I was sort of taken aback in the first few chapters because sex is at the forefront of the whole story. It's not explicit but it's also not what I was expecting in a YA book. Especially, just one of the characters and their really kind of horrible attitude toward the whole thing. Lily even says it's nauseating so it's kind of supposed to be awful, but that doesn't make it better that it's kind of awful the way he uses women and is used by them and takes advantage of younger girls. I found it pretty unsettling. Then the rest of the novel is fairly sex heavy, throughout - mostly because once you get into the magic, it's all a metaphor for sex.
Which, actually could be interesting, if I had been expecting it. Because I'm an adult and the ideas of the reversals of power and the vulnerabilities and responsibilities interesting concepts. I think exploring the the vulnerabilities and power of sex from other side isn't a bad thing. But again, you really have to know that's going to be the running theme through the story. Because this book, interesting ideas or not, is pretty overtly sexual. In a way that I kept thinking, "This is *not* young adult." Though, as much as the story feels like just a thin facade with a whole lot sex, it's not explicit at all.
The other part of this book is that it's not especially well written. The characters are decent enough. Oh, except Lily. Sometimes she wasn't bad as a character. Sometimes she was so simplistic and naive. It's annoying when characters make broad decisions and cling incessantly to them with the mindset of a 8 year old. Like the whole not eating meat thing. Alaric says it's natural and SHE AGREES but then said it used to be and now the whole overcrowded inhumane treatment thing. Fine. That's all true in our world. BUT YOUR NOT IN OUR WORLD ANYMORE AND YOU KNOW IT. You're in the world where you agreed that hunting and eating animals is a natural part of life. So, you're entire objection and your incessant clinging to it makes zero sense anymore. If she'd acknowledged that and changed her argument to, "well I haven't eaten meat in years so my body probably can't handle it" - totally fair. But she's just so simpleminded about the whole thing, about several things, it bothered me.
Though I didn't love the characters the secondary and tertiary characters were interesting and Lily wasn't annoying the whole time. There's some things I'm looking forward to see play out in the next book. But the writing is... it's not simplistic like [b:Divergent|13335037|Divergent (Divergent, #1)|Veronica Roth|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1588455221l/13335037._SY75_.jpg|13155899] it's just very basic. It's like messy, first draft sort of writing where the author was just trying to get the thoughts and the idea down but no one went back and polished it. And there's a degree to which that's how Angelini writes. Because there's also an awful lot of telling. So, the writing overall feels blunt in some places.
But beyond the words, the ideas are really interesting. I really like the idea of these women as crucibles - the concept of transforming matter and energy inside their bodies. I've always liked the idea of crucibles in general so this was a fascinating spin on that. I also liked how they used heat to do it and the whole firewalking thing was cool. And the turn in the Salem witch trials - the witches drawing power from what was supposed to be their destruction and the world that came out of that. I also really liked the science of the magic - the way so much biology and physics is incorporated into the whole thing. It was different and fun.
So, I'm kind of torn - I like the ideas quite a bit and the characters well enough but not so much the writing and I'm hesitant about some of the content. It's not an easy book to like.