First and foremost, I should mention I did not finish this book. I do not think it is fair to rate a book based on number of stars, when I did not in fact finish it, so unless I am forced to, this review is unrated.
I wasnt able to finish the book because I was disappointed in the book. I must admit, I have a bias. I dont admit to know Brazilian culture 100%. But I am learning,through having Brazilian friends, learning more about Brazilian culture through the experiences of Brazilian women, and just through my own personal experiences being Afro-Latina, and wishing to know more about the experiences of being Afro-Latina outside of my own Afro-Cuban heritage.
I love the author, I love that she dares to write women of color, when so many things out there dare to silence the voices of women of color in SFF. But I found this story rather problematic in many ways. I dont find that the portrayal of Brazilian culture is accurate, and while it's the author's interpretation, it may offend a person of Brazilian descent for a number of reasons.
I did like a few things. But the things that I liked, were often countered with things I did not like.
I loved the idea of the world building. I should probably say, I liked that someone thought Latino culture was interesting enough to let it shine through the future, where it is often left out, particularly in SFF. At times Im not sure how non-Latinos view the various cultures of South American, Caribbean, Central American, and various parts of the world that speak Portuguese and Spanish as a first or second language(Macau, Mozambique, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea to name a few). They almost never feature people who are latino, which is insane, considering the growing population. The idea of this matriarchal society of "Aunties" and "Queens" loosely based on the Candomble religion, is definitely an eye catcher. But it is met with a dangerously confusing, and hardly explained culture to why men are choosen as "Summer Kings" to be sacrificed at the end of the year.
Apparently men destroyed the world, with it's nuclear weapons and what not. But it never stops the story to explain exactly why young men are sacrificed, or what it's supposed to signify. Is it to show the humility of man? Is it to make sure men know their place? None of these questions get answered throughout the course of the story.
I also loved the cover, but it is completely misleading. One would insinuate an Afro-Brazilian with "natural" hair from it's cover. But the main character "June" is actually described as pale skinned. And then she's not. And then she is again. I had no real sense of what June looked like outside of her Afro and fair skin. But she seemed like a "morena", or a mix of "branca" and "morena clara."
I would have been okay with June not being Afro-Latina, but their society nearly omitted black people. Apparently you went through specific modifications(which there are also many cosmetic procedures that they dont explain)to prevent having black children. Perhaps had I finished the book, I would've found some reason why and how they benefitted from having a homogenous society, but alas, it was just another way to make Afro-Latinas like myself more invisible to the media. I felt as though this book could have really been an eye opener to let people know Latino is not a homogenous culture. Latino comes, Black, White, Asian, South Asian, Western Asian, nearly all of the above. If everyone looks the same what is the point of mixing the African culture into the mix.
Which lead to my next issue. The chosen Summer King Enki. He was a Black Brazilian, with dreadlocks, and exceedingly handsome. But his presence in the book is often exoticized so much, I found him unlikeable. I liked him, and wanted to, but the writing suggested everything interesting about him was due to him being Black, and because there were no other Black people, many felt this was an ok way of thinking. I liked him, and I'll shot this out. He was a Capoeira practitioner, which I loved! But the author spent too much time telling me he was black, and not enough time making him a great character.
The pacing and flow of the story are often slowed down due to the prose. I may be wrong, and I admit to making an educated guess here. But having a Brazilian friend, whom I speak with regularly, it seems as though the author wrote the dialogue to match how things would be said or spoken if they were in the Portuguese language. I actually didnt dislike that. I found it confusing, and while it threw off the pacing for me, it made them appear more elegant than mere teenagers.
I didn't finish the book, so I cant judge the predictability of the story, or any conflict that I may have missed. I still didn't know who the villain was by page 140, and the book is 288 pages long. I didn't know what the true conflict of the story was either. Overall, if I were judging the prose on how much I understood? I wouldn't have been able to, because it didn't have a great flow to it, and many times you find yourself lost in description.
Diversity? I don't know how to judge this. On one hand, by default every single character is Latino. But the story chooses to omit anything that isnt "pardo" a term many Brazilians already identify with. I don't however find the society full of brown people. It was seldom when a character was described as such, and many of the main characters appeared to have lighter features, finer hair, and pretty much everything that's wrong with the current state of Latino culture in the first place.
I guess I assumed that the world would be created to improve the current state of colorism many Latinos already face or ignore. What is the point of a Brazil that kind of already exists? Because it's futuristic? Perhaps if I knew nothing about Brazil, I could have enjoyed many of the things I found fault with, but I just could not.
They also had a pan-sexual society, which I thought was cool. They didn't explain why they had one, but I didn't really need it explained to me. It's somewhat Queer friendly. Mainly because there aren't any labels to be held to, and you are not judged for dating or marrying the same sex. And while I want to praise the sexuality in the book, I cant, because it insinuates Brazilians to be more casual than they are when it comes to sexuality. Many already view Brazilians as hyper sexual. I did not think it showed sexuality in a positive light, but I like that it was, at the very least attempted.
Character names? I found them to be unique. Mainly because in Brazilian culture, many choose to give biblical names. My friend, she and all her sisters are named Maria. But it is customary to go by a middle name. Unique names she claims one would actually get made fun of for, so it is interesting that the author didnt go that route. The Summer Prince's title is also misleading. There are no "Summer Prince's." Only "Moon Princes" and "Summer Kings." Which also wasnt explained . But I only read half the book, so maybe it would've been explained if I hadnt stopped reading.
Overall, I would read from this author again. Her views on diversity were what attracted me to her author brand. I just didn't connect with this story.