Special thanks to Page Street Kids for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Last Sunrise in Eterna
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: 28 March 2023
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rep: Puerto Rican
Three teenagers are invited to spend seven days on the secluded island floating off the coast of Puerto Rico to learn the magic of the elves.
All they have to do is give up their dreams.
Seventeen-year-old goth Sevim Burgos hates elves. Everyone else on earth loves the elves (especially their handsome princes) and would give anything to participate in Eterna’s annual Exchange, where three teens can trade their dreams for a week of elven magic.
But Sevim knows things most people don’t. She can see through the illusions the elves use to conceal their crimes. Ever since elves killed her father, Sevim has longed for revenge. So to help support her single mother, she has been selling abandoned elf corpses on the black market.
But it turns out that the elf prince Aro has noticed Sevim bodysnatching, so he kidnaps her mother in retaliation. To get her mother back, Sevim must participate in the Exchange.
In the home of the elves, Sevim will have to surrender her dreams and put her trust in the charming prince who took the last family member she has in order to master the art of elf magic. And in working with him, she will discover how the royal elves might be more tied to her own history than she ever suspected.
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Trauma, handling corpses, death of parent (recounted), murder, mutilated corpses (elven children), dead bodies (elven children), cannibalism (brief mention)
TL;DR: I’m quite conflicted with my feelings about this book. It’s not terrible and I did enjoy the author’s writing but I found myself wanting more throughout the whole read. Ultimately, I realised that this probably wouldn’t make it on my list of recommendations for readers that want a YA fantasy, no matter how wonderfully diverse it is! I was really hoping to enjoy this more than I did but it just wasn’t the right fit for me as I found the plot and characters to be too surface-level to really engage with.
Amparo Ortiz is an author that I’ve been wanting to try for a while and I’m glad that I finally did. Although this book didn’t end up being great for me, I still enjoyed the author’s writing. It’s easy to sink into and Ortiz managed to hook me in with just the first few lines. I was surprised to find that the plot really takes off from the first chapter as the action almost immediately kicks in and we’re literally thrown head-first into the story. This was both good and bad—good because I enjoy fast-paced fantasy but bad because it never really slowed down and gave me the chance to become fully immersed in this world and to connect to the characters.
What I enjoyed the most about this story was how diverse it was. As far as I can recall, there wasn’t one white character in this fantasy, which was refreshing! What also made it unique was that it was about Puerto Rican elves and I loved that we get to see a classic fantasy race have brown skin. The author is Puerto Rican and she infuses the story with the culture, language and history of her island home very well. Coming from the other side of the world, Puerto Rico’s history is something that I didn’t know much about, so it was interesting to see how she blends (what I assume to be) actual history into this fantasy world grounded in reality. Beyond the Puerto Rican representation, we also have diversity represented through a few of the main side characters such as Jason, an Exchange winner who’s a black trans boy, Raff, a deaf elf, and Ryujin, an Exchange winner who’s Southeast Asian.
The premise of the Exchange was interesting and I liked the concept of human dreams fuelling the magic of the elves as it’s something that I don’t think I’ve read in fantasy before. It’s clear from the beginning that there are going to be darker aspects to the story as our main character steals elven corpses to sell them for money; however, the tone does take a much darker turn the further we get and it was kind of unexpected. There are definitely some readers who won’t feel comfortable with the content so I would advise checking out the content/trigger warnings in advance. I didn’t particularly mind the grittier and more sinister vibes the story took, but I also feel as if it escalated very quickly, which is frankly also what I felt with much of the story, too. The rushed execution of the premise and the lack of clear world-building really left me wanting. The existence of the elves, the magic system and the use of ensueño or illusions, among the other more fantastical elements of the story were never properly explained—and again, I’m going back to how everything just felt rushed, skimmed over and underdeveloped. There was simultaneously a lot of repetition and inconsistency which, unfortunately, I also found applied to the characters too.
This brings me to my biggest issue with the book which is that I didn’t care about any of the characters. There’s a lot that happens to them in a short amount of time but through it all, I didn’t connect to any of them and I particularly didn’t care for Zevim. She’s admittedly an unapologetically strong-willed and determined protagonist who will do anything to save her mother, but she was also incredibly mean and unsympathetic which made it hard to feel empathy for her. There was a lot of back and forth without any clear indication as to why our main character, Zevim, felt and thought the way she did because the intensity of her reactions/actions seemed to spawn out of nowhere. This made me feel a big disconnect with her, which was difficult considering hers is the only perspective we get.
There was also not much in the way of character development for anyone in this story and all the connections that the author introduces just felt clumsy and messy because it always felt like chunks of context were missing for each interaction; quite simply, the dots didn’t connect for me! There is also a romance that seems to spring out of nowhere and was very instalove. I wished that Prince Aro at least had a better-developed arc but unfortunately, we see very little of him save for sporadic moments of squabbling with Zevim. I will say that there was one very interesting twist in the plot that I (obviously) didn’t expect or see coming at all and I found it really fun and surprising in a good way! Sadly, it came just a little too late to change my feelings towards the book because everything continued to be poorly explained away.
Ultimately, while there were a few things to enjoy about this book, it didn’t end up delivering on the great premise. I couldn’t connect to the characters and the minimal/glossed-over world-building didn’t help either. I’m glad that I finally read a book by Ortiz but I’m sad that I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would!
Have you read Last Sunrise in Eterna or is it on your TBR?
6 thoughts on “ARC Review: Last Sunrise in Eterna by Amparo Ortiz”
Great review!! As I was reading the blurb for this, it went from sounding like lighthearted romance fantasy to super dark gritty fantasy. I kind of got whiplash from that and was honestly not sure what to expect from it, and I think your review kind of confirmed that expectation for me of ???-ness. Side note — there’s a movie coming out soon called Polite Society that appears to have entirely cast Indian actors and I am SO hyped for it! It looks hella funny but also like you said, it’s just so nice sometimes to not see only white people. And then there are people who are like “okay but does it have to be ALL brown people” and I’m like “why don’t you ever say that when it’s always all white people” and UGH I’m so happy to finally see things getting mainstream that break that mold! –rant over sorry xD —
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Sorry this one didn’t quite work for you. Great review, though!
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Great review, Dini. It is hard to love a book when you can’t connect with the characters.
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Sorry to hear you didn’t love this one, Dini. Great review though! It sounds like such an interesting premise, but when the characters lack depth, it’s hard to slug through.
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