Call me biased. It is fine. I’ve been on the Adam Silvera Bandwagon since the Alan-Ya Conference in St. Louis. Despite my attempts to stay clear of anything before writing my review, I’ve become aware of some of the knocks against Infinity Son. I’m going to address them. Not just from my point of view as a reader, but as a New Yorker because I think that might have a lot to do with it. I could be wrong, but it is my hot take on some of it. However, before I get into all of the nitty-gritty, I want to bottom line something.
A wise musician, ok I think he is wise, from a relatively unknown welsh band (outside of the UK) once said that a song is kind of like a loaded baked potato. You can take a baked potato and load it up with cheese and broccoli and sour cream and bacon, and whatever else you want. But at the end of the day? If the baked potato, i.e. the song, isn’t any good? It doesn’t matter what you put on it. If the song sucks. Nothing will cover that up.
Heart of A Story
This is important because at the heart of Infinity Son is a wonderful story. No matter what you think of everything that is put on top of that story that slides it into the fantasy genre? The nuts and bolts of Infinity Son make it a beautifully crafted story. Silvera, as always, has weaved together the basic story elements necessary for the spine that holds together a story that takes readers on a wondrous ride, no matter what genre, category or format it is placed. I get that there are groans over the setting, i.e. world building. I’ll get to it.
Emil and Brighton. Brothers. Two New York City brothers. And they are written nor short of exactly what they are. In verbiage and body language. In everything they imbibe where they grew up and who they are to each other. You take away the fact that this is a fantasy novel and they couldn’t be written more perfectly. And at the end of the day, all that means is when you add the elements of a fantasy novel on top of them? It is what makes an urban fantasy work so well.
As I was reading Infinity Son I could hear their voices so perfectly in my head it was like listening to my cousins in my head, when I was growing up. Mind you the language, slang, code switching or whatever you want to call it might have been different, but the tone remains the same from generation to generation. And when I was teaching in East Flatbush, Brooklyn up through just shy of ten years ago, it wasn’t much different.
Thank you to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
It brings a real grounding and authentic reality to them in comparison to the group of Spell Walkers that they fall in with. The way they think, talk and hold themselves are completely different. While they might live in New York, they aren’t living on the streets of New York. Their verbiage and entire mindset are going to be different. The contrast is a reality and it plays-off very well.
It gives greater depth to the story line of Emil finding his powers vs. those who have had them their whole life. There are more differences between them than just those with powers and he who just figured it out. There is a personality contrast, an ideology clash and a social-construct clash. Those things aren’t easily overcome. And they are central to the character arcs.
The secondary characters are also well-flushed out with backstories of their own. Some, of course, more than others. It is the first book in a series, and I’m sure there is more to come.
Two characters have both lost their parents in the same war, for different reasons. They are handling that loss completely different. One is out for vengeance, while the other is using it as a rationale to take the roll of leader in all things. The repercussions of their parent’s death and how they handle it causes a chasm that ends up having devastating effects.
I wasn’t going to do this, this early on but it seems to fit in with the discussion of Emil and Brighton being written so authentically. So, let’s air this one out. Here’s the thing. The world is New York City. The five boroughs. Here’s the other thing. When you spend most of your life in New York City, admittedly? New Yorkers (and I can’t speak for Silvera, obviously so please, know this is my take on the matter only) can have a bit of a shortsighted view on the world’s perception of New York.
For instance- I had absolutely no issue with the world building in Infinity Son because the world was New York City with a fantasy twist- Urban Fantasy. However, I also lived there for 32 years. When things like Central Park or the subway or brownstones with fire-escapes, block parties, Times Square and specificity around Brooklyn or the Bronx are mentioned? I can conjure that in my mind as quick as the Arch or the mountains now outside my patio.
If you’ve never lived in NYC and you haven’t watched a TV show based in NYC, and even if you have that reference point is probably not enough? Then this is going to be hard. But in Silvera’s defense, I’m not sure where the balance point is there. I mean, at what point, does describing Central Park sound weird, for lack of a better word? It Central freaking Park. However, having lived there for 32 years, I might be the wrong person to give an opinion. To me? I fell right into this perfect fantasy/magic version of NYC because I lived there. It just clicked and made perfect and made sense.
New York City already exists. So how do you build a world that isn’t created from the imagination? Any further explanation, beyond the details given, would have dragged the book. But again? I lived there for 32 years and maybe that is the rub?
I’m going to walk a tightrope here because of spoilers but there is a lot. By a lot I mean this in the best of ways. From the summary you expect there to be struggles around loyalty, love and figuring out how to do the right thing in a world that is morally complicated. Phewwww. Yeah.
