I have had this one on my to-read list for a few years now but have never gotten around to reading it, never even tried looking it up at the library to take out. Sometimes I think it’s a sign that if you don’t get to a book right away it might be best not to bother with it at all. However, in my recent attempt to shorten my ever-growing to-read list I decided to finally go to the library and search up a copy of “Stung”. Oddly enough I got through it really fast, because it was easy to read, but I had so many issue and frustrations with the book that after finishing I was so glad I didn’t buy a copy of the book for myself.
“Stung” is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty more in practice than in theory. The strongest link to the original was probably the fact that Fiona passed four years in a coma-like sleep before waking up to find out everything was completely different from what she remembered. That’s where the similarities basically end. There are no parallel characters for the evil fairy or any of the other original fairytale characters, and I got a tad mad for the incorrect marketing that was surrounding this book as people who go in looking for a retelling that’s close to the original will find nothing of the sort.
The story is dark and the writing vivid in describing the grime and shabbiness of the new world Fiona finds herself in. Originally I was very happy with this, but about fifty pages in, with still no clear understanding on what was going on or where the plot was going, I began to feel frustrated and wished the author would introduce something to the story that would grab my attention, which by then was stuck in a landscape of sewers and feces as described endlessly in the book. It’s a problem that persisted throughout the whole story and became a crutch when it should have been a strength. The plot was sacrificed for the gritty, repetitive details. In the same category of poor writing is the way in which the plot of the whole epidemic is explained. After finishing the book I was having a quick cup of tea in the kitchen when my mom came over and asked me for my impression on the book and what it was about. It was in retelling it, when I began doubting out loud whether it was the new bee’s sting or the vaccine that caused the mental insanity of the population, that I realized just how difficult the answers were to extract from the writing. The information was tossed out quickly at the most unusual moments that thus made for very complicated storytelling. Beyond that, I thought the whole plot in general had several ridiculous details. For starters the whole modified new bee species as a solution to replenishing the decreasing bee population, followed by the whole story about why the cure didn’t want to be discovered. The latter, in my opinion, was the most ridiculous of all. Much of the plot line you had to go along with as a reader and take it for what it was, messy, often illogical, and being revealed at a slow pace that makes one impatient.
Speaking of impatience, Fiona and Dreyden were the second huge source of displeasure for me in the book. The two were written using a heap of character stereotypes and clichés that ended up all meshing together and providing nothing new in the character landscape. The tipping point for me was Fiona deciding to fire the gun at a supposed attacked and to her horror realizing her mistake. It was when this happened, around page 200, that I understood just how downhill the writing was going. The author took a lot of time to stress the fact that Fiona played piano, yet the point of that detail still alludes me. It only seemed to serve as the explanation of why Dreyden and her ended up the way they did in the book as Dreyden told her he’d enjoy listening to her playing and only tease about the piano playing because he didn’t know how to begin talking to her. A big cliché titled “boy next door syndrome”, familiar too many a reader with many a book falling victim to it. I didn’t buy the whole childhood connection story – it felt too much like insta-love to believe any of the “I didn’t see you when we were younger” vibe that Dreyden was giving off. Fiona as a main character, as a Level Ten who’s supposed to be feared and special because she hasn’t turned yet, is actually very weak and cookie cutter. It was difficult to care for either of them given their stereotypical personalities.
Beyond that the book was, as I said, easy to read but only because it didn’t offer much food for thought. I didn’t stop to digest a single part of the plot. Sure I still didn’t get by the end the whole deal with Arrin/Arris and which one it was at the end. I also predicted every single “plot twist”/surprise so it was an open book from start to finish in that regard. The story offers nothing new. The characters are stiff and flat, not once leaving the page and feeling like they could be actual, real characters. The plot was undercooked, containing a lot of glaring loopholes that makes one raise an eyebrow at confusion on why it’s something so ridiculous in the first place. I won’t be reading the next installment as I didn’t enjoy “Stung” very much and can’t see where the plot might go from where it ended off. I feel like it might go even worse and I’d much rather move on to read something else than struggle with the companion to a book I didn’t enjoy nor care much about.