The Jealousy of Jalice (Book Review)
by Jesse Nolan Bailey
4.5 / 5 Dark Fantasy (with hints of sci-fi and horror)
I received this from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
I really enjoyed this one. Hell, I was trapped in a hospital room for 28 hours while my newborn underwent phototherapy for jaundice and this book still managed to keep me fully engaged.
The story follows three disparate women: Annalisia, an assassin on a mission to take down a corrupt leader; Delilee, roped into a rebellion not entirely against her will; and Jalice, the wife of the corrupt leader. Annalisia, unable to get close to the leader, concocts a plan to kidnap Jalice instead. What follows is an exciting journey through a wartorn and vicious magical landscape, but the crux of the story deals with repercussions from decisions Jalice made in the past.
There were things I loved - the three main characters are interesting, complex, and realistic; all are flawed in different ways. The supporting characters are also interesting and I wanted to know more about them. The villains are fantastic - the menace they manage to exude is palpable in its horror aspects but never felt hyperbolic. I do wish we’d gotten a bit more downtime with Annalisia and the others on her quest, though that might have affected the pacing.
I didn’t expect the horror bits of this novel, but they caught me off guard in a good way. The novel can get a bit gruesome, but it never went too far for me.
There was so much about this novel I loved. The setting was awesome - a favourite concept of mine is when a world is built on long-dead, technologically-advanced civilizations that have left their remnants behind - Halo, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, AdventureTime, etc). I loved the “Venom” aspects of the dokojin (these were so well-done). And the tension builds to a fantastic pitch, especially for Delilee.
The “jealousy” plot turn wasn’t a surprise at all, but the journey to get there was fun, exciting, and complete with small twists and turns - other than where it ends up, the novel doesn’t take the paths you expect.
There were two small things that brought the rating “down” for me. The first is more of a pet peeve - I don’t like when we’re not told that a novel is not self-contained. An open-ended conclusion is fine (and sometimes preferable), but this novel doesn’t stand on its own - there are facets that aren’t resolved at the end, forcing a sequel.
The second is that the novel could have used a bit more exposition in terms of how the aether “magic” worked. While I understood the concepts enough to follow the story, and I loved how we were left to postulate on how the past (with its hint of technology) contributed to the present, there were more intricate details I was a little confused about at the end. We’re given a short explanation from one of the characters, but I would have liked a little more background on how the tribes functioned, what the population was like (how many people were in a tribe - hundreds? thousands?), what the realms were, and whether magical aspects are a normal part of society or whether it was something on the fringe that regular people never interacted with. Basically I wanted a little more from an anthropological standpoint.
Overall, I really really enjoyed this novel and look forward to the second.