Bookish Review: The Dazzling Heights

The Dazzling Heights by Katherine McGee

Published: 7 September 2017 by Harper Collins

Series: The Thousandth Floor

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…  

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy. Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good? When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return. Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost. And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

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Review: After reading The Muse of Nightmares, and to keep up my reading streak, I was in the mood for something light and uncomplicated – Katherine McGee’s second book in The Thousandth Tower seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. Having read the first book, I knew not to expect anything too complex or intricate and going into this book with my expectations well and truly managed helped. (Some spoilers below!)

I found Leda to be one of the more compelling characters even though I didn’t actually *like* her. She felt more layered than the other characters. Her obsession with control and how that manifested in her relationships with others at least made for some interesting dynamics and drama. Her relationship with Watt was also one of the more interesting love lines in the book – it was the only one where we didn’t have the female moping after the guy. Instead, Leda and Watt’s relationship developed out of something more akin to hate and that made their story that much more intriguing, and you really felt the nuanced change as it turned into something more.

Maybe the important thing wasn’t finding someone without flaws, but just someone whose flaws complemented your own.

I also found Leda and Watt were the characters that underwent the most development. Leda can be your classic bitch but she was way more fun as the badass friend that would back you to her last breath. Seeing her use her doggedness to protect others rather than keep them at bay was way more fun. And seeing her open up to someone, and expose her vulnerability felt like the character had come quite far from the Leda we met in the first book. Watt was similarly interesting – seeing him forced to confront his over-reliance on AI when faced with messy human emotions was sobering. 

On the other hand, Avery and Rylin were pretty tiresome, replaying the same drama over and over with their love interests like a broken record. I had to keep reminding myself that these are teenagers and so you have to take the angst as it comes, but when the characters act like adults in so many other situations, it’s difficult to let them off because of their age. I do have to give it to Avery – in the last few chapters, I actually warmed to her because we saw something there beyond the vanilla character we encounter throughout most of the books. Can we have some more pissed-off warpath Avery please? 

It all struck Avery as futile, and purposeless… everyone was stuck in their little loops – engaging in the old tired flirtations, doomed to the same disappointment.

Rylin and Cord just did nothing for me. The whole student-teacher subplot was yawn and I thought we’d at least confront the issue that had broken them up in the first book. However, the two characters essentially skirted around their feelings even though it was pretty obvious their feelings for each other remained. Calliope was a fair distraction but she felt like an unnecessary complication when the original problem, bridging the trilogy, was still unresolved. By the end of the book it seemed Calliope was set up as the antagonist of the final book but I frankly just want to see how the Eris ‘thing’ plays out and am not here for the Atlas-Avery-Calliope love triangle.

Despite trying my best, the first 75% of this book felt rather pointless. The pacing is way off – nothing of note really happens in the first 3/4 of the book and I found I had to really push myself to keep reading. The last quarter though made me glad I did. It upped the ante and drew the strands of the story together. I’ve also realised I much prefer these characters when they’re interacting with one another –  when they’re forced to confront their differences, put aside these distinctions, and ultimately find common ground is when the book really shines. It’s difficult to do that when writing a multi-POV novel but this is one of McGee’s strengths and I hope there’s more similar interaction in the final installment. 

In some ways it felt like he was reliving that terrible night on the roof, nothing had changed… but of course that wasn’t true. Everything had changed.

Balancing out the pacing issues was McGee’s world-building. I genuinely adored reading a book that had sci-fi elements without it being the crux of the book. McGee’s world is not post-apocalyptic or dystopian but just an imagining of life on technological steroids. McGee weaves in the tech as enablers of these characters rather than crutches, and it really fits the message of the trilogy – that no matter how much we advance in science and tech and make life easier in the superficial sense, human emotions are messy, complicated, and uncontrollable things not open to decryption by an algorithm.

I will read the last book in the trilogy, if only to see how the overarching plot line is resolved. I’m not really invested in the romances so much as the dynamics between all the characters – the highliers, and the downtowers, the seemingly have-it-alls and the down-and-outs, the perfect and the destructive. And of course more of the glamour and tech please!

Have you read The Glittering Heights? What are your go to ‘trashy’ books? Drop me a comment below 🙂

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