AUTHOR: Emily Lloyd-Jones
PLOT SUMMARY: Dee Moreno needs money. Fast. She's about to lose her scholarship at boarding school, and she can't go home. Home means returning to her abusive father, which is the worst thing Dee can imagine. Fortunately (or, unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), demons exist in this world, and they'll make deals in exchange for body parts. The demon Dee meets offers her all the money she'll need for school and more -- in exchange for leasing her heart for two years. The demon keeps his end of the bargain, but Dee soon finds that keeping hers will be harder than expected. The demon has a very specific reason for needing heartless teenagers available to do his bidding... one that leaves no guarantee they'll survive until their contract is up.
FIRST THOUGHTS: I honestly had no idea what I was expecting when I went into this novel. It was OwlCrate's book of the month for August, and honestly, I'm really grateful that they sent it to me -- I don't know if I would've bothered with it if they hadn't. Trust me when I say this book is worth your time; it's original, exciting, and thought-provoking. The world its set in is like ours, but not at the same time; it seems familiar at first, but the further you go, the more you realize just how different it is. It's a great concept that's executed really, really well, and I hope more people discover it soon.
THOUGHTS ON PLOT: One interesting thing to note about The Hearts We Sold is that, ultimately, it's a tiny look into what we can assume is a huge story. There are loads of demons around, making deals for their own reasons, but we only get to know one demon and a handful of people who made a deal with him. We don't even get to meet everyone who's dealt with him before! In a way, though, that works to the book's advantage -- it stops the world from getting too expansive and confusing. We're peering through a window to a very small part of this world, and the part we get to see is great. The plot is very fast-moving, encompassing the most stressful few months ever, building on itself until the big finale. I was sad when I reached the last page, but the ending is satisfying and ultimately fits the story very well -- and it leaves room open for sequels, if the author decides to go that route. (Even if she doesn't, the fanfic writers can have fun with it.)
8 / 10
THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Although the main focus of the story is Dee, this book features a strong ensemble. There's James, an artist who's Dee's love interest, Gremma, Dee's rambunctious roommate, science whiz Cal, team mom Cora, explosions-happy Riley, and the Agathodaemon, the demon Dee makes her deal with. While not all these characters are as well-developed as Dee, they all help make the story feel much more real. I really loved the character of the Agathodaemon (or the Daemon, as the humans call him -- don't call him Aggy), and I wish we'd gotten to see more of what his deal was. He's a private fellow, rather strict, and doesn't seem to care much for humans, so we only get to see brief flashes of what's really going on inside. But those brief flashes are what made him a genuinely intriguing character, even when he serves as a pseudo-antagonist. He's not evil, per se, but he's no hero -- which is part of what made his dynamic with the heartless troop so fun to read.
8 / 10
THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This is one of those books that pulls you in from the first line. I was immediately hooked. From there, the narrative kept a tight hold on me until the very last page. Most of the chapters are from Dee's point of view, but there are a few that focus on the other members of the heartless troop. I was surprised by how well these worked; each chapter had its own distinct tone and voice to fit its focus character, and none of it felt confused or redundant. I also liked how the author introduced us to the rules of this world; the fact that Dee is relatively new to the whole thing means we learn as she does, so there's a nice lack of infodumping. This is a very quick, easy read; it sucks you in instantly, and it's near-impossible to stop until you get to the end.
8 / 10
THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: What a pleasant surprise! While the story isn't super-political, Dee is half-Latina, and one of the side characters is a lesbian, while another is trans. Both queer characters and open and proud of their identities, but neither are defined by them. This is a book that most authors, at least in my experience, would've made very straight and white, so I was glad to see that Lloyd-Jones didn't. Representation in stories that aren't necessarily political is every bit as important as stories that are political.
7 / 10
FINAL THOUGHTS: I deeply enjoyed The Hearts We Sold, and I'll definitely check out anything else the author puts out in the future. This book is pretty new, so it's not super-popular, but I'm glad to see it's been getting good reviews -- hopefully it'll find a proper fandom soon, because it really deserves it. I'd be interested in any sequels, or any other stories set in this world. The author has a good concept here, and it'd be a shame for it to stop with Dee's story.
FINAL GRADE: 8 / 10
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