on voice and tone alone, omitting everything about plotlines or events. I talked about this with They Both Die at the End, and it remained true for Infinity Son, too. I think there are people out there who get thrown off by the more informal nature that this can cause, but I think it really reflects the way most people, especially young people, think and speak, so you can say what you want, but I think it’s great. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’ll admit that sometimes it’s not mine, but there’s something about the way that Silvera does it that usually gets it right in my book.
A quick late-night addition as I’m editing this and putting all the links in: I’m going through GoodReads reviews, and while I’m not entirely shocked by the number of negative reviews (I can definitely see how this wouldn’t be a lot of people’s cup of tea), I am a little confused by what people seem to be saying. I don’t usually feel the need to defend books I liked/disliked when I fall outside the norm of opinions, but something about this (maybe because it’s late) is rubbing me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because of my break with reading it, but I really don’t see the complaints people have with the characters. I didn’t think they were flat, I didn’t think they were carbon copies of each other. Could they have more growth? Absolutely. Every character can. And this is a series, so I don’t necessarily want all growth in one book and then static in all the rest. But I really don’t understand how people can see the characters as carbon copies of each other. I think they’re similar, sure, but I didn’t think they were the same at all. Each character has their own motivation and experience and role. I think the fact that the spotlight is on Emil and Brighton makes it kind of hard to appreciate the differences in the side characters, and even between them, but I think it’s all still there. Maybe it’s more nuanced than other authors would write or than readers would like, but I think it’s there, and honestly I would rather have subtle characters than ones that hit you over the head.
I do want to talk just a little bit more about my experience listening vs. reading this book. I really thought that it was going to affect my appreciation of it more than it actually did. Once I started reading instead of listening, I flew through the last 150 pages or so, which makes me think that I would’ve gotten through it much faster if I had read instead of listened to most of it. But the more I think about it, the more I think that the slower start via listening helped me appreciate and get into it. Instead of speed-reading just because I could, the audiobook helped me slow down and pay attention so that I caught a lot of the smaller things I might’ve otherwise missed, not least because I have to really force myself to pay attention while listening to audiobooks (my aural attention span is not great). The transition to reading was surprisingly easy, despite the approximately 3 months since I had last listened when I picked it up to finish. I really enjoyed the audiobook, although I kind of wish they had used different voice actors for different characters, but I would still recommend it.
With my switch from listening to reading and the very extended break I took between the two, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I remembered and how easy it was for me to find where I left off, since I hadn’t had time to note where I was before the audiobook was returned, but I think that was a testament to the storytelling throughout the novel. I wouldn’t say it’s the most nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat book, but I still found it enthralling. I think because I found myself more attached to the characters than the story itself, it made the transition easier. Don’t get me wrong: I think there’s a great plot. But when we get down to its bare bones, it’s not really groundbreaking the way I would describe some other stories. I do truly think Silvera’s characters are his strong suit, so I would warn you not to expect drawn out battle scenes or action sequences. For as much as this is a fantasy story that is inherently plot-driven, I still think it’s character-centric, and that’s the kind of story you should expect going into it. I think that once you understand and appreciate that, it helps your overall perception of the book.
Ok, very vague spoiler incoming in next paragraph! Skip to below the jump to avoid!
Ready? Ok. Holy guacamole, that ending. I knew something like that was going to happen because it was hinted throughout, and I kept waiting for it to, but I thought by the time I got to the end that I was going to be wrong and had just mischaracterized Brighton, and it’s one of the few times I wish I had been wrong. I literally flipped the page knowing that was the end and still expected more because there’s no way he ended the book like that! But I should’ve known. Silvera is always fielding questions and reactions in Instagram about the ending, plus he is notorious for shocking and heartbreaking and not-necessarily-happy endings, so I knew something was going to happen and thought I was ready for it, and I was not. It was really masterfully done, though, because it wasn’t a true plot twist, since I was expecting something and, in fact, something similar, but I really did think Silvera was just baiting me throughout and that things had changed so that it wouldn’t, and yet. It happened. So mad props for actually making me wish I was wrong about a character.
So yes, Infinity Son really surprised me, and I’m very glad I got a chance to finish it in a somewhat reasonable amount of time (aka not so long that I forgot everything that happened). It was a bit of a wild ride in terms of my own experience with it, but I think it somehow added to how much I enjoyed it. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” and all that, especially when the distance is involuntary. Overall, I think that as long as Silvera keeps writing characters like he is, I’ll keep reading his books.
Have you read Infinity Son? What did you think? Is there an author who you think always nails their characters, if nothing else?