1833. After young Lord James Ellerby witnesses a near-fatal carriage accident on the outskirts of his estate, he doesn’t think twice about bringing the young woman injured in the wreck to his family’s manor to recuperate. But then she finally regains consciousness only to find that she has no memory of who she is or where she belongs.
Beth, as she takes to calling herself, is an enigma even to herself. She has the rough hands of a servant, but the bearing and apparent education of a lady. Her only clue to her identity is a gruesome recurring nightmare about a hummingbird dripping blood from its steel beak.
With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind her identity and the sinister circumstances that brought her to their door. But the dangerous secrets they discover in doing so could have deadly ramifications reaching the highest tiers of London society.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED APRIL 16, 2019
TW: graphic injury, gore, loss of a loved one, death, violence
So often, the worst part of writing a lower-rated review is that I wanted to be excited, and then the book fell short. Without beating too much around the bush, that’s exactly what I felt happened with The Hummingbird Dagger. You would think the promise of danger, mysterious weapons, and unsettling amnesia would be exciting, you really would, but the most apt word I can find for this book is flat.
I had a sinking feeling it would turn out this way within the first chapter, when the prose struck me as incredibly dull and flavorless. Of course, because it was the first chapter, I was willing to give it a chance, because hey! Sometimes first chapters suck, and the rest picks up the slack. I don’t mind waiting a bit to see if it improves.
The trouble was that it didn’t improve, and the only reason I didn’t DNF was because I wanted to know the answer to the whodunnit, plus the why, even though those were flimsy threads to hold onto, ones I already had a strong suspicion about well before the halfway mark of the book.
If the characters had been more lively, I could have forgiven the crawl of the pacing, but it was exhausting trying to care about them. Not a single one really showed much life to me, and instead, I felt more like I was watching an elaborate little mystery put on by a bunch of stiff-backed dolls. The character depth that might have saved the book was just far too shallow, and without very much agency and action until the last tenth or so of the novel. Topped off with a romance that had absolutely zero chemistry, and I couldn’t stand it (Beth and Caroline made a far more interesting pair than Beth and what’s his face the young lord, whose name I find it hard to be bothered to remember, and even then, interesting is stretching it).
At least I liked the setting, though, even if I did feel like it was under-utilized. Fancy estate, recently come into the hands of an inexperienced young man? A house far too big for just four people? A small little village where nothing exciting happens (unless you’re the village gossip and everything is exciting)? Artificial ruins built by rich people for funsies? Aesthetically, the setting was super pleasing, and I definitely wanted more of that. It had possibilities!
But ultimately, it came down to the plot and characters to carry the story, and they didn’t. Everything was so flat and slow, and the ultimate answers didn’t feel particularly twisty enough save for a single element. I should be on the edge of my seat in a mystery, trying to figure out who’s responsible, why they did it, how, who’s going to survive, and all these other things. This time, though, I mostly asked myself when it was going to be over.
Admittedly, I can’t recommend The Hummingbird Dagger very strongly. It disappointed me far too much to do that in good conscience. Still, though, if you want to give it a try anyways, it comes out April 16th, leaving you just a little more time to submit a pre-order, if that’s what you decide you want to do. And there is a possibility the finished copy will be improved from the ARC I was provided, so bear that in mind. It’s up to you.
Writing negative reviews is such a downer, isn’t it? Have you read The Hummingbird Dagger, and if you did, how did you feel about it? And whether you have or haven’t, what’s the best mystery you’ve ever read? Let’s get some more positively mystery content going, shall we?