I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine Roux. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In The Book of Living Secrets, Adelle and Connie are best friends, united in their mutual love for a historical romance book called Moira. Then, when Adelle hears of a spell that can send them inside the book, she begs Connie to accompany her. But Connie doesn’t believe in magic; this is the real world, after all. She humors her friend, though, and to both of their astonishment, it works. But the world of Moira is not what they expected, nor is it what was portrayed in the novel. This world is filled with danger and a strange presence that’s threatening the two girls specifically. So they have to find a way to stop the story from changing, or else risk everything.
This had a really intriguing premise, so I was excited to pick it up. And I liked Connie and Adelle as protagonists. They have different dispositions, but it’s easy to see why they’re compatible. Their long friendship is very evident, and makes for a strong foundation to the story. As for the side characters, I really liked Orla and Kincaid. Moira, Missi, and Severin (side note, that name sounds too much like a French cake for me to take seriously) were mildly interesting, and the rest of the characters didn’t make much of an impression on me. I feel like they all could have used a lot more depth and development. What I saw of Orla and Kincaid especially was great, and I wanted to know more, but I never got more. I feel like there was so much more to them than was portrayed, and it was disappointing.
Also, I feel that the romances were very underdeveloped, due to the lackluster characterizations. I wasn’t really invested at all, though I didn’t dislike the love interests. Speaking of that, I’m not sure if it was supposed to be surprising that Adelle’s real love interest turned out to be Kincaid? The second I saw him, I knew. Authors don’t usually take that much time describing a boy if he’s not going to fall in love with the protagonist, so waiting for Adelle to catch up to that fact was kind of tedious. Anyway.
Okay, this is very nitpicky, but some—but not all!—of the chapters opened with quotes or passages from the fictional Moira book, or from other sources. It seemed kind of random which ones had them and which didn’t, though admittedly I didn’t look too hard for a pattern. Still, it seemed odd. Why not have at least something at the start of all the chapters?
The plot was not nearly as action-packed as I was expecting, once I saw what the setting was like. And strangely what action there was fell kind of flat for me. I never felt immersed in what was happening, even in the fast-paced or creepy scenes. Sure, the scene where Adelle is inside the belly of the beast was cool, but something about the description didn’t really click with me.
And after all the kinda-action in the climax, and after all the kinda-buildup of relationships between the characters, the way the story ended was pretty disappointing. We don’t get to see what happens to most of the characters. Even though I didn’t care about them too much, I still wanted to get at least some closure. I can only assume, from the last few paragraphs (which, by the way, made me say “huh?”), Roux is planning a sequel, though I don’t think I’ll be reading it.
In the end, The Book of Living Secrets was just okay. It didn’t blow my mind, and I didn’t get that invested in most of the characters or the action. It’s a competent book in terms of concept and setting, but overall didn’t wow me in any particular area. Still, if you like books about alternate dimensions, fantasy with some horror elements, and some Stranger-Things-but-in-a-historical-setting vibes, this might be worth checking out for you.
The Book of Living Secrets is out now!