I requested a digital advanced copy of Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter from Tor Teen on Netgalley. A fae-centric book from Tor is intriguing, because they are far and away one of my favorite publishing houses. After being let down by some fae stories recently, I trusted Tor to take a few steps in the right direction. Then the reviews started pouring in and the reception was mixed to say the least. So what do I think?
Click here for the Synopsis!
Seductive. Cruel. Bored. Be wary of… Prince and his fairy courtiers are staggeringly beautiful, unrelentingly cruel, and exhausted by the tedium of the centuries ― until they meet foster-siblings Josh and Ksenia. Drawn in by their vivid emotions, undying love for each other, and passion for life, Prince will stop at nothing to possess them. First seduced and then entrapped by the fairies, Josh and Ksenia learn that the fairies’ otherworldly gifts come at a terrible price ― and they must risk everything in order to reclaim their freedom.
It slipped my notice that Sarah Porter is also the author of Vassa in the Night, a previous Owlcrate subscription box pick. Though I never got to read Vassa I was always intrigued by it. I recall readers of Vassa mentioning that they had a hard time with the prose, and I can see glimpses of what they meant in Never-Contented Things. I did enjoy the prose for the most part. It isn’t quite flowery, I think ethereal is a better word for it. The focus of each scene is somewhat flighty. I never felt like I was spoon fed the plot, which I enjoy, but some moments did require me to reread once or twice.
“You think you have a good hold on the thread, you think you can follow it, but then it twists and winds and knots in your hands and suddenly you’re on a path you never even knew existed.”–Never-Contented Things eArc – quote subject to change
In regard to the plot, this book was not at all what I expected. Based on the synopsis, I anticipated more focus on Prince and his fae friends. Much to my surprise, Prince didn’t get a ton of page time. Unselle, the fae on the cover of the book, winds up getting a bit more exposure throughout the story. Most of the fae elements are things like changelings and some rules of fae lands like making unbreakable deals. I found these elements really interesting, and I like the new ways that Porter addressed those common themes from fae mythology.
Some other major elements of the plot involve highly complex sibling dynamics, self-love, and forgiveness. The two primary characters, Josh and Ksenia, are foster siblings who have known each other since about age 10/12. I am certainly in the camp of people who feel that family doesn’t end with blood, but it stands to be said that they are not blood relatives. Many readers felt uncomfortable with the direction of the story, when Josh starts to express strong feelings of romantic love for Ksenia. The story certainly does have incestual overtones, and for that reason it will not be for everyone. However, I felt that this aspect of the story was carefully examined after the first 20% of the book. Is is challenging? Yes, absolutely but some readers will find meaning in this challenge.
“consent doesn’t count if you don’t know what you’re agreeing to…”Never-Contented Things eArc – quote subject to change
Consent is a huge theme in this book as well. Several characters make choices for people they profess to love without their knowledge or consent. I found it interesting to consider those arguments. This story really tries to make it clear that some loving relationships can be dangerous, and that drawing lines of consent is crucial.
While it wasn’t what I expected, I still feel like this story had a lot to say. I understand why some readers did not relate to the story, and I have to say I felt a certain level of distance from the main characters, but I really enjoyed the themes. If you enjoy books like Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke that are very dark and a little twisted, you might enjoy this one!
Big thanks to Tor Teen and Netgalley for giving me the chance to read this title.
CW: Themes of incest, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, & neglect.