It’s always an amazing thing when you reach the end of the year and find yourself reading a book that blows all of the previously adored ones completely out of the water. I’ve found this to be a rather rare occurrence and as such cannot be more grateful for the fact that I found To Best the Boys by Mary Weber. A feminist tale about a girl in a world that favors boys, the novel follows Rhen as she navigates a world filled with social class hardships where the rich devalue, berate, and regularly impair the lives of the poor in a time where an illness is spreading through the lower classes and killing them off one by one. Young Rhen is a scientist, fighting hard to find a cure in order to save her bed ridden mother who is currently dying from the disease while simultaneously trying to find her way in a world of expectations based on her relation to a rather rich family.
And all the while a competition is just beginning, a fight through a labyrinth to earn a scholarship at the most prestigious university in the kingdom. The scholarship contest has primarily been open only to boys in the past, but as Rhen realizes no one with the finances to research and develop a cure for the disease are willing to even bother and as she does not have the materials she believes she needs, her efforts to find a cure would benefit greatly from winning the scholarship and being able to access the labs at the university. And so she takes it upon herself to enter the labyrinth contest disguised as a young man.
The big truth about this novel is that there is a lot to unpack from it. Now, while I deeply enjoyed this aspect of the book and find it was one of the reasons why I loved it so much, I can certainly see it as something that might deter some readers. Weber manages to weave an amazing story with an abundance of multi-faceted pieces that all somehow miraculously work together. I honestly don’t think I could have been more impressed with any aspect of the novel than I already am.
And to top it all off, Weber even managed to catch me off guard, surprising me with a twist in the plot I didn’t for a second see coming. That alone amazes me since it doesn’t actually happen for me often anymore that I’m completely unable to predict a plot twist and so I’m always incredibly impressed when that happens.
I adored each and every single one of the characters, even the villains in their own way. The development was phenomenal and I found myself feeling exceedingly strong emotions for just about every single one. In fact, this strong emotional connection I felt lead to quite a number of ‘on the edge of my seat’ moments while reading about the adventures of the characters, particularly during the labyrinth portions.
Overall, this story was an amazing read. It’s definitely jam-packed with an exceedingly well-built world in a way that can make the synopsis feel a little bit misleading, but I honestly loved every second of it. I wouldn’t change a thing about this book and it’s basically become one of my all time favorites. Keep an eye out for this one. It’s golden.
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.