The only big complaint I really have is that it was rushed a little. The concept was great and I feel like it could have easily been drawn out into a sequel or perhaps even a series with the addition of a few more details or scenes. A few things I felt that were lacking were Jed’s feelings- I felt like there were a lot of missing conversations between him and Pen (especially after Pen’s capture), even though there were plenty of good ones. Another thing I didn’t really feel was the romance between Pen and James. I did at the beginning and I knew it was coming (and was excited) and when it finally happened I was happy, but I still felt like it was rushed. For James’s part, he did a fine job. But with Pen, it was different. There wasn’t any romance on her end (on either end, really, but she didn’t even think about it while I got the feeling that James did) and she never really thought about her feelings for him except, well, once, and even in that thought process she didn’t come to the conclusion that she loved him. It was like she wouldn’t have even considered it unless he brought it up first, and then she was like, oh I guess I do, huh would you look at that? Well, it wasn’t really that indifferent from her end. And the whole lying thing actually made it kind of exciting. Like…she couldn’t have known how she really felt until she tried to say something out loud, whether it be a confession of love or the opposite. More on the lying later.
And from there I thought the romance went fine until James almost betrayed her. No real spoilers here. But it was so unlike him and so unrealistic that I really just couldn’t believe it. He loved her for so long, finally got her and then…to turn on her so easily like that? Okay, so we could see it was hurting him, but the fact that he would even be capable of it given how he felt was astonishing. That’s when I kinda stopped caring about the relationship, no matter how it turned out.
But I feel like it was equally about her relationship with Jed and how he was supposed to be a father figure, and he totally was albeit a strange one. And he did some really messed up things. But for some reason I never doubted his authenticity. So…that was good, I guess.
Another big theme was control. There was a lot of good internal dialogue about how she feels as a puppet and good comparisons and things. Like the strings motif that runs through the story in different ways. Very good for the retelling aspect.
And the things they did to her were abominable. Not just the bad guys. Although the plot shifts so suddenly towards the end, it’s like who’s who? What’s really going on here? And I’m still not entirely sure of the ending- I felt like there must have been some kind of massive deus ex machina, but I’m not sure what it was. Maybe I missed something because I was reading too fast, but that’s not usually the case. Hm.
The world-building could also have been a little better. I felt like there was such stark contrast between the science part of the world and the rest of the people that knew of science and called it magic. And the purpose of marionettes- the robot ones- was never really elaborated on. I also feel like it didn’t help that we started in the middle of the action- in media res- because some straightforward background, not just of her but of the world- would have been nice.
Anyway. One of the things I really did want to talk about was the concept of lying. See, that’s one of the big things- shall I say strings- tying her to Pinocchio. But it’s also a really curious thing. Her ability to lie was taken away. No, her nose doesn’t grow, but she simply can’t say words that are lies. It’s interesting because then you find out how many things you say naturally that you don’t mean, how many white lies, and you find out things about yourself that you didn’t know. In my opinion, it would also be useful to find out things you could otherwise have no way of knowing, but that’s never really explored. Well, once it is, when she says she’s going to be all right after an accident. But with that kind of predicting power, she could have tried to say ‘I will be caught by administrators’ before making her escape. And she’d know whether that was a lie or not. Man, that could have changed everything, if that’s really how that works. But oh well. The story would have been quite different, would it not? That wasn’t the point, however. It goes back to control. It was the choice to lie that was taken from her, and as she told Jed, it’s the choice that determines whether you are good, not the ability to only tell the truth (and be trustworthy).
Now, I know this story was a NaNoWriMo project and that may explain its hastiness, but I would still have liked it to be longer in editing.