Okay, first of all…I really wanted to like this book. When I received an email from the author asking me to review it, I was very skeptical, mostly because of the book’s cover — I’m not trying to be mean, but that thing is rough. I was seriously *this close* to rejecting the request, but then I took a look at the trailer (which, compared to the cover was surprisingly well made) and was immediately intrigued. Historical fiction, sci-fi, and lesbians? Okay, I’m down. I had to at least give this a shot, right?
Well…it was alright. I really don’t have anything that bad to say about it, it just wasn’t for me. I very much enjoyed the lesbian sex (shocker), which was extremely well written, but the general plot of the book was…kind of weird. I think that the biggest reason I didn’t love it is because sci-fi isn’t “my thing,” but it might’ve also had something do with the strange combination of sci-fi, historical fiction, and graphic sex. It didn’t really mesh well. I think that the amount of people who would enjoy this book is a very small portion of the reading population.
One thing I do want to mention that did really bother me about this book is that it’s billed as having a bipolar main character, which I was really excited about. But, first of all, this book takes place during WWI, and bipolar disorder was not given its name until the late 1950s. Depression, “circular insanity” or possibly “manic depressive psychosis” are terms that might have been used to describe her condition at the time, but it was still just starting to be discovered…I don’t think that it was at all a well-known diagnosis, or something that anyone would ever admit to having, or even be able to be effectively treated for.
Second of all, she doesn’t present as having bipolar disorder at any point in the novel. Like, if she hadn’t said anything, I wouldn’t have noticed the slightest thing different about her from a “normal” main character that didn’t have what is supposed to be a severe and emotionally debilitating medical disorder. At about 60% of the way through the book, she finally mentions for the first time that she has it, so it was pretty shocking considering that there were no telltale signs previously (and nothing after her declaration either). But, to be honest, I feel like, if the main character had suffered from bipolar disorder, it would’ve made the novel even more of a jumble than it already was. A book that’s already historical fiction, sci-fi, and erotica does not also need to add “mental health” to its list of genre attributes.
I also had issue with how love was dealt with in this novel. The two main characters definitely had some eye-rolling instalove going on (claiming to have fallen in love with each other the day they met), and it seemed like everybody else was falling in love with her, too! That part of the story was unrealistic, so I was a little disappointed with it.
But I did really like a few things about this novel. Even though the main character didn’t have bipolar disorder as promised, she was still very relatable and likable. I was drawn to her story and felt compelled to keep reading to find out how it would all end for her. Although this book is part of a series, I think that it still works as a standalone — I felt satisfied with the ending, which was only left slightly open, and liked that it wasn’t necessarily a happily ever after. I also thought that, in general, this book was very well written and had realistic dialogue, which are things that I always appreciate a lot. I obviously didn’t love the sci-fi aspects, but the writing made me want to finish the book and I loved how present it made me feel in the story.
Overall, I thought that this book had a very interesting concept with its mysterious disease that only affects women, and I think that it had a lot of potential…but it clearly just wasn’t for me. There were a few things that I enjoyed about it, and I’d highly recommend it to readers who love sci-fi and are interested in books with LGBT characters, but unfortunately I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I was going to — I don’t think that the trailer accurately portrayed just how much sci-fi is involved. But I feel like, if I did like this genre more, Lyovitalis could’ve easily been a 4-star read for me.