CW’s: Self-Harm (Cutting), Violence, Blood/Gore, Death/Murder, Sacrifice/Executions, Mentions of Abuse, Aphobia (challenged)
Representation 🌷 Asexual MC, Side Character who uses they/them pronouns
Publication: July 6th 2021
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review! All quotes are taken from the Arc and subject to changes.
You might also like ~ Arc Review: Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller ✨ Magic and rebellion
Loreena ‘Lore’ Adler was a compelling, morally grey protagonist. Loreena is dualwrought, a rare type of magic that gains her power from the Noble and Vile gods. She has had a tough life without any protection and kept her magic hidden in order to not be controlled by the council and crown. I love how the story shows that she’s a survivor and what the cost is for saving herself and her loved ones. Lore is trying her best to save people by finding ways to shut a dangerous door that needs human sacrifice in order to keep out the monsters that once ruled their land. However, though she tries hard to be the hero, she’s not perfect and often willing to sacrifice herself and others to reach her goals. I admired her cunning and cleverness, especially as you can see how the world has wronged her and how it has impacted her thinking. Loreena is sick of the privileged living their easy lives at the expense of anyone poorer and less fortunate, especially as she grew up powerless and discarded. Now she has the chance to finally make a change and her powers and unique status as dualwrought help her be heard. Her decisions are sometimes flawed but you can always tell where she is coming from. I also loved seeing her complicated relationship with the Heir Alistair, as they are both alike and there is this understanding between them. They get each other like no one else, yet there is no unconditional love here either.
The worldbuilding was very intricate and unique. The world has an post-apocalyptic/dystopian feel to it. It’s about a world where gods called The Noble and the Vile used to rule after they were shut away by the humans. The Door is what separates these worlds and it demands human sacrifice in order to stay shut. The magic system in this book is very interesting as it’s based on wrights (immortal souls of the Noble or the Vile) attaching to human souls and granting them powers. These humans are called wrought, yet need a sacrifice in order to use the power of their wrights. Noblewrought can only create and need to sacrifice themselves, while Vilewrought can only destroy and need to sacrifice others. A rare type of wrought is someone dualwrought who has access to both Vile and Noble powers. I love how the world was built up, the author has such an intricate setting and managed to explain the fundamentals well. I also loved the themes of the meaning of sacrifice, oppression, privilege, greed and the general dangers of capitalism. The author also talks about how society determines worth, which influences who is seen as ‘important’ enough to save and who gets discarded first. Even those deemed worthy (like Lore and all the other wrought) are controlled and their worth is only defined by their usefulness. This commentary was very well done!
The Heir and the side characters were each compelling in their own ways. The Heir – Alistair – is a dangerous vilewrought who has used his powers to do terrible things, yet remains bound by the council. He has power yet is also used for his magic at the same time. I love how the author explored his character, as he has lots of nuances. There is some caring in him – he seems kinder than his mother, especially to his assistants -, yet the reason he wants to examine the door is curiosity mixed with necessity and not because he’s a good person. He was shaped by their dysfunction society, so you can understand where he’s coming from, yet he is also not blameless for the hurt he has inflicted on others and the privilege that largely protects him. I also loved the side characters. Basil is one of the youngest Noblewrought working under the Heir, yet has a kind heart and befriends Lore’s friend from back home Mack, who also stands by her side when others turn on her. Carlow was particularly compelling as a character. She’s cursed to hurt people with her love, so she is very sharp and closed-off, yet undoubtedly cares and had a strong will. Creek is cursed as well and has a strong bond to Carlow, as both share such a similar fate. I also grew attached to minor characters like the guard Hanna and healer Safia.
The pacing was slow though and the details a bit too much at times. The only reason I didn’t like this quite as much as Belle Révolte is that the plot was bit too slow and stagnant at times. The beginning was so compelling and fast-paced but once Lore reached the capital it became a bit repetitive. They all tried to find ways to shut the door, but their attempts seemed to be going around in circles and the fact that we spend so much time in a small setting didn’t make the plot more interesting. I binge-read this during a train journey which helped me stay engaged, but I fear that other readers might struggle with the pace and the amount of detail. While I loved the world and magic system, at times it felt like the author introduced too much new content.
IN CONCLUSION. ➽ What We Devour was a great book discussing sacrifice, dangerous magic and moral greyness. I loved the intricate, unique worldbuilding and the fact that we explore the morality and struggles of very different characters, trying to cope in an unjust world. The plot was very slow and at times there would be too many details that took me out of the story though.
Are you going to read What We Devour? What is your favorite book with an asexual character? Any recommendations for Dark Fantasy books? 🖤