What that doesn’t tell you is how much more below the surface that goes. It isn’t just about being the unknowing chosen one. It is about having about a hundred more unknowns thrown at you on top of the fact that you have manifested these magical powers all of a sudden. Because, Silvera isn’t letting this go as some random act of magical (un)kindness, depending on how you look at it.
There is a rational (rational by urban fantasy standards) explanation and that just shakes Emil’s world up even more. There’s great I’m this chosen one who has to make these huge decisions all of a sudden then there is I’m that and then … what in the ever loving…
Because. Yeah. At some point I would have been like… yeah. Anything else. Because like you could straight up tell me that I have to go find a ten colored unicorn to bargain with Rumpelstiltskin and I wouldn’t be half shocked. Or maybe tell me Brighton is Voldemort… sure why not. Let’s go. I mean. Just. Wow.
Beyond that it isn’t just Emil. Brighton. Oh Brighton. Among this cast of characters there is truly something for everyone to relate to. Who doesn’t want to be valued, to feel valued? It isn’t an age thing or a gender thing. Whatever the reasons are, we all want to feel valued. When you get to a point where you don’t feel important to anyone or valued, then we don’t feel seen.
It is almost like you’ve been erased from the world. No matter what is important to you, if no one sees it, it is almost like it doesn’t matter because who is there to recognize the existence of it. And you will do anything to make your existence whole. And Brighton does everything he can, in the only way he knows how to try and keep himself relevant in the face of Emil’s newfound powers and place in this war of magic.
When you feel invisible? What won’t you do to feel seen, important and a part of something? And your heart breaks for him. He was about to leave for college. Like the next day. You can’t help but laugh when he says it, but at the same time break for him too, because you know he sees himself getting lost in the events that are about to overtake his life…
No one believed me. I knew we weren’t going to be screwed with a normal life. I called it… Right now, Emil is the only soldier the Spell Walkers are interest in, but I’ll prove to them that I can be a weapon too.
And now Brighton has to decide. What is more important? Being there for Emil or grabbing power for himself? Is his place in the world supporting his brother or being out for himself?
Plot Twists Pre-Conflict
All of the above brings together a multitude of cataclysmic cascade of conflicts against an evil lady hellbent on becoming immortal. And she will do it anyway she can.
Diversion about Plot Twists: I’m not sure when but at some point, in the last… I don’t know six months or so Silvera said something on Twitter (and I’m gonna paraphrase this) that, at first, made me go cross-eye and actually a bit sad. I can’t say I disagreed with it because, quite frankly, I don’t know that I understood it.
He basically said that it isn’t a bad thing if you saw a plot twist coming because most of the time a writer lays it out for you all along and if you go back and look you’ll realize you should’ve seen it coming. And furthermore that his friends get annoyed with him because he can read the summary of a book or watch a show and call it all out because, well – ok still, on that front I just think he’s better at deductive reasoning than I am (I’m just going to speak for me- maybe he saw Iron Man dying but I thought it was Captain America the whole time).
Anyhow, after he said that though, I started catching on. Yes, there are twists you won’t see coming and that’s awesome. But there are some you will see coming and that’s awesome, too. That doesn’t mean that the book was predictable, at all. In fact, some of the best I’ve seen recently- like Scavenge the Stars, for example, are the ones where there is a twist that I saw coming but within that big twist is a sub-twist within it (I think I just made up a word) that I definitely did not see coming. Those are awesome.
Ok back to conflict. The reason I bring that up is because within this conflict there are a multitude of spoilery things that happen. Some of which I saw coming and some of which I most definitely did not see coming. The ones I did see coming? Didn’t take away from the energy of the book because of the emotional force put behind the it.
In other words, there is so much effort put into the building of the characters and the development of them as people that it isn’t always about the big reveal as it is about the effect of the reveal on the stakeholders. So even if I see the reveal coming a mile away? The anticipation for it remains because I’m dreading the impact and conflict that will ensue. Having a big reveal that is earth shattering is one thing. Playing out the emotional fallout is quite another. Doing both, of course is optimal.
The conflict surrounding the twists I saw coming, the ones I did not see coming and the climatic point of it all was suspenseful enough to glue me to my Kindle for way longer than my bladder and stomach were happy about. Not to mention that once a certain set of dominoes were set into motion. They didn’t stop. And again, while there were bigger events that could be predicted pretty far out, others that happen during that course of events not only were quite a surprise but were serious complications in an already complicated situation.
We can’t really talk about resolution- because
1) The ending… Damn you Silvera. You owe me my feelings back. I hate series.
2) Spoilers. But…
19 thoughts on “Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son Crafts A Story Of Two Brothers In A Magical New York City 1/14”
I was kinda 50/50 on this but your review has just convinced me to add it to my TBR ????
