Published by Shivnath Productions (5.24.2023)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eBook, 320 pages
Source: I own it
Fantasy author Kyla knows dreams don't come true. Isolated and grappling with debilitating depression, she copes by writing about the realm of Solera. Fearless heroes, feisty shapeshifters, and mighty dragons come alive on her pages. She adores her characters, but she doesn’t believe in happy endings. And if she can’t have one, why should they?
Kyla’s on the verge of giving up on everything when she wakes one morning, magically trapped in her fictional world. Now she’s with her most cherished characters: the friends she's always yearned for, the family she's never known. There's even someone who might be Prince Charming (if Kyla could get her act together and manage some honest communication). She’d surrender to the halcyon fantasy, except she knows a nightmarish ending awaits. Solera is at war, and its defenders are losing against the insidious villain spawned in the depths of Kyla’s mind. He feeds on the energy of dreams, seeks the destruction of all who oppose him—and Kyla’s become his number one target.
Kyla must trade her pen for a sword and fight to change her story's ending, but this isn’t a fantasy anymore. No happily-ever-after is guaranteed. And mental illness has robbed her of everything she needs to succeed: love, fighting spirit, hope. If Kyla can’t overcome the darkness inside her, she’ll die with her darlings.
How can anyone be expected to find happiness when the world tells us every day to kill our darlings?
This was one of my most anticipated 2023 releases!! Did it live up to the hype? I’m honestly not sure. My feelings on this book are quite mixed.
I love love LOVE the idea of an author getting stuck in her own story. 10/10 the premise is fantastic and I am here for it. I also enjoyed the fact that when Kyla was physically in her story, she started seeing things from her characters’ perspectives and she kinda ended up being a bit of a villain for everything she’d done to them. The dichotomy between it being fun fiction in our world and stone cold, devastating reality in the book world was really cool! View Spoiler »I also thought it was cool that she was kind of their villain because she saw herself as a villain. « Hide Spoiler
A good story has magic of its own. A great story has the power to change the world.
Heads up: Depression and suicide are very strong themes in this book. There were quite a few scenes and passages that hit a little too close to home, because it was just so relatable that I felt it in my bones.
I had to give her good qualities. Strength. Bravery. Selflessness. Qualities I lack – or, perhaps more accurately, qualities I lost somewhere along my long and tedious descent into darkness.
“Pain is transformative. It twists its way into every aspect of your life. It becomes an accent when you speak and a mask when you interact. If you’re not careful, the mask becomes your reality.”
Those lines in particular hit me like a fucking wrecking ball. To get a little personal here: I lost my dad in 2020 and my mom in 2022 (after two miserable years trying to care for her after she’d entirely given up). I stopped doing things I enjoyed. I stopped laughing. I shut down and turned in on myself. I lost who I was in the depression that followed, and even though it’s been well over a year, I’m still struggling to crawl out of that dark hole. So, this book was rather difficult to read at times. I appreciated that the book tackles depression and doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of it.
However. With that being said, there was something that didn’t sit right with me at the end. View Spoiler »By the end, the author’s outlook goes as follows:
As long as the fight rages, that means I’m alive. It means I haven’t lost hope, and I haven’t stopped fighting and I’ve found ways to remind myself every day, every heartbeat, that I am worthy of living.
It took the whole book for her to realize this, which would be believable, but…I never felt the shift in her attitude toward her life. I never felt her change. The book told me she changed, yes, but it didn’t show me that she did. It was kind of just a magical *poof* ohhh, life IS worth living!! moment that seemed a bit toxic in its positivity. Like depression can be fixed as long as you remember that life is worth living for the small things. That’s not how depression works. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason for it; sometimes people can have everything they want in life and still have depression. So the overall tone of the end came off a bit shallow and grated on my nerves. « Hide Spoiler
The other main thing that dragged this book down for me was that literally everything about the world of Solera was generic AF. The world building, the characters, the villain…all of it. The only part of the story with any depth was the main character (the author, Kyla) and her struggle with depression. View Spoiler »Which, maybe that was on purpose, seeing as how it’s quite possibly not real and just something conjured by her dying mind. The characters don’t have to have any personality and their actions don’t have to make sense…if she’s imagining it. (This was also something that was pretty much left wide open, and I’m equal parts appreciative of it being left to the imagination and annoyed that it was never explained; the latter comes off as lazy writing.) « Hide Spoiler
So, because of that, my feels were pretty low for the world of Solera and its characters. View Spoiler »One of the characters died and I didn’t bat an eyelash. I don’t even remember who it was. « Hide Spoiler Which is why I gave 3/5 to the feels down in the Assessment section. I felt apathetic toward the story within a story. Toward everything but the author and her blight, really.View Spoiler »I did enjoy the parallel between the literal dark villain in the fantasy world and the villainous darkness of depression in the real world. I thought the reveal that she had attempted suicide and lay bleeding out while she was in her fantasy world was interesting! « Hide Spoiler
Writing style: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3/5