Book Review: “Justichar Jhee and the Cursed Abbey” by Trevol Swift

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Justichar Jhee and the Cursed Abbey” by Trevol Swift! I got a copy from Voracious Readers Only in exchange for an honest review. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“On Justicar Jhee’s way from her remote home district to the Imperial capital, a wild wave damages her family’s yacht, and they are forced to halt for repairs at a secluded abbey.

With communications disrupted, the abbess invites them to stay but soon their visit takes a frightening turn when Jhee sees a masked figure acting suspiciously.

Dismissed as ghosts by the others, Jhee’s natural instinct is to investigate. She discovers that the previous abbess and several novices had died under suspicious circumstances and rumors abound of an ancient cult, risen once more and led by a figure called the Mist Abbess.

As she digs ever deeper into the mystery she discovers even more shocking revelations, with refugees from the sea going missing and smugglers, human traffickers and anarchists operating at will.

There is more to the abbey than meets the eye and soon Jhee’s life is threatened by the malevolence that stalks its confines. Trapped by circumstances and with no way for help to arrive, can she uncover the truth before she or her family become the next victims of the sinister forces that lurk just out of sight?”

Before I dive into the review, I have to be honest: This is a book I decided to mark as “Did Not Finish” (DNF for short). It’s been a very long while since I read a book that I considered as DNF’d and yet also a book I wanted to review at the same time. Because of this, I will explain why I ended up DNF-ing the book throughout each of the usual ranking areas.

For those wondering, I decided to DNF the book at 50% through the book. The reasons for this are as follows:

Writing Style: 3 out of 5 stars

This is not a usual category that I rank in book reviews, but this had to be said—there are definite spelling errors from time to time in this book, most glaringly so at the beginning of the “Landing” section of Part Two of the book, “Arrival,” where “her” is misspelt as “hir.”

In addition to this, I barely have an idea of what most of the characters look like, despite the elaborate description of the setting and location of the story. I would’ve liked actual descriptions of at least the main characters to be clearer, when reading this book. Because I could barely imagine the main characters, I saw them all as blobs in various pieces of clothing, and that took me out of reading the book really fast.

Worldbuilding Development: 1 out of 5 stars

I think the book lacked much cultural explanation regarding marriage, the abbey, and basically everything else in this book for its worldbuilding. I had some vague, overall ideas of how it worked, but I wasn’t sure if it was explained clearly enough to me to fully understand what was going on in this world and how it all related to the overall plot. Everyone talked about all these concepts, but virtually none of them have any clear explanation at all. All I really came away from this book knowing about this world is that the Imperial capital has super-classist people like the Vizier, the Abbey is not what it seems to be, and more people are probably going to die at some point in this book. We just barely have any actual murders so far, except mentioned in dialogue, on top of a few people getting sick, but that’s it. There is no suspense to be had in the worldbuilding, which disappoints me when the main plot is supposed to be a mystery.

Plot development: 1 out of 5 stars

This is a poorly, poorly written plot, largely due to the pacing. We get the sense of a mystery with murder at the abbey, but then it takes a long while for Justichar and the other main characters to actually investigate the mystery, due to too many scenes where they have discussions of classism and deal with so many snobby-acting characters. The amount of characters in this book made the plot hard enough to navigate, but when majority of the chapters in the book are filled with dialogue over classism that isn’t even vital to the main plot, it gets incredibly grating for me as a reader.

Character development: 1 out of 5 stars

Relationship development: 1 out of 5 stars

There is literally no development of Justichar Jhee or her spouses, nor of anyone else in this book. They all seem static, unchanging, and it doesn’t help that over half the characters have obvious classist values that they’re hanging onto for seemingly no-good reason. It would be one thing if there was insight into why they think in specific classist ways and so on, but when there is no given reason, it makes the characters incredibly underdeveloped.

Also, the relationship that Justichar Jhee has with said spouses is…fairly uninteresting to read overall. I want to know more about how their arranged marriage impacts all of them and how it shapes their relationship, but we don’t see a lot of interaction between them after the first few chapters, due to them being quickly shipwrecked and then Jhee having to deal with the Abbess and everyone else in the abbey.

The worst part is that Jhee’s conversations and other interactions with the members of the abbey were incredibly uninteresting. There was barely any worldbuilding explained, nor development of any of their characters other than constantly establishing classism and the fact that they constantly disagreed or disliked each other, and almost none of it contributed to the main mystery that was happening in this book.

Overall, I’m rating this book 1 out of 5 stars!

I think there were some interesting concepts in this book, as well as character relationships that were established, but I just want more expansion on those, and more depth given to those relationships and concepts. I also think there should be a lot more attention on the main plot in this book to pull me in more as a reader, rather than overly lingering on constantly causing disagreement and disliking between characters for no reason (and especially if it doesn’t contribute to the main plot).

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