Genevieve Valentine’s Persona isn’t the kind of thing I would normally read; it’s a near-future novel about diplomats as celebrities, and I find that sort of thing tedious; but I really liked Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, so I figured I’d give this one a chance.

Unfortunately, I should have stuck with my prejudices, because this was thoroughly dull. The premise and world-building is ultra-thin; there’s almost nothing to it beyond “hey, what if diplomats were celebrities?” This isn’t a particularly unique or interesting premise—it’s practically the default for cynical real-world political novels, with charismatic suits who get handed their beliefs and positions by behind-the-scenes handlers—and Valentine doesn’t flesh it out in an interesting way or explore any novel implications out of it.

Still, a banal premise can be bailed out by exciting plotting, but that doesn’t help Persona either, because its plot is dull and plodding. There’s an assassination attempt; our protagonist goes on the run; after a few relatively straightforward encounters and basically zero twists, turns, and/or shocking revelations, things get wrapped up in a very straightforward fashion. There’s no suspense, no surprise, no excitement, nothing.

Even the characters are boring cliches. Here’s the hard-boiled guy who doesn’t quite like himself but wants to be good enough to earn the love of a woman; and here’s the woman who’s had to make compromises to be successful in the world, but who secretly holds onto her inner idealism. Yawn.

Boring characters going through a boring plot in a boring setting all adds up to a disappointing book. If I didn’t know it, I would never have guessed that this was by the writer of the excellent Kingfisher Club; read that, but don’t bother with this.


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