No need to introduce Otherbound- we’ve been delving into its mysteries for quite some time now over in the Let’s Read Otherbound posts. This is going to be more of a review of the last quarter or so of the book, which I didn’t get to before.
I really wanted to be positive about Otherbound. It starts off incredibly strong, with a killer premise, deftly sketched out characters with dynamics and interactions that are both complex and easily grasped- the first POV chapter from Amara is in my opinion a masterpiece of exposition and character building, achieving in a few pages what would take most writers chapters upon chapters. And at the end of the book you can totally see that where it all leads to is this really touching, complex and emotionally ambiguous place that hopes for a happy ending for the characters while acknowledging that they still face significant problems.
And then somewhere between all of that the story just falls apart.
A certain word kept popping into my head around the time the specific mechanics of magic in the Dunelands started becoming plot critical. At first I thought it was “over-complicated”, but now I think a more appropriate word would be “cluttered”. There’s just too much going on- too much magic flimflam, too many plot twists, too many emotional complications. I absolutely respect that Duyvis refused to turn Amara and Cilla’s relationship into a fairytale romance, recognizing that their past histories and stations in life would make that impossible, but it means that during the second half of the book any scene between them turns into this morass of second guessing and angst and while that’s probably very true to life it’s a grueling slog to read in the pages of a book, particularly when its sandwiched between equally complicated twists and turns regarding magic and who is or is not a mage being possessed by exactly which or how many people from another world. It’s just too much stuff crammed into a fast-paced story and it becomes exhausting long before the last chapter.
A big part of this is the fact that I just didn’t connect with Amara enough. Shortly after Maart’s death I realized that actually I didn’t really care much about Maart, which quickly led to the realization that actually I didn’t really care much about Amara either. She’s just a bit too bland and uninteresting, despite all the challenges she faces.
This combination of over-complicated and uninteresting reaches its apex at the story’s climax, which is near-incoherent. And the actual ending itself is so good how did this happen
Like I said, there’s really a lot to like about Otherbound. It’s diverse and inclusive and has a killer first half, but given how badly it falls down I can’t in good conscience recommend it. I still think Corinne Duyvis has a ton of talent and I’ll check out anything else she puts out, but as far as this book goes it’s a dud.