"This Mortal Coil" Book Review
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Author: Emily Suvada
Genre: Young Adult
So, I’ve read This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada twice now. Each time, reader overtook editor and I lost myself in the pages of the book. It has everything I thirst for when I pick up a novel: an other-worldly setting, a love interest, twists, and beautiful, bloody violence. That makes me sounds like a sociopath….or like the WRATH has taken me over (You’ll understand that more later). With all the twists and factoring elements, it’s hard to review this book without spoilers.
People live in a world where they have developed technology so much it has literally become a part of them. People have panels in their arms powered with apps and functions such as healing tech, heat detection, etc. But when a virus called Hydra takes over the world, that technology can only take people so far. People infected blow up—literally BLOW UP—and if you get caught in the red plume that drifts from them, you will be infected too. The only way to get immunity is to give into what is called the Wrath—an uncontrollable response to the scent of someone infected. It drives you to eat the flesh of that infected person, giving you immunity. YES, Suvada! Way to disturb the hell out of us. Love it.
So, the world turns to chaos, the human race separating: those who choose to go to the organization Cartaxus for safety and those who choose to stay free in an apolocalyptic world, some joining the organization called the Skies. A lot of info, right?
Well, Suvada does an incredible job of weaving all of this into the book, giving us what we need to know when it’s most important so it doesn’t feel like info dumping. Honestly, though, this is barely half of what you learn while reading. For that reason, I found myself having to pay close attention to every word. With how the info plays into the plot, it’s important you do. Reading a second time helped me better understand the plot. While I had to reread some sections now and then and really focus, that’s unavoidable with the complicated storyline. This isn’t a critique, just a heads up for while you are reading. Suvada helps you along by having the main character, Catarina, reiterate these important plot points when necessary.
Cat is a really fun protagonist to read from the perspective of AND in 1st person POV! With the way she communicates and how her inner prose are written, you feel knowledgeable while reading this book. In a way, it’s almost like you’re Cat’s little protege. The smart style of the prose makes you trust in the author. You believe what Suvada’s talking about.
Also, Cat has great internal prose. I love being able to hear all her thoughts and internal responses. I feel like I’m experiencing this journey alongside Cat. It also helps that Suvada has the most beautiful descriptions. She manages to build a world without dumping too many visuals, and every word is woven in gorgeously.
Cat is a genius hacker, just what Cartaxus wants. But when her father, Lachlan, and love interest, Dax, are taken by them, Lachlan tells her to never let Cartaxus get her. Better to live out in this world than in the prison they force these people into. I gotta say, though, I HATE how Dax calls Cat princess. I don’t know if Suvada wants us to see this as annoying or not, but it is very annoying. It kind of tarnishes my opinion of Dax from the beginning, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be tarnished at that point. Eventually, I open up to the character.
For years, Cat fights the virus with her friend Agnes, until Cole comes along. Swoon. He attacks Cat and Agnes. I’ll be honest, I got unreasonably excited during the first read when Cat’s clothes start burning off of her because the flesh of someone she ate starts exploding.
Oh, attractive soldier Cole is coming closer. Oh, her clothes are burning to shreds. How convenient (*insert mischievous face emoji here*). Obviously nothing happens. I had been reading too much romance…
But, given the summary of the book and the intro of this character, it’s obvious he’s a potential love interest. Him attacking Cat and Agnes kind of dampers that relationship, though…Cat wakes up later with Agnes AWAL and the soldier having taken her back to the cabin. He explains that he was sent by her late father to protect Cat and get her to decipher the clues he left behind to find the vaccine for Hydra. This whole protection factor makes Cole an even better character than he already is: protective, a great fighter, strong-willed, affectionate. His sarcastic relationship with Cat is great.
Although Cat doesn’t fully trust Cole, she agrees to work with him to unlock the vaccine with her uber great hacking skills. As they take this journey, we see a well-paced relationship development. I never thought to myself, Hm. Cat’s feelings wouldn’t change this easily. And I saw all of these feelings through internal text without it ever getting annoying. The same goes for Cat and her father. As she discovers more about him, we see how she struggles with her feelings and how her view of her father darkens. Cat’s character development, her changes and growth, is so well-paced and deep. Suvada leaves no place unexplored. I know Cat by the end as well as I know myself. I feel her frustration, confusion, grief, pain, happiness as if her emotions belong to me.
