Review: The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg

February 21, 2018 Review 0

Review: The Tombs by Deborah SchaumbergThe Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg
Published by HarperTeen on February 20, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
Format: eBook, Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 448
Source: Edelweiss
Sexual Content: Kissing
Reviewed by: Tacoma
1 Stars

New York, 1882. A dark, forbidding city, and no place for a girl with unexplainable powers.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Kohl pines for the life she had before her mother was taken. She fears the mysterious men in crow masks who locked her mother in the Tombs asylum for being able to see what others couldn’t. Avery denies the signs in herself, focusing instead on her shifts at the ironworks factory and keeping her inventor father out of trouble. Other than secondhand tales of adventure from her best friend, Khan, an ex-slave, and caring for her falcon, Seraphine, Avery spends her days struggling to survive.

Like her mother’s, Avery’s powers refuse to be contained. When she causes a bizarre explosion at the factory, she has no choice but to run from her lies, straight into the darkest corners of the city. Avery must embrace her abilities and learn to wield their power—or join her mother in the cavernous horrors of the Tombs. And the Tombs has secrets of its own: strange experiments are being performed on “patients”…and no one knows why.

THE TOMBS captured my attention with the alluring promise of a forbidding city and a young woman struggling with unexplainable powers. I was enthusiastic to read a historical fiction novel and found the stylized cover intriguing.
Unfortunately, I had many problems with THE TOMBS and almost stopped reading at multiple points. My biggest issue is that THE TOMBS often introduces problematic elements but never examines them. For example, one of Avery's love interests is a former slave that her father rescued. They grew up together, but his character is one dimensional and exists solely to prop up and assist Avery (who is white) with his magical powers. It's also a questionable choice, in a fantasy novel, to utilize a slur for the sake of "historical accuracy."
While initially interested in Avery's powers, the book progresses slowly and the main thrust of it does not begin until after the halfway point. I kept reading, hoping that the book could redeem itself in some way but was ultimately disappointed. THE TOMBS leans heavily on problematic tropes.
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If you're looking for a historical fiction novel with fantasy elements, check out My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand.

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