Grey by Christi J. Whitney
Sebastian wants to be apprenticed to his tattoo artist brother, Hugo, when a whole lot of weirdness steps into his life. Sebastian finds out that his brother is a part of the Corsi gypsy clan, and he’s made an honorary member. This is around the time the Romany clan and their performing circus comes back into town with the alluring Josephine, who Sebastian feels a strange urge to protect.
This is a story that was, for me personally, was a bizarre read. This isn’t because the book was bad, but because it did several things that ultimately make it difficult for me to judge a book (more on those below). By about ~25% of the way through a book, I ask myself what I’d rate the book. At about ~2/3 of the way through the book, I check back in and ask myself if that rating still holds. For most books, it does, and to me, the ending is usually inconsequential if the set-up works. (An ending has to be horrendous for me to rage-quit a book.) However, I knew whether I loved this book or found it ‘meh’ would hang solely on the ending. I vacillated between finding this book tedious and being unable to put it down within the same freaking chapter.
The voice of Sebastian is engaging. Sebastian’s personality isn’t particularly original in YA, but it kept me hooked. The ‘I-want-a-normal-life’ plot works because it’s obvious this story is careening into crazy, and the horror of Sebastian’s transformation drives this aspect of the story. I felt bad for Sebastian for 100% of this story, but some people might find aspects of his self-depreciating personality grating.
The secretive element of the gypsy clans are played up early in the novel, and that slows it down. However, I didn’t want to stop reading this piece because I hoped those secrets would pay off. The risk of using secrets is that they can make/break an ending. I’m not sure all of these secrets paid off, specifically in the case of Josephine and her past, but the ending didn’t end up relying on the gypsy clan secrets to make it work. This was a massive relief for me because the ‘we can’t talk about this now’ moments early on made me wary that there was going to be a half-baked plot drop at the end. There’s not! It’s more of a straight-forward action climax with a surprise, low-key coda ending, which paid off the main, emotional plot elements well, ignoring the vaguely defined gypsy mysteries that could’ve bogged down this ending.
This story reminded me of Horns, but in a good way, in that it kept the focus on Sebastian and his struggles. Josephine is underdeveloped as a love interest, but this doesn’t destroy the story because it’s apparent that this relationship is designed to be unrequited and one-sided. This means that Sebastian’s longing for Josephine doesn’t rely on her being developed or returning his affections. Most of Sebastian’s friends didn’t get a lot of novel time, but Katie stood out as a solid choice for a best-friend. Katie didn’t feel like a stereotype. None of these characters did, which is refreshing in YA, and this novel never descends into high school cliche verses high school cliche.
Didn’t particularly care for the gargoyle characters. They could’ve been fleshed out more. They seemed out of place, which was weird, considering the rest of the cast felt like they fit into the story well. They’re basically there to serve as mooks at the end, but being that this is the first book in a trilogy, I’m sure their leader, Augustine, is going to play a major part in the next part(s) of this series.
- Liked the tattoo parlor. It’s an original setting, and it grounds Sebastian and gives him goals in this story.
- All the teasing about Sebastian’s changes worked to propel the story, but damn it if they weren’t slow, too. This might ruin the novel for you, but the tense pacing kept me reading, and the ending paid it off.
- I hated most of the chapter titles, so I pretended they didn’t exist after about chapter 10.
- This is one where the ending determined how I viewed the entire book. I didn’t love it all the way through, but boy, that ending rested on the right elements of the story and pushed the weaker points into the background.
- I wanted more of the scenes between Hugo and Sebastian. That part of the ending was heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
Rating: 5 stars
I kind of wanted to give this 4 stars for questionable pacing, but I ended up loving this story. It’s a unique entry into YA fantasy and paranormal, and it ultimately focused on the strongest elements in the story. I’m excited–and a little bit afraid–of how the series is going to continue, but if you can get 1/3 of the way through this book, it’s worth it and pays off all the right emotional moments.
[amazon asin=0008120455&template=add to cart]