I’m so glad! I really think it is getting unfairly knocked. While I don’t have an answer for the NYC setting thing… I do think many are losing sight of it being an urban fantasy set in NY. That is the world. I think there is an assumption of a built imagined world. But that isn’t how this plays out. The ending is a wreck. I warn you now.
Haha thanks for the heads up!
I’m really curious about this book!
It is a wonderful sibling story wrapped in an urban fantasy… Adam is gonna Adam.
I’ve seen so many not-so-great reviews about this book that I was convinced that I wouldn’t pick it up but now that I’ve read your review, it’s going back on my TBR! And just when I was feeling relieved that there’d be one less book that I’d want to buy in this year of trying my best to save money ???? I love the heart in this review, Susan! Looking forward to reading the book now 🙂
Thank you! A lot of that heart comes from my belief in Silvera and because of the mixed reviews. A lot of is because of the world building and while I might not be sure of the answer, I do think the charge is overblown if not straight unfounded. Not once has the criticism been lain without the mention of the world being NY, which it clearly is. If someone said its NY but describe it better at least that is more honest. But nothing. As for the rest, everything he does best is unmistakable. And that is what makes all of his work and now his step into fantasy shine!
I hope you love it!
Hell of a review, Susan! Doesn’t quite sound like my cuppa but if I ever feel like a New York-based urban fantasy, I’ll keep this one in mind. I especially enjoyed what you wrote about conflict, and how, even when you find certain elements of the build-up towards the climax recognizable, you can still enjoy the fall-out because of the characters involved. Excellent formulation.
Thank you! You are really good at responding to reviews when you haven’t read the book or don’t have an interest in them. It isn’t something I have grasped the ability to do.
It is very thoughtful and I really value the feedback.
I have the ARC for this to read asap, so I’ll admit that I only skimmed over the last half of the post (because I love not really knowing anything going in?). I am not surprised at all the Silvera’s characters are ON POINT. It makes me excited. I’m curious about the whole setting thing. I have never been to NYC so may be interesting…
No worries! I’m the same way. I don’t like to do it either. There are the exceptions here and there but for the most part I’m the same way. I will be interested to see what you think about the NYC/world building, as well.
I’m not quiiiiite done with this (so close now), but thanks for the heads up on the cliffhanger. I’m ready for it. I agree about the setting. That’s really my biggest qualm here, was I just didn’t think the world-building was quite there. But other than that? I feel like this is a pretty solid book. Yes, it falls into a lot of tropes and cliches, but it reads like lower YA, as opposed to the 16+ books I think a lot of us are used to reading. In my opinion, they’re the *right* cliches, because what would a superhero book be without some of these cliches? xD I have to say, though, that I didn’t like Brighton nearly as much as you did lol.
Love this format for reviews! Definitely think this one’s getting a lot of undeserved hate (though, a lot of these readers are probably his contemporary readers, and it’s an entirely different genre, and his contemporary didn’t work as well for me, so … understandable).
He does this on purpose… the trope thing. It is like naming a book They Both Die at the End. When your character is calling the trope out? It is on purpose and now that I think of it- I mean Marvel is troped out but what superhero canon story isn’t? LOL. They all have tragic backstories, missing, dead, evil parents of some case or dead loved ones/lovers, or something LOL..
But back to They Both Die at the End…It is like Kaz says… about how to steal a wallet? Tell him you are going to steal their watch. He does it on purpose LOL. I swear. He doesn’t want you to focus on A so he calls it out and redirects you to B. Did you finish it yet? I’m glad you liked it otherwise and it is on the younger side.
Thank you for the formatting observation. Truthfully that is a consequent of going self-hosted and it calling me out on readability/SEO stuff. 300 word sections and headers lol. So it has helped with that format. So I can’t take credit for it but it is good to know that they aren’t steering me wrong!
Love your review! I have been wanting to read this one but the reviews seem to be fairly mixed, leaving more towards negative from what I’ve seen. It makes me super curious on if I will like it or not. Thanks for the honest review!
Wow it sounds like there is just SO MUCH going on in this book! No wonder it has some conflicting reviews out there. I personally hate TV shows set in my home town because all I can do is criticise the editing (especially the movements between locations) which just frustrates me to the point of needing to turn it off. I feel like in this case the opposite is true?
hahaha! For me? I mean I have conflicting about NY- but that is for personal reasons. But as far as it being the setting in an Urban Fantasy? It was well done. So it was enjoyable. It wasn’t like Sex in the City which was so utterably unrealistic that it made me six to my stomach. That I can’t stand. This was the complete opposite. In the way the city was utilized to how the characters were rooted in growing up there? It was very real and authentic so, to me, that is what is most important.