Review - State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
A people cowed by grief and darkness.
A cut-throat race for power and victory.
A girl with everything and nothing to lose…
Sorrow all but rules the Court of Tears, in a land gripped by perpetual grief, forever mourning her brother who died just days before Sorrow was born. By day she governs in place of her father, by night she seeks secret solace in the arms of the boy she's loved since childhood. But when her brother is seemingly found alive, and intent on taking control, Sorrow has to choose whether to step aside for a stranger who might not be who he claims to be, or embark on a power struggle for a position she never really wanted
The opening setting is very strong, I loved the idea of the Court of Tears, a world so bleak and miserable that its inhabitants could go to Gormenghast for a fun-filled break. I felt like there was a lot of scope to explore what life would be like in a state where smiling and music are banned. Unfortunately that wasn't the direction the book was going in and pretty soon the setting moved on from this promising start.
The storyline is interesting, and kept me reading, but I just found there was no real emotional connection with any of the characters. Sorrow is often described as moving numbly through the scenes, and that's how I felt for much of the book. Her highs and lows just weren't communicated effectively enough for me to feel them.
Melinda Salisbury also continues the practice that so irritated me in The Sleeping Prince of throwing a plot twist in every few chapters, whenever the story is starting to slow down. The twists generally work a lot better than they did in The Sleeping Prince, it just feels like there are so many of them that you grow used to them and start to expect characters to shift 180 degrees every so often. This contributed to my lack of connection with the characters, as I was always aware that what I was seeing was probably going to alter.
The main character, Sorrow, is likeable enough, but her motivations throughout the novel are unclear as she doesn't really know what she wants for most of it. I feel like there could be a powerful woman in there if she manages to get her act together, but the parts when she does are a bit few and far between. Some of the characters supporting her are good. I particularly liked Luvian Fen, her campaign manager, and Irris Day, her friend and confidante. There is a supporting cast of politicians who are referred to again and again without us ever really finding out much about who they are or why they support who they do. I'd have liked to see these characters fleshed out a lot more as they felt rather interchangeable.
There are also a few glaring issues with the book. The map in the front contradicts the descriptions given of one of the countries within the story. A key plot point only works if you accept that a report into a missing child contains no actual details of who's child it was or where it was from. This was particularly frustrating as that information, or rather the lack of it, plays a critical role in the development of the story. Also the idea of a country routinely holding democratic elections with only one candidate without ever questioning it feels rather more convenient to the plot than realistic, when even hereditary monarchies have a strong tradition of people competing for the throne.
Overall a disappointing read from a highly anticipated novel.
State of Mild Disappointment. I'm giving Sorrow 3 and a quarter moons.
State of Sorrow is published 1st March 2018 by Scholastic.