What We Devour by Lindsey Miller | Review + Case Study

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

**

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I don’t know what else to say. This book was a hot mess. I was hyped for the ace rep, I was hyped for the dark, brutal fantasy, and I was hyped for the bloodthirsty love interest. What I got was….well I suppose the ace rep was solid. The characters were flat and unimaginative, and often times it didn’t seem like even the author had a good graph on their characters. The worldbuilding was severely lacking, both in the political aspect and the general magic with the Vile and Noblewrights.

That being said, there’s not a whole lot I can say without just bashing on this book, so instead, this review will primarily be a case study this country’s logistics using some of the absolutely batshit numbers provided in this book. Please, author, I beg you. Double check your numbers before you make them arbitrarily big.

I love a good pragmatic protagonist and I thought Lorena, with her “the prince and I are using each other” was going to be that. Then halfway through the book, when she finds out the prince used his extra knowledge over a situation to use her, it’s all “I CAN’T BELIEVE HE USED ME???”. Seriously? Honestly, it felt like Miller wanted to write commentary about social inequality and how the rich systematically screw over the poor, then created a character to say those lines, regardless of whether those lines felt in character. It’s difficult to cheer for a character who’s entire motivation is moral superiority over rich people when her powers center around killing people.

The worldbuiding…. well. We know these characters exist in a country that’s completely isolated from the rest of the world (how they manage to support themselves without outside trade, no idea but it’s never mentioned). The country was once ruled by…malevolent…gods(??) called the Noble and Vile, which humanity managed to banish (but not really) and they also managed to eat some of those gods to gain their powers. Also there’s a queen who’s Evil and some councilors who are Greedy and that’s the extent of the worldbuilding. All of which sounds really cool, except absolutely none of it gets explored. With how weirdly detached the writing style was and how uninteresting the characters were, it was really hard to feel like anything had stakes.

Now for the fun part, because aside from the delightful ace rep, this book was bad. 2/5 stars.

I offer the following math problem:

An evil Door in the country of Cynlira requires human sacrifices.

If the Door is not fed its requisite number of sacrifices, it shall unleash the Evil Old Gods it seals away upon the world

The number of human sacrifices requires grows exponentially.

At the beginning of the book, the Door requires 3 sacrifices/month.

A palace scholar and Door researcher has projected that in 5 months. the Door shall require 600,000 sacrifices.

a) How many total sacrifices are required between the start of the book to the projected 5 months?

Using Excel, we can graph our two known data points, then build an exponential growth model to determine the equation, which gives us:

Thus, we’ll need a total of 6.3 million sacrifices. Month five does make up for the majority, but 300,00 sacrifices for months 1-4 is nothing to scoff at either. By the US 2010 Census, that’s slightly below the population of Tampa, FL (336,150). In a country like Cynlira, with a population of 6 million (approximately the population of Singapore), that’s a lot of fucking people.

Out of curiosity, let’s add a second question.

b) The total population of Cylinra is 6 Million. Using our model, lets look one month forward. 600,000 is a lot of people, how much could that possibly grow?

Uh……..well RIP Cynlira. Forget 600,000. For month six, the queen will need to sacrifice 12.7 Million people. Over double Cynlira’s entire population. Exponential growth is a bitch.

I calculated these numbers about a third-way through the book, after the back of my mind started tingling that 600,000 sacrifices seemed a little too damn high. Honestly, it almost made reading the book funny, reading characters who seemed totally freaked out by the fact that they only had five months to destroy the door lest they be forced to kill 600,000 people, while completely ignoring the sacrifice of a large city in month four, or the destruction of the entire country at month 6.

Now that we’ve determined this country is well and truly fucked, let’s take a closer look at the logistics of actually sacrificing 600,000 people to the Door. In the book, MC is only present for a single sacrifice and the mechanics and timing aren’t particularly well explained, so we’re going to have to set some boundaries.

First, some assumptions

  • The Door can only consume one person at a time
  • A Door consuming sacrifices is one that is too busy to unleash worse things
  • The total time taken between sacrificing one person and loading the next person up to be sacrificed is exactly 1 min (this seems short but trust me, you’ll see why)
  • A Vilewrought must be present to activate the door for each sacrifice (currently there are three)
  • Sacrifices occur round the clock, 24/7. There are no breaks. (again, harsh, but you’ll understand why)
  • We’re running Jeff Bezos, Amazon warehouse, pee-in-a-cup level work conditions for the guards, various staffers, etc moving our sacrifices to the Door, so no breaks or other disruptions to the workflow need be accounted for

c) How long would it take to sacrifice 600,000 people to the Door, given the assumptions above?

600000 people * \frac{1 min}{person} = 600,000 min \\ 600000 min * \frac{1 hour}{60 min} = 10,000 hours \\ 10,000 hours * \frac{1 day}{24 hours} = 416.67 days \\ 416.67 days * \frac{1 year}{365 days} = 1.14 years

From some Quick Maths™, sacrificing 600,000 people at a rate of 1/min, with no pauses or disruptions or breaks, will take 1.14 years. Also keep in mind, with a Vilewrought presence required at all times, either the Queen, Prince or MC will need to be there to supervise, likely in 8 hours shifts. Suddenly, I don’t suspect much functioning governance coming out from the country’s royalty, which would lead to a whole host of other issues. More importantly, despite the calculations from part a) and b) above, our characters wouldn’t be worried about next month, so much as next year. The research team has been given significantly more time at least?

Finally, let’s see what speed would be necessary to do this in one month.

d) How quickly would the sacrifices need to be sacrificed to sacrifice 600,000 people in one month?

1 month *\frac{30 days}{1 month} = 30 days \\ 30 days *\frac{24 hours}{1 day} = 720 hours \\ 720 hours * \frac{60 min}{1 hour} = 43,200 minutes \\ 43200 minutes * \frac{60 sec}{1 min} = 2,592,000 seconds \\ \frac{2592000 seconds}{600000 sacrifices} = 4.32 \frac{sec}{sacrifice}

More Quick Maths™ tells us we’ll need to be running a rate of 1 sacrifice per 4.32 seconds, which is…quite speedy. That’s one busy door. I suppose Cynlira ought to invest in some conveyor belt tech.

These numbers and this “case study” are quite goofy and purely the imagination of a bored engineer who saw some suspicious numbers in a book and got carried away. The math here isn’t hard, nor the Excel work. Basically, if there’s anything to take away from this, it would be: authors, please please please for the love of God doublecheck your numbers before they’re published.


r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:

  • Revenge Seeking Character
  • Published in 2021

Publication Date: 6 July 2021
Publisher: Sourcefire Books
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 336
Word Count: ~92,000
ISBN: 1492679259 
Buy It Here: Amazon Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

3 thoughts on “What We Devour by Lindsey Miller | Review + Case Study

  1. I don’t know anything about this book but your review is hilarious and I want to thank you for painstakingly doing all the calculations and graphs.. 👏👏👏

    Like

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