In Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong, people’s lives are expendable as they often starve or otherwise die of lack of money, in a city that is vastly overcrowded.
With the demand to be able to move into the city, people dying is merely seen as making room for others, and nothing is ever done for these people that can’t afford to survive.
As a result of this mistreatment and severe lack of caring from the royalty of San-Er, there are many dissatisfied people/factions looking to overthrow the people in charge. We see a number of these people through different points of view, which really hits home how many people are fighting for some kind of change.
Enter the games. A chance for 88 people to make a name for themselves and earn untold riches. The only catch, they must fight to the death and only one can claim the prize and survive. Regardless, there are so many people that this is the only option for if they want to keep surviving, as the money is the only thing that will dig them out of the deep holes they have been subjected to in order to simply scrape by. For the rest, this is a source of entertainment put on by the King, and a way for the King to appear as if he is doing something for the people.
I really, really enjoyed this part of the story. An event to the death with contestants hunting each other down and trying to take the other out during the normal every day of the rest of the city. Everyone else goes about their days as normal, and the contestants are within the city amongst the people, hiding and trying to take one another out and be one of the last survivors. The whole concept was very intriguing and played out very well on paper, keeping the story interesting and tense all at once. I very much enjoyed watching it play out, as well as the bonds that grew throughout amongst the POV characters especially (and others along the way) despite the fact that they were meant to be fighting it out to the death.
There were a number of point of views throughout this book, the main ones being Call, Anton, and August, with others scattered throughout meant to give insight into other areas of the plot. Each of these three have their own motivations for the wanting to bring the King down, and both Call and Anton join the games, Calla to attempt to put an end to King Kasa who she sees as a tyrant, Anton for money he desperately needs to pay off medical bills. August is the heir to the throne and is helping Calla get to the end of the games to assassinate the King, as he feels he can do better as a ruler than his adopted father.
I loved Anton. At first I was pretty neutral about most of the characters, which I’ll say is probably the biggest complaint I would have about Immortal Longings, but Anton is one that really snuck up on my until I realized just how fond of him I was. Until I noticed how attached I had grown of Anton, I would say I kind of struggled to hold any kind of connections with the characters, which threw me off the book a bit, but didn’t stop my enjoyment of the plot. Calla is more difficult. There were moments I liked her, even sympathized with her quest, but I felt in the end she kind of lost any redeem-ability she might have had, at least in my eyes. She made a choice that I didn’t like, though I can’t argue necessarily that it makes sense for her character, I just felt there was another choice involving some self-sacrifice on her part that could have worked equally as well and would have really solidified her character for me. Instead the book left me with a strong dislike for her, something that is hard to get passed when she’s arguably the main character.
All together I really did enjoy the plot of this book, and frankly I really want to see where the sequel will go especially with the way things ended and the many reveals towards the latter end of the book that could play such a huge role later on in the story. As a result I am very eagerly anticipating the sequel and very much hope to get my hands on it early.