I spent this week at someone else's house, catsitting two babies with separation anxiety, and what better way to kill time than read? Even for the size of this book and the fact that I had very little to do, The Artful took me the entire week to finish. That's not to say that it was bad, but I think it had a lot of potential that just wasn't utilized.
We start off with good characterization, good explanation, and a whole ton of juicy stuff happening in the plot. Sounds like a wonderful way to start a book, right? It is. So it's hard to explain why the beginning went so slow for me, and it took so long to get actually hooked on it. The characters are charming enough and the danger is real, but there's just a sense that no one really cares about what's going on, so it's hard for me to care, too, even when one of the main characters breaks down, which seemed very out of place.
One really great thing that I do have to say about The Artful, though, is that the world-building was done very well. It was very easy to picture the world that Wilbert Stanton was trying to create, even if you don't know anything about the real-world places that were mentioned in the book, which I don't. The picture of the world that Twist and Dodger live in was very well pained and elaborate. However, the situation that put them in that world was not. Very, very little was said about the virus that destroyed the world, maybe just one paragraph. I feel like the virus, in this sense, was more of a plot device than anything actually important.
The characters were also hard to relate to. There were three mains, and I only really became attached to Dodger. To me the narrator, Twist, was very whiny and pushover-y, so when he finally had his big chance to do something on his own I was so dissapointed to see that he didn't learn anything through his travels and the whole thing fell apart. Then he had his big ""I'm not a loser anymore"" moment, and that was really due to someone else saving his life and someone other than that not really paying attention. I was constantly waiting for Twist to be something more, and although he gets what he wants in the end (sort of) I can't help but think he never deserved it. Gia was pretty much a blank slate for me. I can see the author was trying to make her quirky and tough, but her personality really just flip-flopped, and I don't think it was meant to, although it could have been a good way to characterize her and add upon her secrets and her past if it was done right.
Lastly, the plot itself was good. It was interesting, and the places that their journey took them were well drawn out and all very diverse, which I loved. Each area they went was completely different with unique culture and scenery, which was lovely. All in all, the plot and setting were very well done, and if the author had focused more on making solid, relatable characters, The Artful could have been an excellent book. Despite this, The Artful is both a debut novel and a first-in-series, so there is definitely time for improvement, and I wonder how the books that follow will play out.