For as long as she can remember, Grey Howard has taken potions the Chemists ration in order to help the citizens survive each day. But when her best friend, Whit, is arrested for something she did, things suddenly began to shift--both inside her and outside in the world. Her growing defiance to the Chemists leads her to the family shop--and into the curio cabinet. Here, she finds another world on the brink of disaster with moving porcelain figures and a mysterious man with wings who is drawn to her. In order to help her family, her friends, and her world, she has to find a way out of the curio cabinet and a solution to a broken treaty.
My reaction to Curio is divided. On one side, I enjoyed the story and the characters. It felt very unique from most other YA fantasy I've read. There were cool details and lots of action. Its greatest strengths lay in the characters, especially Grey, Whit, and Blaise. (Can we pause to appreciate a tall, female character? And a strong female-male friendship that doesn't immediately turn into awkward romance.) The "curio" world was oddly fascinating. And the steampunk themes were a fantastic surprise.
However, there were weaknesses to the story as well. The world building of both the outside world and the curio cabinet world were at times confusing and very rushed. Just when I was starting to understand the outside world, Grey is transported into the curio world. I couldn't tell if the outside world was a future earth or a parallel earth. There were cities like New York and Chicago used as well as Mercury City, Colorado, yet nothing connected me to a "futuristic" world. People worked in mines or went hunting; the descriptions of clothing and houses felt much older than our world today. The curio city was just as odd and confusing with a lot of specific details on how the world works crammed into the story. I needed more time to sort everything out, but the book didn't offer that leisure.
In addition, the whole "potions" and "Chemists" structure was confusing too. At times, I didn't understand what was happening with Grey or why it was significant. I didn't understand the history of the world, why the people needed potions, or what was so "bad" about Grey's family history with the Chemists. I felt the ending was rushed as well and could have done with a lead-in to book two instead of trying to cram everything into an epilogue. (That being said, is there a book two? Because the story wasn't quite resolved, but there weren't hints of book two coming soon or anything.)
Overall, the story was enchanting to follow. I found myself slipping easily into the story and relating to the characters. The story suffered from condensing a lot of world-building into a short amount of pages. I would have liked for the opportunity to flesh out the worlds and characters better, to slow down a little to let everything flourish. Curio is a good start to a better story.
If there's a book two (or even three) coming, I will definitely look forward to continuing this story. Teenagers who enjoy fantasy--and steampunk--would enjoy this story. Plus, who can forget a mysterious, tall-dark-and-handsome man with steampunk wings? (Yes, I know.)
I received this book for free through BookLook from Blink publishing to give my open and honest opinion of the story, nothing more and nothing less.