Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

never contentedNever Contented Things is an unusual book to review in that it is something of a deceptive read.  I think from the beautiful eye catching cover and synopsis I was expecting this to be a book of fae courtly intrigue.  Something deliciously dark and packed with forbidden fruit.  Don’t get me wrong, this is dark, on many levels, but in fact this is more like a coming of age story, a tale of redemption even.  It’s a combination of emotional complexity and disturbing reality wrapped up in fae deception and cruelty and the whole thing is itself a metaphor for a young girl coming to terms with who she really is.

This book was nothing at all like I expected.  The mesmerising fae play more of a supporting role, they ooze deceit and create horror but their role here is not to provide characters to fall in love with and they remain for the most part on the periphery.  The main characters are difficult to read about.  They share a somewhat toxic and unhealthy relationship and it genuinely makes reading parts of the story uncomfortable and I definitely experienced a moment or two of thinking I would have to put the book down.  I’m glad that I didn’t.  This isn’t a fun book or one that makes it easy to wax lyrical about but I think it is a story that will definitely resonate with some readers and it’s also a story with a hopeful message at its core.

So, let’s firstly address what makes this book uncomfortable in parts.  Ksenia and Josh are a pair of foster children who have become so emotionally dependent on each other that their relationship has developed in a way that is difficult to read about.  Josh, the younger of the two, believes himself in love with Ksenia and Ksenia, although she tries to keep him at arms length, is willing to forgive Josh for anything and to take the blame for any of his faults.  To be clear, the two are not blood relatives but there’s still an uncomfortable incestuous feel to their love, more from Josh who also has a manipulative and pushy feel to the way he boxes Ksenia in, pushing his feelings on her when they’re not exactly welcome and she doesn’t know how to rebuff him without losing his love.

Both of them have done the rounds of care before finding themselves together in a family situation.  Josh has a more affable nature, he naturally wins hearts and friends.  Ksenia is more a closed book.  She keeps people out and given her past experiences it’s easy to see why.  Josh is the only one who has slipped through her armour and she finds herself in the unfamiliar territory of wanting to protect him.  Unfortunately, the foster parents haven’t really taken to Ksenia, they think she’s a bad influence and although they’re going through the adoption of Josh, Ksenia is about to be sent to college – as far away from Josh as possible and this is in fact the catalyst for the whole story.  The two are desperate about their future and afraid to be separated and this desperation allows something dark into their lives.

I would say that for the first 20%, maybe even more, of this book I was tempted to stop reading.  I found the strangeness that circulates these two characters off putting and I wasn’t really enjoying myself tbh, the writing was very good though and it persuaded me that I needed to find out more.  Josh and eventually Ksenia disappear from the ‘real’ world and inhabit a strangely parallel version where it feels like Josh is really losing himself and Ksenia has become numb to the situation, she’s like a puppet just going through the motions.  Everything they do in fact is a spectacle for the fae, their life has become a showbox, Trueman-style, to entertain the Prince and his courtiers and of course the fae are never content, they want to draw others into their macabre world.

Now we flip back to the ‘real’ town and the people left behind in the wake of Josh and Ksenia’s tragic disappearance.  We make the acquaintance of Lexi and she’s something of a blast of fresh air.  She was Josh’s best friend and was always trying to crack Ksenia’s tough-nut exterior to be allowed in to her heart.  She never quite succeeded but she also never gave up.  Her tenacity eventually leads her to uncover some difficult truths, she finds herself, her family and friends in danger and she responds with strength and intelligence.

On the one side this is a story of changelings and abductions.  Of enchantment and strange worlds.  Scratch a little deeper and this is more a story of two young people coming to terms with who they are, forgiving themselves and each other for past mistakes and realising that they need to move forward, maybe in ways that they don’t want to accept but ultimately must do so in order to grow up and find a way to stop hurting others.

What I liked about this is the emotional impact, strength of writing and character arc of the main character Ksenia.  I think that her story will really resonate with some readers but I think it’s important that people have a real understanding of the nature of this book before picking it up.  This is not a fae romance.  It doesn’t have fae that you will fall in love with in fact they’re all wickedly cruel and really quite hateful and they’re the perfect embodiment of powerful creatures playing with the lives of humans for entertainment purposes.  The fae lend the story it’s horror value showing the true nature of changelings and completely taking any romantic notions that we might hold of them as readers and completely blowing them out of the water.

