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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

What can I say? I’m late to yet another BookTok phenomenon. I can’t help it! I’ve got stuff going on. But Powerless kept showing up on my feed. It was incessant, demanding that I set time aside to read it. I wanted to wait out the hype cycle and see if the book could stand on its own pages after the chatter faded.

In biding my time, I started seeing more honest takes…but none of them buried the book’s potential in an early grave. Reviewers consistently pointed out the fun they found in reading Powerless, so I took the leap and started it.

Now, I will say I was influenced to get the audiobook. It’s a partial cast with one narrator for each of the two POVs, Kai Azer and Paedyn Gray. The sound bites of the voice actor for the male love interest, Kai Azer, were everywhere. And I can’t say I wasn’t enticed…

Book Background, Author, and Summary

Now, Powerless was not a surprising YA fantasy debut. The author, Lauren Roberts, has been beloved by TikTok readers for years. She’s been sharing book reviews for years and started divulging her own writing and publishing journey. She started writing Powerless when she was 18, and at 21, she got a deal with Simon and Schuster to publish what’s been pitched as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard meets The Hunger Games. It’s an incredible story, and the internet community has been super supportive of her work, skyrocketing Powerless onto bestseller lists and demanding the next book.

The official summary of the story is as follows:

“She is the very thing he’s spent his whole life hunting.
He is the very thing she’s spent her whole life pretending to be.

Only the extraordinary belong in the kingdom of Ilya — the exceptional, the empowered, the Elites.

The powers these Elites have possessed for decades were graciously gifted to them by the Plague, though not all were fortunate enough to both survive the sickness and reap the reward. Those born Ordinary are just that —ordinary. And when the king decreed that all Ordinaries be banished in order to preserve his Elite society, lacking an ability suddenly became a crime — making Paedyn Gray a felon by fate and a thief by necessity.

Surviving in the slums as an Ordinary is no simple task, and Paedyn knows this better than most. Having been trained by her father to be overly observant since she was a child, Paedyn poses as a Psychic in the crowded city, blending in with the Elites as best she can in order to stay alive and out of trouble. Easier said than done.

When Paedyn unsuspectingly saves one of Ilyas princes, she finds herself thrown into the Purging Trials. The brutal competition exists to showcase the Elites’ powers—the very thing Paedyn lacks. If the Trials and the opponents within them don’t kill her, the prince she’s fighting feelings for certainly will if he discovers what she is —completely Ordinary.”

Non-Spoiler Thoughts

Right off the bat, I wasn’t sure about this book. It felt like I’d read a thousand books like it (which I have, so that’s on me for having a type) and that the writing style was perhaps a bit juvenile for my taste. Not bad per se, but noticeably YA in a manner I wasn’t sure I liked.

However, the deeper I delved into the story, the more I grew to like it. It was fast-paced, character-centric, and delivered a tense romance I found myself actually rooting for. Paedyn, as a lead character, was interesting. Strong, hard-headed, and clever, she is forced to navigate challenges without a power that many other characters use as a crutch. She’s resourceful, and I usually find that leads of this nature make objectively stupid decisions that contrast their intelligence for the sake of forwarding the plot, but Paedyn doesn’t. Her choices, rational or irrational, are almost always thought through.

Kai was a great love interest. Tortured, dark, and handsome but with a secret soul of gold and eyes for one girl and one girl only, just like I like them. I loved the opportunity to be inside his head and to hear his voice in the audiobook. Gaining insight into his character helps readers understand just how much of an enemy Kai is to Paedyn; in the end, it allows us to see just how much he’s fallen for her anyway. It’s wonderful to have both POVs intertwined in this story.

In terms of the world-building…eh. It doesn’t take away from the book, don’t get me wrong, but the general idea is that this kingdom suffered a Plague that gave some people powers and left others Ordinary. The king, for some reason, declared that the powerless were diseased and slaughtered them all, causing societal rifts and setting the scene for Paedyn’s arrival. The world is underdeveloped, in my opinion, and the Trials as a series just seemed like a knock-off Hunger Games used to drive character interaction.

All that said, I honestly can’t deny that I had a great time reading this book. I was gasping, I was laughing, and I was shouting at the characters through my headphones; I was in it. Kai and Paedyn’s relationship was enticing, and despite the disconnection I felt toward the world, I could feel its realness through these character’s emotions toward it. There’s nothing revolutionary about this book, but it is an excellent execution of exactly what it marketed itself to be. I give it 4/5 stars; overall, I recommend it if you’re looking for the perfect romantasy with all your favorite tropes!

beware Spoilers!

Alright, let’s get to my chaotic, spoilery thoughts…

  • Why is Kai never wearing a shirt? The world will never know, but for ten chapters, I was convinced that was his only personality trait.
  • Paedyn’s “psychic” ability was awesome. It was a clever way to curb suspicion and rounded out her skillset nicely.
  • I didn’t really get the point of the Trials. Are people supposed to die, or are people supposed to live and just accidentally die? How do they get chosen? How much is a vote worth versus actually winning a Trial? And it didn’t even matter in the end because everything went to sh*t anyway.
  • TROPES. I ate it up. The male love interest is having a nightmare and can only be snapped out of it by the female love interest is one of my absolute favorites. Plus, the heartbroken “stay” absolutely got me. 10/10.
  • I couldn’t stop laughing at the names of the Elites’ abilities. Some were spot on, like Blazer or Brawny for fire and strength, respectively, but others took me off guard while reading. You have Bluffs, or lie detectors; Shimmers, who can manipulate light; Shells, who can turn their skin into stone; and Blinks, who can teleport (…in a blink). There didn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to the abilities — they weren’t granted in relation to personality or tendencies. This was another world-building piece that felt underdeveloped.
  • This rebellion was the most ramshackle thing ever. A band of like ten people somehow convinces Paedyn they can take down the king. I supported her in helping them, but I did not empathize with the rebellion because I knew that A. They were lying to Paedyn and B. They were not going to deliver change.
  • I loved Kitt. Poor Kitt. He was really on the road to change, but I could see him becoming the villain, especially once Kai betrays him for Paedyn and the rebellion.
  • THE PLOT TWIST. Okay, y’all, I won’t lie, that got me. I cannot believe that Kai killed Paedyn’s father, and she killed his. She’s actively murdering the man who caused mass genocide, and he reveals that Kai’s first mission was to kill Paedyn’s father, who was leading the rebellion at the time. The shock I felt was wild. In what world could Paedyn have mistaken a 14-year-old boy for the king? No idea, but the ending was excellent.
  • Kai gives Paedyn time to run, and Kitt demands that he hunt her down as soon as possible. I can’t wait for enemies to lovers all over again!
Colleen Wyrick is President of the Her Campus at TCU chapter. She enjoys writing about current pop culture events, female empowerment, and her latest book/TV interest. She loves her role and connecting with new members! Colleen is an aspiring writer/editor/publisher/professor and is a junior (*sigh*) at Texas Christian University studying English and Communication. In addition to Her Campus, she contributes to academic publications for the English Department and works for TCU’s social media team. She is very passionate about books, Marvel, chocolate, soccer, and all things comfortable. You can find her doing anything and everything because she loves new adventures!