Patchwork is said to be like several popular young adult novels, which is something that often bothers me. I feel that it can set up the book to be a failure if it doesn’t meet my expectations–made higher by people touting it as the next Game of Thrones or Gone Girl. It may perhaps be lucky that I haven’t read any of the books that this one is said to be similar to, because for once I don’t have that complaint. In Patchwork, Karsten Knight takes the myth of the Phoenix and puts it in a modern setting, blending past and present in a time-traveling book that sends Renata Lake into her memories for a chance to change a moment. Her power comes to the surface after an attack at prom kills all of her friends and classmates. Suddenly she has a new power that she doesn’t understand. What she doesn’t have is time–Renata must try to figure out how to use her powers to discover who is after her and her friends before it’s too late.
I really enjoyed the world of Patchwork. Knight created a world based on Renata’s memories of the past, knitting together her reality and the mythos of Patchwork. I hesitate to say more because I don’t want to have heavy spoilers in my review. Patchwork functioned as a way for Renata to time-travel, allowing her to walk through memories to find a point in her past that she could try to change, but she can never go back to the original point where her powers manifested: the attack at prom. She can continue going backward to try to save her friends and discover the assassin, but it erases her future. She has to make new memories from whatever point she stops at. Fortunately, she remembers everything. Unfortunately, no one else does. I think that everyone wishes at some point in their life that they could go back and change something, but they maybe don’t consider what would happen if they could change a moment but then they’re stuck and have to start over from there. I thought that Knight did a great job of portraying this by using Patchwork and Renata’s reaction to it. I’ve read a few time-traveling books before, but I thought that this was a unique way to portray it.
The one very slight problem I had with Patchwork was the blending of Greek and what I see as Egyptian mythology, namely the choice of Osiris. There’s an Amaranthine Society, the Minotaurs, and Daedalus, which are decidedly Greek. I love that Greek mythology was woven throughout the story because it’s always been something I’m interested in. The inclusion of Osiris, an Egyptian god of the afterlife, really confused me. I did some research (i.e. read the Osiris myth on wikipedia), and apparently the myth of Osiris traveled to Greece with the worship of another goddess, Isis. The Osiris myth was also written about, where Greek writers viewed the Osiris myth with a Greek philosophy lens. So it does technically fit with the Greek mythology aspect of Patchwork. Even still, I would argue that Osiris is well-known as an Egyptian god with most people being unaware of the connection to Greece. Ultimately, my only quibble is that I wish Knight had chosen another name.
I really enjoyed the writing style of Knight and the voice of Renata. It was engaging and kept me interested in the story. I wanted to know what would happen, and the writing style gave an element of speed to the story. I felt that Knight had a good grasp of writing characters–even though the novel is in first person, I felt like enough time was given to the secondary characters to make them interesting characters. It helped make the book feel more complete, instead of making it a book that was only centered on the protagonist at the expense of the setting and secondary characters. The writing was entertaining, the dialogue real and sounding like it was actually coming out of a teenager’s mouth, not an adult writing a teenager.
Renata was the main character and she was the primary focus of the novel. I loved reading how she adapted to a world that she originally had no idea existed. She quickly figures out how to survive, despite what her sudden reality has thrown at her. She refused to make it easy for the killer and almost immediately began to fight back, but this stubbornness is tempered by the seemingly insurmountable odds that are stacked up against her. I liked that there was a balance between them–she wasn’t always strong. I thought that kept her grounded with a realism that isn’t often in novels where the protagonists learn they have secret powers.
The plot was fast paced and brought Renata’s present, past, and far past together in a puzzle that she had to solve to survive. While some elements were predictable enough that I had guessed about them early on in the story, it was still fun to follow along with Renata as she tried to unmask the killer and their motives. I found that just because it was predictable the novel wasn’t any less enjoyable, at least on my part. The only negative aspect about the plot was that it became a little repetitive after a few times. Renata keeps traveling back and continues to make the same mistakes at first. When she finally starts being more active in her role instead of passive, the book picks up more.
I was pleasantly surprised by Patchwork. When I picked it up I expected it to be a lackluster time-traveling story, but instead I was treated to a novel that blended mythology with the present day and questions the meaning of your experiences if you can repeat them. At what point does your life become a half-life because you know everything that is coming in the future? If you like time-traveling stories, elements of Greek mythology in the modern day, or a fast-paced read, check this one out!
I received a copy of Patchwork from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Patchwork was published on February 28th, 2017.