Format: Paperback, 300 pages
A captivating debut about the fragility of life, love, and perspective.
Alex Ash was born broken. Living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is like living on death row, but she is willing to fight for her frail life as long as it includes the boy next door. Chase has always held the pieces of her together, but when he dies tragically, Alex’s unfavorable fate becomes a blessing in disguise.
Faced with a choice, she finds herself in a peculiar world where rooms can absorb emotions and secrets are buried six feet under. Among limitless minds, envious spirits, and soulless banshees, Alex hardly rests in peace
Of Breakable Things is a novel that begings with its heroine’s death. Then again, Alex, said protagonist, has been dying all her life of a rare illness that rendered her fragile and unable to do all the things she wanted to do. But through all of that, there were always the Lasalle brothers, first among them Chase. Chase and Alex shared a connection that was plain for anyone to see, though neither of them ever dared to really act on it. When the Lasalles all died in a tragic accident, Alex died inside as well. With her mother dead and her father placing the blame on her, there was nothing and no one else to live for.
Yet death doesn’t have to be the end. Souls with enough energy can choose to stay behind as spirits, and this is what Alex chooses with the hope that Chase made the same decision, that they could meet again. On the other side, Alex enters the spirit town of Eidolon, where new spirits are taught about the rules of their afterlife and how to use their powers. It’s basically like boarding school for the gifted dead, and Alex turns out to be plenty gifted. I really liked that since her body was always weak, her mind had to grow all the stronger and she now profits from that.
However, all is not dandy in the city of the dead. People stare at Alex because of how much she resembles the mother she never met… yet no one wants to answer her questions about her. Also, the other Lasalle brothers are there to take Alex into their midst again, but Chase is detained for breaking the rules. There is something more brewing in the town of Eidolon. Banshees have been sighted, which is highly unusual for the region. Things have gone missing. And Alex finds a box of old letters she feels compelled to read…
Something I really liked about the structure of Of Breakable Things is that it alternates between the present and between memories of Alex and Chase’s past. I found the beginning a bit cumbersome because there’s quite a lot of info dropped on Alex (and thus the reader) in a rather didactic way. I can see why that’s necessary because the world Rolland created is very complex and imaginative, but I was also glad for the change in pace that the memories brought with them. They made me understand the connection between Chase and Alex and I began rooting for them.
That whole ‘soul mates’ and ‘destined for each other’ stuff is not usually for me, but I could get behind it here because it’s not insta-love where the characters basically know nothing about each other. Alex and Chase grew up together from the time they were babies. They understand each other better than anyone else. However, the way their meeting again is dragged out for quite a while became a little annoying. On the positive side of it though, that gives the reader more time to get to know the other Lasalle brothers and the dynamics between them and how Alex fits into that. I really like sibling bonds in novels and that definitely came through here – the love as well as the rivalry. All four brothers have distinct personalities, and they all care about Alex in their own way.
As I’ve said, there’s a lot of world building in here. The rules for spirits are strict and there’s a schedule, but there’s also time for fun. Some of the teachers and school lessons reminded me a bit of Hogwarts, but not in a rip-off kinda way. I think it’s just hard to get around that comparison these days. Anyway, I really like how the novel plays with things we believe about ghosts, and how Alex and Chase’s hometown with its history of haunting figures into it. Also, spirit ‘brains’ work a lot faster than regular human ones, and who doesn’t wish they could devour a whole library in a few days and remember every word they’ve read?
The plot takes a while to really get going. I think in part that’s because a lot of things have to be built up and set in motion, but there were also times when I think some scenes could have been shortened to make it a bit tighter. There’s more action and twists as things go along though, especially after Alex finds the box of letters I mentioned above. I really liked reading those and trying to piece together what was going on, and how that figures into what is happening now, more than a hundred years after they were written. Eidolon is a city of secrets, alliances, and legacies. Some families have had spirits showing up there for years and form an elite. Others are shunned and taunted. All of them have plans… and spirits can still die a final death.
Of Breakable Things is a compelling story about love, death, and family. It took me a moment to find my footing in the story, but then the writing flowed easily and I found myself in tune with the characters, their hopes and fears, and their world. The world of spirits was created with a lot of care for those little details that make an imagined world real to the reader, and I found myself wishing I could spend a few hours exploring the town and the school. While the first part of the book focuses more on the relations between characters, the pacing and action pick up later on, so there’s something for everyone. Despite death being a topic, the quirky characters and banter make sure there’s enough fun among the darker and creepier side of things. The ending round the novel off nicely and without a cliffhanger, but I’m also very curious to see where Alex and Chase’s story is going in the next book!
As I've already mentioned above, there are stops with interviews and guest posts! If you're intrigued after reading my review, you can find the tour schedule here.
This tour-wide giveaway is international and winners will be picked on May 3, 2014. Good luck!