Book Review: “Infinity Son” by Adam Silvera

Emil and his brother Brighton have always dreamed of discovering that they are celestials, people born with supernatural abilities. With their 18th birthday on the horizon, time is running out for any such powers to emerge, and while Emil has made peace with being “normal,” Brighton is determined that he will never be any such thing – with or without powers. So when Emil suddenly manifests a phoenix fire ability, both brothers are thrown for a loop.

Unfortunately, working out how Emil’s abilities will affect their relationship is the least of their problems. His phoenix fire is a type of power that should be possible only for “specters,” individuals who emulate the abilities of celestials through stealing the essence of magical creatures. But Emil finds specters’ cruelty abhorrent and has no idea how he could have ended up with this ability. On top of everything else, both the Spell Walkers (an Avengers-like group of celestials) and a powerful gang of specters with more nefarious intentions are hunting for him. With any hope of a normal life vanishing before his eyes, Emil must decide where his loyalties lie.

Infinity Son is the first fantasy offering from YA author Adam Silvera, whose several popular books include More Happy Than Not and They Both Die at the End. While those novels involve fantastical elements, those elements take second stage to his exploration of the relationships they make possible. (In They Both Die at the End, for example, a service called Death-Cast alerts two teens that they each have only one day left to live. The focus of the story, however, isn’t on trying to thwart fate or uncover how Death-Cast is made possible but on the bond that develops between them during the course of the day.) In Infinity Son, Silvera offers a full-fledged epic fantasy universe, complete with intricate politics, dark secrets, and of course, magic.

I like a lot of things about this book – I would read an entire novel about Emil’s job working at the alt-universe Museum of Natural History – but I think it suffers from trying to do too many things all at once. All of the complex worldbuilding Silvera has put into the premise of the novel is hard to fit into something that is paced like a contemporary/realistic YA book. This results in a lot of information being thrown at the reader all at once, which can get confusing fast when we’re still trying to get to know who the characters are. The epic scale also requires a large cast, and I don’t feel that the book had enough space to allow me to really connect with them. There was just too much going on for a 353-page novel.

That being said, many of the things Silvera’s readers love about his books are also at work here. Relationships between characters are the heart of this story, not only between Emil and Brighton but also burgeoning romantic interests and good old-fashioned team bonding. It is those relationships that I am looking forward to seeing carried through into the sequel. I’m hoping that now that I am finally oriented in the world and its players, the sequel will feel like a much less cluttered read.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Quill Tree Books, for review.

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