I have to admit that, even though I requested this as a review copy, I was skeptical of it’s high Goodreads rating. The cover doesn’t pull me in at all, and the blurb wasn’t very enticing either. So I was surprised when I found myself wildly flipping through the pages, intent on knowing all the secrets of Harry August. This book has an allure that is hard to exactly describe, which I think is part of the reason I wasn’t convinced by it immediately, but as soon as you start reading it, you’ll understand why it’s been getting so much praise.
When I finally flipped the last page, I seriously wanted to give this book a standing ovation. I literally wanted to clap. It’s just so impressive! Not only is it well written, it’s phenomenally researched. I mean, North must’ve spent months just learning about all of the information that is given to us as one point or another in this book. And, as somebody who fully admits that they get easily bored with the subjects of history and science, I was enthralled by it all. Not at one point did it feel like there was infodumping or like I didn’t understand what was going on. Sure, some of the science was obviously way above my head, but the way that North explains everything allows for the concepts to make sense without forcing the reader to have to understand every single piece of information that clearly went into creating this book.
But, besides just the sheer science of it all, North was able to craft such a sympathetic and realistic main character out of Harry August. He seemed so real, and his voice was probably one of the most convincing male perspectives written by a woman that I’ve ever read. There were times when I forgot this book was even written by a woman, because you get to delve so deep into August’s brain that it doesn’t seem possible that anybody but a man could’ve written him so realistically.
The book does start out a little slow. I was immediately hooked and found it hard to put down, but the true plot of the story takes a while to emerge. There’s a lot of background information and anecdotal chapters in the first half of the book that, while still intriguing, aren’t very important to the ultimate plot. But they serve their purpose in creating and rounding out Harry’s character before we get thrown into the surprising twist that finally reveals what the whole thing is really all about. I thought that it was a really interesting way to stage a book, because usually the plot is either immediately apparent or there isn’t much of one at all. But this book starts out seeming like there’s not much of a plot — or at least, the plot that you think you’re following is very tame — and then, all of a sudden, all of the different pieces fall into place and the story blooms before your eyes, exposing its true nature to you and daring you to put the book down for one single second before ripping through all the rest of its pages.
I don’t think that this book will be for everybody, but it’s got something special that very much attracted itself to me. I did not expect to fall as in love with this book as I did, and I know that I’ll be thinking about it for a very long time to come.