“-If I were a monster, I would have let you drown back in the swamps. -And that’s the difference between us. You think one act of kindness, even self-serving, is enough to not make you one.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
SERIES: A Hundred Names for Magic, #1
PUBLISHED : March 3rd 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire
MY RATING: 1.5/5
When a hidden prince, a girl with secrets, a ragtag group of unlikely heroes, and a legendary firebird come together…something wicked is going down.
Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left encased in ice when the Snow Queen waged war. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.
Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them.
A new hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala must unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.
Ugh. Guys. You know me. You know I really don’t like writing negative reviews. But that’s kind of the deal of being a book blogger, right? We’re in for the good, for the bad and for the ugly. This … is ugly. Especially coming from a writer whose other book I rated with 5 stars. What happened, you ask? Well, I have a theory, hear me out.
Rin Chupeco said that Wicked As You Wish was the first book she ever completed, BUT it’s also the seventh book she published. Meaning, this manuscript has sat probably unchanged for years, while Chupeco progressed as a writer. Then after all this time she came back to it, and I am guessing – she didn’t want to harm her baby project? It somehow stayed at the creative/writing level she was at at the time? I don’t know, but the difference between it and her more recent work is deafening.
I barely finished it. For me, it sucked. First of all, it’s YA, and not just any kind, but the cliched one. We have our usual love problems, teen tantrums, and also (W H Y) Carly Rae Jepsen??? I think the second chapter is named after her, and that’s when this novel lost me. I endured eternal agony to finish it, only because it was an ARC, but hell if I’m going to do that again.
You can read what’s it about above, I cannot repeat that, instead I’ll expand on it. This book is a meaningless info dump. Every possible fairy tale, Disney cartoon, legendary character, you name it – it’s a central character in this novel. The Firebird, Wonderland, The Snow Queen, Neverland, Jabberwocky, Avalon, Robin Hood, Baba Yaga, shall I continue? No need, you name it – it’s in the book. I LOVE retellings, and I love subtle nods to all these fairy tales and legends we love, but this? Too much, woman, know when to stop.
What else is too much, you ask? Representation. Chupeco tried to represent every possible minority, sexual orientation and my grandma’s pickle salad. The main character, Tala, is half Filipino half Scottish, but they’re (Her family) all apparently Latinx and speak Spanish because they live in Arizona?! I struggled hard to understand what they were talking about until I just couldn’t. Oh yeah, and then the gay Russian tsarevitch comes to live with them, and he turns boys into frogs when he kisses them. And the villain is Frozen’s Elsa with her ICE agents (GETIT).
There is a magical system, which is based on technology, and very weird to understand. Tala is a descendant of yet another faction – makilings – they can cancel out any magic and spells, but then Tala actually can do magic??? She and the prince Alexei are too hollow for two main characters, but then they get backup in the form of Bandersnatches (some annoying kids) who are even more one dimensional, so much that they are basically paper cut-outs?!
And what’s the plot, you ask? I don’t know! The Snow Queen is evil, and she wants to destroy the world I guess? And some lousy kids are the world’s best chance? FFS. For the last couple of chapters I was seriously debating in favor of DNFing this but alas I persevered. Even though the writing is so horrible I wanted to poke out my eyes with toothpicks.
I will still read Chupeco’s other books, because I did like The Girl from the Well, and I heard The Bone Witch trilogy is really good, but with this series I am DONE.
A thank-you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Erin “Rin” Chupeco is a Chinese Filipino writer of young adult fiction, best known for her The Bone Witch and The Girl from the Well series. Prior to becoming an author, Chupeco worked as a graphic designer. She is married and lives with her husband and two children in Manila. Chupeco’s works often draw inspiration from Asian cultures.