In terms of criticisms.  There is plenty of weirdness going on here.  Oddness that I won’t really elaborate on because of spoilers but the sort of thing that could drive readers away.  Personally I think this is incredibly creative, mixing elements of fae magic and splintered emotions into something fantastical.  I can’t say that I liked Josh, although I think that’s deliberate on the part of the author, but this dislike made me frustrated, I wanted to slap Ksenia for not being more assertive and I wanted to punch him to wake him up!  I’m not aggressive, truly I’m not – this book just brought those emotions out in me.  I would also say that the description for this book is a bit misleading.  In fairness I think I would struggle to come up with a fitting synopsis but I do think the one provided will lead readers down the wrong path a little.  I think you could read this on one level, as a strange tale of the fae, doing what they do best, but on another it’s a story of a young girl with a tough past allowing herself to feel love, for herself and for others.

Ultimately this is not the sort of book that you’re probably going to say you loved.  It’s not a gushy-romantic-feel good type of read but, mixed in with all the darkness is a story of redemption.  I thought it was a good read and in spite of my initial misgivings I have to say I”m glad I read it.  I would certainly read more books by this author on the strength of her writing here.

I would also mention TWs in terms of abuse, mentioned rape, abduction.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




25 Responses to “Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter”

  1. maxinesobsessions

    This sounds right up my alley. Fantastic review Lynn 🙂
    (It’s still available on NetGalley, yay)

  2. Tammy

    Wow, Lynn, believe it or not you’ve made me even more excited to read this! It’s on my pile for March, and I do appreciate the warning. But really, I usually like dark books so we’ll see!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, the start definitely takes a turn on the bizarre side but once you push through things become clear. This is definitely dark and quite difficult in places but I think it’s a good book. I think the blurb is probably a bit misleading for some readers who probably see the allusion to fae and expect a Cruel Prince style book – which this really isn’t.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    Like Tammy, now I’m pushing this up. Dark and odd seem to fit me so hopefully this book will as well. Great review!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you enjoy it. It’s definitely dark and odd and a bit uncomfortable in parts but I thought it was worth reading.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    From your description it’s easy to understand how this book might carry strong feelings of unease and make the reading experience quite uncomfortable: I’m tempted to say that it does not sound like a book for the weak of heart… Still it looks intriguing, and I might give it a try, one of these days. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Nope, I think some of the issues in this book will not be for the weak of heart for sure. Very dark themes.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Her last book didn’t really work for me, and reading your review reminds me of a lot of similar problems I had with it, so I’m glad I made the decision not to pick this one up now. I’m glad you thought it was worth reading in the end though!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and it was a bit uncomfortable in places not to mention downright odd occasionally, but I liked what felt like a tale of a young girl finding herself.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Off The TBR

    Wow this sounds really interesting. And I do love that cover. Great review! I may need to pick this one up.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s not quite what I originally envisioned but it was good regardless. Very dark and a bit odd in parts.
      Lynn 😀

  7. waytoofantasy

    Thanks for the thorough review! I wouldn’t have expected the book to go that way based on the cover either! That’s some interesting marketing…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s not quite what I expected but I thought it was good.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Absolutely love the cover for this one, though it sounds like it might push my “weird threshold” a bit

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is a bit disturbing and uncomfortable in parts and I did nearly reach a threshold myself but then the story changed thankfully.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Carmen

    What a balanced review, Lynn! The story may not appeal to everyone, as you said, because it sounds very dark, but also strangely fascinating. Perhaps it’s fitting then that the main character found herself after all that darkness and manipulation from the fae and her environment.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s very odd at the start and I think it would make a lot of people very uncomfortable reading it. I almost stopped reading myself, but then we have a different pov and that lessens the tensions somewhat. And them, for me, it becomes a different story, less about the fae and more about one young girl coming to terms with who she is and finding some hope.
      Lynn 😀

  10. Rebecca

    Glad to see you enjoyed this one! It definitely wasn’t for me and I ended up DNFing it around 30-35% because I just wasn’t enjoying it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I hear you and you certainly don’t seem to be by yourself. To be honest I almost gave up around the 30% mark but that’s when things changed a little and so I decided to press on. This certainly went down a very odd route and I don’t know if it’s the sort of book you can say you ‘enjoyed’ although I am glad that I finished it because it was very different from what I expected.
      Lynn 😀

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  12. bkfrgr

    I’m with Carmen – you’ve done a cracking job of presenting a balanced review for something that sounds like it’s going to push a lot of buttons for a lot of people. I’m more interested now, having read your review, than I was just having seen the cover – although I’ll save it for when I’m feeling super-happy. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s not what I expected and it certainly starts off on an odd and off putting note but once I got through the first part I felt I came to grips wit what the story was really about.
      Lynn 😀

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