Here we go.
This book is surrounded by controversy but that did not stop me from reading it. While I understand people wanting to prevent others from buying harmful books, its ridiculous to me that things have gone this far. That being said, my friend Allison from abookishalli was kind enough to loan me her ARC of the Continent so I could read it for myself. Things did not proceed as expected from there.
From the beginning, I found Vaela to be extremely unlikable. She was clueless about the world around her, more spoiled than she realizes, and overall an annoying voice. The relationship she has with her parents feel like a farce, almost like a cheesy infomercial family. The one friendship we see in the Spire feels the same. During the first part of the tour of the Continent, I felt incredibly bored. Again, the entire thing felt like a farce. Everyone was dramatically upset by the violence they saw, to almost the extreme.
After a few days of not much happening, the plane begins to have problems. Let’s be honest here; when they showed the single escape pod on the plane, we knew it was going to go down. It was just a matter of time. Also, its in the synopsis for the book to begin with. However, when this tragic event did occur, things got weird. Suddenly Aaeden became a different person and everyone got even more dramatic than they had been previously. Once Vaela does end up on the Continent, she acts just like the spoiled Spire girl I expected. She waits for a long time for a rescue party, does not do anything to protect herself, and complains the entire time about how horrible everything was.
Then everything changes, for Vaela and for my opinion of the story. It takes a few days for her situation to improve but she eventually finds herself with a warrior named Noro who is one of the sweetest characters in the book. He sees an outsider who looks like a member of the Topi, their sworn enemy; but he realizes that she is not one of them. Instead of leaving her to be harmed by the Topi who originally find her; he takes care of her and takes her back to his village where she can get treatment and live out her life. While Vaela is bratty about the majority of this decision, she is under the delusion that she will be able to return to the Spire because she does not want to stay with these people she believes are living in a technology-backwards society.
However, something beautiful comes from this. As Vaela begins to make friends – especially with Noro’s younger brother, Keiji – she realizes that everything she thought she knew about the inhabitants of the Continent is wrong. Getting to know the Aven’ei people, she finds a home. Everyone that is able to, works; and everyone helps take care of each other. After an adjustment period, Vaela begins to feel like a useful member of society. This is when her relationship with Noro begins to bloom, this is honestly my favorite part of the book. Noro has such a kind heart, it is because of him that Vaela was able to see the Aven’ei people for who they really are, not the bloodthirsty monsters the Spire has always presented them to be.
When the situation grows more dire, Vaela decides it is time for her to return to the Spire. Not because she does not want to stay on the Continent with Noro and the rest of the Aven’ei but because she wants to get help. When the alliance of the Spire was first formed, the Aven’ei were supposed to join but they were unable to lay down their weapons as the Spire required because of the persistent attacks by the Topi. Now Vaela thinks she can change their minds about that decision and get the help the Aven’ei need to end this war forever so that the Aven’ei can also live in peace. When it become apparent that no help will come, Vaela returns to the Continent because it is her real home. There she has formed real relationships that don’t feel like a farce, she has become a real person.
Many have called this a white savior story but it does not read like that to me. My opinion does not matter in the grand scheme of things because I am white but I honestly find Vaela to be one of the most unlikable characters in the entire story, aside from Aaeden. I found Noro and Keiji to be my favorites because they were the real saviors. Be honest, the only reason Vaela was even alive long enough to return to the Spire for help was because of them, they were the only reason she was strong enough to come back to the Continent as well. She became a different person because they helped her grow out of the persona of a spoiled brat that she was at the beginning.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story that was told in this book, looking back the boring and fake feeling at the beginning was almost necessary to fully understand how different the people in the Spire are. They have made themselves into shadows of real people. It saddens me that I have no idea when I will get to find out the rest of Vaela and Noro’s story, what becomes of the Aven’ei people. Currently, the Continent has no release date which means it may never make it through that extra round of edits that will completely change the course of the story. That being said, if/when it does come out, I fully intend to buy it. I want to see what was changed and if it takes away from the overall story that was told.
Though this review may end in many people hating me or calling me horrible things, I am not going to let it bother me at this point. I am entitled to have my own opinion on each book, it is not fair to take that away from anyone.