A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is part mystery and part romance–thing is, it didn’t quite work for me on either front.
To me, the biggest issue with this book is by far the lack of cohesion when it comes to the plot and the characters. I am first and foremost a character reader, so I’m willing to forgive a book a number of plot issues if the character work is well done. With A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, though, it wasn’t so much that the plot or the characters were bad, per se, but rather that they were constantly in tension with each other so that they both suffered in the end. Like I said, this book is part mystery and part romance, but it always felt like the former was interrupting the latter. We’d get these nice character moments that seemed like they were heading somewhere interesting, and then what do you know, some random character barges into the scene to talk about some plot thing that I literally couldn’t care less about. And this happens so often, too; the plot feels like it’s constantly intruding on these characters, and it becomes quite irritating the more it happens throughout the novel. More than just interrupting the character moments, this also makes the book feel really disjointed. Like, rather than have a narrative where the characters and the plot seamlessly blend together so that the one contributes to the other, we get a story where plot and character always feel very starkly delineated: here are the Character Development Scenes, and here are the Plot Development Scenes. All of this is to say, the plot and the character moments felt to me like they were always out of sync with each other.
Maybe this wouldn’t have been that big of an issue if the plot had been interesting, except that, like I said, I found it to be quite irritating. The plot of A Strange and Stubborn Endurance doesn’t progress so much as it just…happens; like the plot points don’t escalate or build up so much as they just continue to occur one after the other until the end, where we get a whole bunch of answers revealed to us all in one go. And yeah, maybe that’s the nature of mysteries, but I didn’t feel like this one was particularly well executed. It was just like, mysterious event A happens, mysterious event B happens, mysterious event C happens, mysterious event D happens, etc, etc, etc. And all the while the more interesting character building moments are being set aside or interrupted so that the characters can, over and over and over again, speculate on the nature of these mysterious events. I didn’t care about it at all, and then the reveal at the end made me care for it even less. It felt very far-fetched and slightly ridiculous and even then we didn’t get enough time for the characters (or the reader) to really process all that had just happened.
All of this isn’t to say that this book is a complete write-off. I didn’t hate it, but I also wanted to enjoy it so much more. I love reading romance, especially in fantasy, and so I was pretty much ready to love this–but I just didn’t. The romance was okay to begin with–and I did like how the author explored healing in the aftermath of sexual trauma–but everything around that romance ended up making it feel less and less enjoyable as the book went on.
Thank you to Tor for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!