Reading this novel a second time revealed foreshadows and little hints at plot twists that I did NOT notice before! Suvada is INCREDIBLE at giving info that seems trivial but ends up being very important. The first readthrough, I only noticed some of these hints. The second time, I found so many more! It’s really interesting!
Hm, weird I italicized interesting. Not sure it needed to be…hint, hint. As great as Suvada’s prose are, she sometimes italicizes words that don’t need to be italicized. Since this is personal opinion and such a trivial one, I didn’t factor it into my final rating, but I thought I’d mention it.
My only other critique is a BIG SPOILER! For those who don’t want the spoiler version, I’ll summarize it, because it’s the main reason I gave Suvada a 4.8. For one of the twists, Cole doesn’t react in a way I find believable. He acts too okay with it all. Now, DO NOT READ WITHIN THIS ITALICIZED SECTION IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK!
At the beginning, we find out that Cole has a love interest called Jun Bei, a girl who suffered the same experimentation he went through. At the end, we discover Catarina is Jun Bei, Lachlan having erased her memory and morphing it so she believed she was Catarina and Lachlan was her dad. At one point in the book, around the middle, we see Cole begin to drift from his love with Jun Bei. He realizes how violent and ruthless she is, and he likes who Cat is better.
They begin to date, which kind of sucks at first, because the next day Cat has to go into a procedure that will kill her, and she doesn’t tell Cole. She miraculously survives and the procedure affects her blocked memory, so it comes creeping back. She reveals to Cole that she was supposed to die during the procedure. He’s furious she didn’t tell him, almost let him watch her die. But when Cole figures out Cat is Jun Bei moments later, he freaks out, hugging her and crying. Her hiding her “inevitable death” during the procedure is forgotten. Cat is confused by it all. Real hardcore identity crisis, because Jun Bei is like a completely different person to her, and that shows on the pages.
So, Cat’s response is reasonable. She’s confused. She doesn’t see herself as this Jun Bei girl. And honestly, that’s valid. The old her is nothing like the new her. And this is why Cole’s happy, unquestioning reaction bothers me. 100 pages earlier, he realizes he doesn’t like Jun Bei’s violent nature. He likes who Cat is. He likes who she makes him, and he chooses to love her. Proof:
Did he just say he wanted to stay there with me? Does he mean he wanted to stay there together?
“What…what do you mean? What about Jun Bei?”
He drops his eyes. “You saw her code, how ruthless it was. She killed fourteen people when she escaped from the lab.” (250)
When he realizes Cat’s Jun Bei, he’s completely accepting. I don’t see any confusion from him, or any doubt. I get it. After all they went through together as kids, it makes sense he’d be happy she’s alive, but wouldn’t he be confused? At least slightly troubled? He says multiple times that he has her back now or he’s not going to lose her again. He fell in love with Cat. She didn’t turn back into Jun Bei with her emotions and personality. The way he acts makes me think that if Cat and Jun Bei were actually different people and Jun Bei waltzed in, he’d throw Cat in the dust. But that’s not believable with his character up to that point. Page 410 kind of solves this issue, but not truly.
Okay, to summarize that rant. I just wanted a little more of confusion or questioning on all of this. This is a HUGE revelation. He’d feel more than just glee, I’d think.
All in all, this book is amazing. I could honestly read it a third time and be just as immersed. Once you read the book yourself, I’d love to hear your response in the comments below! Till next time, Nooksters!
Nature designed this plague as a double-edged sword: It either takes your life, or it takes your humanity. (10)
He’s unarmed, but every movement seems threatening. Every footstep is a steel spring coiling, the flash of a razor’s edge. (46)
“I’m not playing games,” I whisper. “I never intended for us to get close.”
"Of course you didn’t,” Leoben mutters. “But there’s nothing quite as dangerous as an Agatta’s best intentions (178).
If I believed in something beyond this world, maybe I could clutch at it like a rope, but I don’t, and all I see after this life is cold, infinite darkness. (229)
Cole and I are both broken, but maybe we’re broken in the same way. Fractured along the same axis, two halves of a whole, both hurt by people who left us behind and never once looked back. (300)
Something trembles inside me at the look on his face.
It’s pure vulnerability. Pure, unrestrained emotion breaking through from a man built and forged to be a weapon. (304)