Book Review: Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison
‘A modern retelling of the German fairytale “Tristan and Isolde”, Tris and Izzie is about a young witch named Izzie who is dating Mark King, the captain of the basketball team and thinks her life is going swimmingly well. Until — she makes a love potion for her best friend Brangane and then ends up taking it herself accidentally, and falling in love with Tristan, the new guy at school.’
Well here it is. My first really negative review. I debated quite a while about whether to actually post this or not, because I do feel bad about giving such a low rating, even though I have tried to be fair in my comments. The truth is I seriously considered giving up half way through this.
If I dislike a book that much, a review can easily turn into a rant which isn’t helpful for anyone, or particularly fair to the author, so I’m going to try to exactly explain why I disliked Tris and Izzie. I have to be honest and say the main reason is simply that I found it to be very poorly written.
The narration was child-like, disjointed and repetitive, I think at one point the word ‘magic’ was used around seven times within two short paragraphs. There are several battle scenes but there was no sense of build up or tension and the action wasn’t well written. I never felt any fear for the characters, mainly because I didn’t connect with any of them, but also because any danger they found themselves in was brief and too easily resolved.
Another issue was that the main protagonist was vapid and plain unlikable. The story is narrated from Izzie’s point of view and I honestly felt like I was reading some naive, vindictive child’s thoughts. Mel, a guy at school, annoys Izzie (she doesn’t like his jokes but other than that it doesn’t appear that he’s ever really spoken to her), so she is resolved to get her boyfriend (the most popular guy in school) to ‘exile’ him. No one will speak to him or be friends with him, without their permission. She also thinks her best friend, Branna, needs a boyfriend, and so, disregarding the fact that a love potion can never be reversed, she decides she to slip one to her friend and the new guy, effectively taking away any romantic choice from Branna for the rest of her life.
There’s nothing wrong at all with having a unlikeable lead character, if you have a quality piece of writing that can pull it off and that just isn’t the case here. Izzie’s character was less interfering by the end of the story, though I can’t say she matures in any way, rather she is more preoccupied with Tristan, and the scenes between them get sappier and more overblown as the book progresses.
Overall, there was little, to no, character development at all as far as I could see. I can’t really tell you anything about Tristan other than he has really blonde, almost white, hair, he’s supposedly a warrior (though we see very little evidence of this, nor do we learn anything about his powers), he speaks like a Victorian gentleman and is besotted with Izzie from the first moment he sees her. I didn’t get a feel for any of the characters whatsoever and so didn’t care what happened to them. None of them were realistic in any way. Some really bizarre things happen in this book but nobody bats an eyelid.
The dialogue was stilted and just plain awkward to read, particularly Tristan’s (few) lines. The plot was all over the place and was ridiculous in places (the story of how her parents met comes to mind, among other things), while making little sense in others.
Slight Spoiler: Magic I can believe in. I can even believe (just) in a giant serpent demanding annual virgin sacrifices if a book is well written, has great characters and solid world-building. Tris and Izzie, sadly, lacked any of this and I was left exasperated, annoyed and faintly amused for the most part. End Spoiler.
To be honest, I’m unimpressed — which is a real shame as I was looking forward to this one and was so excited to see it on NetGalley. But it just reads like (bad) fanfiction. Other than the names and the elements of magic, I don’t know that you could really call this a retelling of the story of Tristan and Isolde. Young readers will probably be able to look past most of these issues for a quick, easy read, (though the age of the characters and the emphasis on ‘true love’ makes me think it is intended for older teenagers), but I think anyone over 12 will probably be disappointed.
The cover, however, is absolutely gorgeous.
Recommended Reading Age: 14+
Many thanks to Egmont USA and NetGalley for making this ebook available.
*Please keep in mind that this review is based on an Advanced Review Copy from NetGalley and therefore some of the narrative and dialogue may change before publication.*