Book Review: To Best the Boys

Hola, mi amigas y amigos!

Quick update: I apologize for not posting for so long! With school starting and a few other events going on, I haven’t been able to get to the computer to write for a while. I am still going to try and get a post out weekly-ish during the school year, but I’m still trying to figure out how to prioritize and use my time well. Thanks for your understanding!! I do have some more theological posts, book reviews, and fun tags planned for the blog, so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

To Best the Boys
I do really love the cover. The labyrinth and the font are lovely, and Rhen stands out in her yellow dress in that little clearing.

I recently finished To Best the Boys by Mary Weber after having it recommended by one of my favorite authors.

I know that a few of you are interested in this book, so I thought I’d review it for you all. πŸ™‚

Summary:

Rhen Tellur is a seventeen-year-old aspiring scientist, living in the tiny seaside town of Pinsbury Port in the tiny kingdom of Caldon. In her world, only men are allowed to receive an education and rise to positions of prestige. Every year, a mysterious old man holds a contest in his labyrinth. Whoever wins will receive a scholarship to Stemwick Men’s University. Rhen only opens the letter (which everyone receives) to see what the paper and ink are composed of. However, when Rhen’s mum falls sick to a mysterious plague, Rhen and her father race against time to cure her. Along with her cousin, Seleni, Rhen disguises herself as a boy and enters the labyrinth so she can have a chance to win the scholarship, become a scientist, and save her mum. But not everyone survives the labyrinth…

What I Liked:

  • The writing. In nearly all the books I like, I love the writing. πŸ™‚ But in To Best the Boys, Mary Weber’s talent as an author shines. The ebb and flow of the words is very good, making the book smooth and easy to read. Mrs. Weber masterfully crafts vivid descriptions, believable dialogue, a strong plot, colorful characters, and set-ups and payoffs throughout.
  • The setting. Other than the illness plaguing the Lowers and the creepy ghouls, Pinsbury Port seemed like a charming seaside town that could easily belong somewhere in the UK. The social classes were also very interesting to read about, with the Uppers being the rich and privileged and the Lowers being the “peasants.”
  • The labyrinth. The labyrinth was really, REALLY intriguing! Once I got to that part, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I was breathless, turning the pages as fast as I could to find out what happened next.
  • The family relationships. Rhen has a great relationship with her parents and never fights with them. Her da is loving and supportive, and her mum is strong and loving even from her bed. Lute is very protective and loving of his mum and his brother, Ben, who has a mental disability. Instead of trying to push Ben away when he’s with friends, Lute isn’t embarrassed and always tries to love his brother.
  • The inclusion of disabilities. It was nice that Mrs. Weber crafted some characters with disabilities to honor her friends and family who have them. For example, Rhen is super smart (even though she has dyslexia), and Ben is based off of people with autism and Down syndrome. Lute’s example of loving his brother was so inspiring for me.
  • The colorful characters. The characters are very fleshed-out people with distinct mannerisms. Lute is so sweet and protective of those he loves; Rhen is fiercely independent and loves her family; Seleni is loyal, sweet, and courageous when the need arises, and Beryll is such a gentleman. πŸ™‚ The antagonists (who I can’t describe because it would be a spoiler… πŸ˜‰ ) are believable, and you just can’t wait for them to get their comeuppance.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Some aspects of the characters. Instead of learning to love and forgive those their enemies, the characters mostly want revenge when someone hurts them. Also, there are LOTS of uses of the British profanity “bloody” by secondary and main characters. I didn’t like that the author seemed to portray most of the characters as people who swore (even though there’s nothing that would be profanity to Americans) and sought revenge.
  • Some aspects of the romance. I do NOT think that romance is a bad thing. There are some fictional couples that I LOVE and think are so cute together. But I felt like, in this book, there wasn’t really a need for the romance. I thought that the book could have been mainly focused on family relationships and the labyrinth and still been very good. Also, Rhen mainly notices her crush’s physical characteristics (namely, his “anatomically perfect lips”). While I do not think that it’s necessarily bad to notice someone’s physical characteristics, I do think that you have to be careful in the way that you think about them. My favorite fictional romances are those that mainly show how the characters love each other by their actions and by their character.
  • The ghouls and sirens. The fantasy elements of the story were pretty light but definitely present enough to render the story a fantasy. And I LOVE a good fantasy. πŸ™‚ However, I didn’t enjoy the ghouls and sirens. They were just…creepy. Although there weren’t any graphic descriptions of what they did to people, they were still not my favorite.
  • The fact that Rhen and Seleni were the only girls in the labyrinth. I understood that they had to sneak in, but it still would have been…better if they had roped more girls into their adventure.

Content:

There are three kisses, two more passionate than the other. Some boys make rude comments about a girl’s body and treat girls like conquests. Rhen sneaks into a pub full of angry men to get the latest town news (although nothing happens to her). Rhen thinks that a man needs to lay off smoking because she thinks it’s making him crazy. There are lots of uses of the British profanity “bloody.” There is some violence in the labyrinth and mild descriptions of people who died from the plague.

Also, in what could be creepy to some readers, the opening scene describes Rhen stealing blood from dead bodies so she and her da can run tests and try to come up with a cure for her mum. Although it didn’t bother me personally, I just wanted to mention it.

Would I Recommend It?

I enjoyed To Best the Boys. It was a super intriguing read. However, there were a few factors that kept me from loving it. I would recommend this book to you only if you don’t mind romance and some slightly creepy elements (namely, ghouls). My overall thoughts on the book are that it was very pulse-pounding, intriguing, and sweet at times, different from anything I’ve ever read, and beautifully written. I would be willing to read some of Mary Weber’s other books.

I give To Best the Boys three out of five (3/5) stars and recommend it for ages 14 and up.


Have you read this book? If so, how did you like it? What did you think of the way I reviewed this book? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: To Best the Boys

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