Playing with Fire
on Feb. 05, 2017
I'm sad to say that I was unable to finish this book. I made it just over halfway. I have tried to read it four times, hoping that maybe I just wasn't in the right headspace. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. Every time I come back I just can't get into the story and am unable to enjoy the characters.
First of all, it's pretty clear that this book is written by two people, which is unfortunate. Collaborative efforts should be seamless. It should not be obvious when one person is writing vs. another. This book has that problem. I don't know who wrote which part, but it seemed clear that writing Stone as POV and writing Renee as POV was split by two people. Stone clearly has the stronger voice. If the book was entirely from that POV, I might have been able to get through it. The parts with Renee were choppier. Her character was far less believable and more difficult to read overall. She was more like a caricature than a character, presenting the reader with the aloof thief archetype with a tragic past.
Secondly, I didn't appreciate that sometimes Stone and Renee converse in French, but translations are not always given. I took French in high school, so I muddled through. However; not everyone has that ability and it wasn't always made clear what was going on. It felt like the authors expected the reader to understand French or perhaps assumed they would google it. I've read books where there are language barriers before, (even when only one character speaks a language and no one else does,) and making it clear to the audience what is being said one way or another is important.
Third, the jumping through time at the beginning of the book was detrimental to character development. I didn't believe Renee and Stone had a deep connection at all. I'm told they have a deep connection, but we jump ten years from page one until when the story really begins. There are a lot of instances of "anecdotes" through exposition between the two characters which were skipped storytelling opportunities. This is a book of telling instead of showing in the area of Stone and Renee's relationship and it leaves the story lacking for that connection. This continues well into the book and was still happening mid-way. It was happening yet again when I decided to put the book down.
I understand the story of the book takes place ten years after the characters meet, and the events of ten years ago are key to the main plot. That's difficult to pull off in a single book and it's hard to care about the main plot because it feels tacked onto the character interactions and mess of side plots and past events that are merely spoken of but never shown.
Perhaps if there had been a book in the series before this one focusing on Stone and Renee and how they met and became partners, friends, lovers, spouses or whatever it is they are (because it's not made clear, I see romance listed as a subgenre but this is not a romance,) then perhaps there would have been a stronger bond between the reader, the characters, and the events. Perhaps then it would be easier to care that they are given the chance they are given for revenge.
On the positive side, I did like Stone. The other characters of note, - Rook, Grace, and Carlos,- were better as well, although up through the halfway mark they were merely side characters, not POVs. Perhaps having more POVs would have helped, to see Grace's part of the plan, or Carlos, or Rook, from their perspective. Again, Renee and Rook know each other from before, but we're only told this. Again, it just feels like too little to add any value to the story.
So, tl;dr - The plot is weak and uninteresting because there is too much exposition and not enough character development. There is too much information about past events and not enough actual storytelling.