Musings on Once We Were

December 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

After 3 months of silence (aka. college) I’m back with a book review (and hopefully more reviews and writing to come in the following months).

Kat Zhang’s “Once We Were” is the 2nd in a series. Read my review of Book 1 of the Hybrid Chronicles, What’s Left Of Me.

So be prepared for spoilers if you haven’t read the first book in the series!

“Was this how change began? This feeling like standing on the edge of a cliff, wanting to fly but terrified of falling?”

What’s Left Of Me leaves Addie and Eva hiding in Anchoit after escaping from Nornand, and this is where Once We Were picks up. It is typical of trilogies to have a book one that draws you in, a book two that is a bit dull and book 3 that could really go either way. This wasn’t the case with the Hybrid Chronicles, I was pleased to note. Although I did enjoy the first book more than the second, it wasn’t by much, and both were of almost equal standard.

Unlike the first book, where I noted that the writing, although overwhelmingly great, could be jarring on occasions. I was glad to see that Zhang’s prose definitely picked up in the second book and flowed freely. I also really enjoyed the more poetic “dreams” that began to emerge in the book – it was an interesting divergence from the usual prose and managed to capture a dreamlike quality without feeling overly forced and out-of-place.

The characters of Addie and Eva were a little more difficult to quite like than in the previous book, but I think that’s partly what Zhang was attempting to achieve. Whilst the first book was quick to emphasise the importance of Addie and Eva relying on each other for support, and the strong sisterly bond that existed between them, the second was more about their separation. In fact, we saw very little interaction between Addie and Eva themselves, but rather the book was dominated with each character attempting to come to grips with their new reality. There was definitely more emphasis on romance in this book too, but that was expected considering where Ryan and Eva were left off in the last book. And the romance was handled very well, I must say. It wasn’t overwhelming, but nuanced. I liked the developing relationship between Ryan and Eva, and I enjoyed the difficulties in dealing with it considering their shared bodies. There was a lot of consideration given to trust and consent, and that’s refreshing to see, considering how these issues are often handled.

The plot was also as intriguing as the last book, although perhaps a little more typical of what dominates mainstream culture these days. It reminded me a little of my own novel, Saoirse. But it was anything but boring and is pretty relevant to things that are going on nowadays, I suppose. I wish that the book had allowed us to explore a little more of the world that Zhang has constructed but we find out very little about anything outside of the Americas. Although there’s the foreign character of Henri, Eva and Addie’s interactions with him are very limited. Still, I liked the little tidbits of information that we did receive, although I sincerely hope that the last book of the trilogy deals a little more with forces outside of the Americas and doesn’t just leave that a mystery.

All in all, another strong book by Kat Zhang and I would definitely recommend giving it a read. I am very much looking forward to the next book!

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