The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon, published 27 June 2023, the first book in The Downworld Sequence.
I find this book exceptionally hard to review. I wanted to like it, but I might not have grasped its points and my review might be just as confusing as the book I read.
I like it when an author drops me in at the deep end, as frustrating as that may be, and I learn to navigate within the world that the author has built (like Harrow the Ninth – I was about to give up when the penny dropped). Unfortunately, I couldn’t really make heads nor tails of the world Candon built here. What’s more, the further I dove into the story, the less clear it all became. I wish Candon had invented new words for the unique elements of her world-building, this way she might have had to explain what she is actually talking about; by using ‘regular’ English words like the “Harbor” my mind somehow refused to give the concept of the story’s maybe-villain any other connotation than a place where ships can dock.
Then there is the shift in POVs, which would have been fine had it been indicated in any way. But since neither narrator had a distinct voice I felt even more confused than Sunai, the often confused MC of the story. I had to go back and re-read passages several times just because I had mixed up the narrator of a passage.
The writing was, at times very descriptive, but really good. And I liked the characters and the close relationship that Sunai is developing. Which is what kept me going to the end, because all’s well that ends well. Alas, the ending did not clear up my confusion.
3/5 Harpy Eagles