#12: The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander

I hated this book so much.  I hated it with the power that only comes from being disappointed and wanting to not hate it.  It had potential.  It had moments where I thought “Yes!  You can do it!  You can do it!  You… aww fuck.”

Basic story line:

Mythical Chinese kingdom.

Eight Chinese girls.

Once upon a time.

The girls enter the pact of Jin-Shei.  This is a sisterhood oath.  It is explained to be sacred and binding, but also supporting because it’s done in love, trust and respect.  At least that’s how the first one goes.  Later it’s sort of “Hey.  You wanna do the whole Jin-Shei thing?  And be sisters?  Cool.”  I think I actually put the book down and did a confused head shake.  The first one was all formality and seriousness.  Later on it was… not.

The eight girls become a Venn diagram of Jin-Shei.  They have distinct personalities and  roles to play in the future of the empire.

The writing spiral out of control and breaks my heart all over the place.  Alexander introduces a plot point, for example a half sister that could lay claim to the throne.  I start to think that this is going to be an interesting twist and I’m looking forward to how it’ll play out and what the characters will do and then I turn the page and it’s all “Wow.  I thought there was a sister.  Then I read this diary and there is a sister!  I know who she is so I’m going to go get her and now we’re on the next part of the plot.”  WTF???

This happened time and time again.  “Something is wrong.  This is what I think is wrong.  Yes, I was correct.  It is wrong.”  So much telling instead of showing.

One of the more infuriating things (and there were a lot) was the passage of time.  Parts were meant to meander and move slowly.  But at other points Alexander would begin to build an intensity.  You could feel things being pushed toward a conflict.  You’d turn the page.  “A year later…”  WTF?  What do you mean a year later?  What in the hell happened?  Then there’d be a few sentences to get you caught up, you’d find out that there were some more questions that were answered by a quick walk down a hall somewhere and now it was time for something else.

So so frustrating.

I’m wondering if this book was cobbled together from a bunch of short stories about different characters and wasn’t supposed to be one book or if it was supposed to be several long books that ended up being chopped up into one.

What really pissed me off was that parts of it were really good.  There were moments where the story and plot and setting were original and well written and I’d get sucked in, only to be let down in a few pages.

Even the ending had me split.  Parts of it had me in tears because I’d watched (and been told) about these girls growing up and now tragedy was all over the place.  But then one character behaved in a way that made zero sense from anything that she had done previously.  She was crucial to the book; her actions drove almost the entire plot.  But the book needed to end, so instead of saying A, she said B.  A few sentences were tossed in there to show why she had this amazing change of heart that went against everything she had made herself to be, but the important thing is The End.


I wish the book flat out sucked because then I would have tossed it.  I kept holding out hope that Alexander would get her shit together long enough to have a really solid section.  But it never happened.


One response to “#12: The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander

  1. Pingback: pyrajane’s CBR-III #12: The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander | Cannonball Read III

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