This is likely going to be one of my most disappointing reads this year considering the premise sounded so interesting and the book began promisingly enough. But by half way through, this began to hit every trope/cliche in the YA genre (and not even creatively at that) and the writing began to feel rushed and simplistic through to the end. It felt as if the author spent a lot of time on the beginning and then hurried through the rest in order to get this published.
Story: Surviving in the streets of Dickensensian White Chapel isn’t easy for Felicity Cole; especially considering she and her brother are orphans and he has a fatal flaw: supernatural powers that would immediately see him mob murdered like her mother. When someone close to her is brutally murdered by an aristocrat, she loses control of her anger and discovers she has powers as well – physical ones. Hunted, imprisoned, she is saved by a mysterious benefactor and taken to a hidden academy to train to become an assassin and bodyguard to Queen and country. But Felicity only cares for being reunited with her young brother who may be walking the streets alone without her. Fortunately, a fellow aristrocratic student is hot and interested.
I wish I could determine if it was lazy or just unsophisticated writing. But the tropes/cliches were painful:
– unique snowflake with mysterious past no one tells her about and mysterious superpowers she will have to learn to use by herself because no one wants to help her despite it being in their best interest
– Perfect bog standard overidealized love interest who inexplicably instaluvs her – super handsome, intelligent, in a position of respect, and 100% devoted only to her for no particular reason
– Mean girl rival for melodrama so author can show ‘spirit’ by giving her comeuppances and cat fights
– Perfect sweet best/friend maid who has the personality of a pansy but makes our gal look feisty
– Girl does completely brain dead actions, constantly, that always results in trouble for everyone else and needing to be rescued – and no one seems to mind that it gets them nearly killed several times.
– Girl had previous love interest who was murdered – does she think about him? Not more than “I should be sad about Kit but the new boy makes me tingle and blush.” Oh and the brother she’s desperately trying to get back to? Pretty much forgotten while she’s so busy with super hunk and mean girl.
– Everyone puts new girl in positions of power for NO REASON – she’s a moron, she screws everything up, she doesn’t even care about those people. But hey, let’s pick her for missions even though she doesn’t have powers and over competent handsome boy even though she’s proven several times to ruin missions.
– Betrayal from within their rebel group! Who’d a thunk it? Could it be the nice sweet older guy??
And then there are the logic holes about the worldbuilding. How no one seems to know anything about the ‘tainted’ except only a few yet everyone in London wants to kill them. Zero world building (why was Warwick photographing that day? Why does he want her? Why does the world hate tainted? What do the Hunters want? Why haven’t they gained access to the academy before? etc. etc. etc. – don’t expect answers this volume). She was supposedly raised in the slums but speaks perfect formal English – just missing some mannerisms like good curtseying that deportment school will fix?. Damn her father was a good English teacher! Her father was Greek – with the last name of…Cole? Something about Shakespeare and Marlowe – making her even MORE special. And don’t get me started about the ‘stunning’ reveal of what the Tainted are – it was hard not to giggle derisively even for a YA book.
Typically, I’d suggest this is a no-brain Summer read that is fast and easy. But the writing is so bad in the second half and the book so much in need of a rewrite that I just can’t recommend Game of Secrets (even the title is generic and meaningless). It’s a cut above many Harry Potter fanfictions – but that’s the best I can say about it. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.