As a rule, these days I avoid books with teenage protagonists like the plague. (Harry Potter is a big exception here.) Why? Because for some strange rAs a rule, these days I avoid books with teenage protagonists like the plague. (Harry Potter is a big exception here.) Why? Because for some strange reason, most recent teenage characters (and not a few adult ones, sadly) are so stereotypically *teenage* that they are horrifying, over-the-top parodies of a teenager. (I'm looking at you, Bella Swan.)
I didn't know, when I impulse-bought the self-published Wearing the Cape ebook (this was right after I got my shiny new Kindle) that the protagonist was eighteen years old. Fortunately, this turned out for once to not be a Bad Thing at all. Hope Carrigan is eighteen--legally an adult, but in the eyes of everyone else (including herself), still little more than a child. She's the daughter of extremely well-to-do parents (so well-to-do that she actually had a society debut at the age of 16), and has four elder brothers. Sounds like the lineup for half a dozen or so teen soap operas on tv, right?
Setting aside the superhero elements (I'll get to those in a minute), Hope is the kind of teenager I like. I've met teenagers like her (though, mind you, without the high-society elements): an intelligent, moral, thoughtful human being who, yes, has her occasional bouts of self-pity or whining (very little, thank Heaven), but who actually tries to live up to the things her parents taught her. And who, miracle of miracles, not only HAS parents--an incredible rarity in the world of teenaged heros--but also has a good relationship with them. Her major fight with her parents in the book is the result of conflict between their desire to keep their daughter safe and her determination to live up to the principles and morals they taught her.
Is there angst? Well, of course there is. It wouldn't be a very interesting book without it. But does the angst drive the plot, Twilight-style? Heavens, no. In fact, most of the angst has to do with a very young woman coming face-to-face with very real horrors. The real joy I found in Hope's characterization (and, incidentally the joy the romantic lead also found in her) was the fact that she waited until the bad guys were locked up, the innocent were safe (or at awaiting burial), and there was no longer an immediate threat before she broke down. She's a tough cookie, because unlike far too many of her literary counterparts she relies on her brain and her upbringing rather than merely on gut emotion, and in doing so she becomes strong. Funnily enough, Hope's superpowers--awakened when a villain with the delightful moniker of The Teatime Anarchist drops an overpass on top of her car--really play second-fiddle to her overall characterization. They're not uncool powers, but they're bog-standard in terms of 'superpower' tropes: super-strength, enhanced senses, invulnerability, and (just so she has one thing to really truly enjoy) the ability to fly. Granted, they've put her in the top notches of Super-strength-type people in the world (leading to one poor, persistent supersoldier to try repeatedly to recruit her into the Army), but compared to some of the others only mildly intriguing. Other superheroes have far more entertaining powers, however, such as her teammates The Harlequin--who is more or less made out of living rubber--and Chakra--who apparently draws her psychic abilities from tantric sex. (Which the eighteen year old Hope is really, *really* uninterested in hearing details about.) She even meets (much to my personal delight) a Mormon superhero.
The true interest lies in Hope's introduction to the world of 'capes.' The author has plenty of nods to genre tropes, but also plays with them, twists them, and turns them on their head. For instance, most of the professional superheroes are not ashamed to use their supercelebrity status to make money--though that money mostly goes to pay for their bases, medical care, and replacement costumes--and there are more than a few who enjoy the groupies and superfans who trail after them. But most are also aware (and Hope--renamed 'Astra'--has this pointed out to her) that they're really there as really flashy emergency response units, and are not equipped to deal with 'normals' when it comes to law enforcement. I particularly enjoyed a scene where Atlas, Hope/Astra's trainer and the first 'official' cape, explains to her why they wear the ridiculous costumes: because in the first scary days after 'the Event' (when superpowers manifested amidst a worldwide crisis), people were, understandably, terrified of these new-made superhumans who could do all sorts of impossible things. Atlas put on a mask and a cape and a costume not because he was trying to protect his identity--everyone knew who he was--but because when people saw a flying, superstrong man wearing a cape and a mask they immediately thought 'superhero,' and it meant that Atlas and others like him could help their fellow human beings without frightening them too much: comic books and pop-culture had already eased the way for them.
Overall, Wearing the Cape is a fast and entertaining romp with a wonderful balance of character development, world-building, and some very excellently done action-scenes. It's laugh-out-loud funny in some parts, but it will also break your heart in others. I plan to go buy the next two installments of the series as soon as I'm done writing this review, and I look forward to more from this author!
This was quite a bit better than I expected. Zombie Apocalypse is always fun, in and of itself, but this one had the added bonus of being well writtenThis was quite a bit better than I expected. Zombie Apocalypse is always fun, in and of itself, but this one had the added bonus of being well written, and with the right balance of humor and tragedy that made films like Shaun of the Dead work so well. The language was rather saltier than I generally like, but she eased off somewhat later in the book...and really, 85-90% of the time I really couldn't blame Sarah and David for their reactions--I could just wish for a more imaginative selection of word choices. :) I enjoyed it enough that I think I'll be picking up the sequel; this zombie-slaying couple is highly entertaining!...more
**spoiler alert** They aren't kidding about the title. In this one, everything changes, and it changes in a big, BIG way. It's also very likely the da**spoiler alert** They aren't kidding about the title. In this one, everything changes, and it changes in a big, BIG way. It's also very likely the darkest book to date, as Harry finds himself confronted not only with the extremely unexpected news that he has an eight year old daughter, but he must also face up to the knowledge of just how far he will go to save her from the clutches of the Red Court. And that's just scratching the surface of the many, many curveballs thrown in this book!
As I understand it, Jim Butcher intends to write a dozen or so more books in the Dresden series, which makes this one, appropriately, something of a mid-arc climax. Several plotlines that have been dangling from early on in the series (including the very first novel, Storm Front)are resolved, addressed, or otherwise wrapped up. Some major secrets of Harry's past are made known to him (and resulted in some serious 'squeeing' by this reader). And, just to top off the evilness, Mr. Butcher ends the book on a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. (Fortunately, an anthology about Harry is slated to be released this summer, and one of the stories will take place in the forty-five minutes immediately following the end of Changes. Which is very good indeed, as I was ready to go hunt down Jim Butcher and whack him with a baseball bat for being so cruel!!)
Despite the generally dark tone of the book, I also think I laughed out loud more than in any of the books preceding. It seems that Harry's trademark sense of humor (and, by extension, the humor of his friends and companions) really shines in a gallows-setting. One of the best bits, I think, was the pause--on the verge of diving, as it were, into the meat-grinder--for Thomas, Sanya, and Murphy to debate just which characters in the Fellowship of the Ring they represented. (Murphy, upon being suggested as Gimli: "If you say 'short,' Thomas, we throw down. Now.") Sanya, of course, is always epically cool--and not just because he's wicked funny. As he points out to Harry, joining the 'who-am-I-in-Tolkien' discussing after the fact, Harry is Sam--not because he's a simple duffer, but because he's the true hero of the piece, the one who enters darkness with open eyes for the sake of a loved one, who bears a terrible burden for the sake of the Light, and whose heroism makes the defeat of evil possible. This really describes Harry Dresden to a T--but so too does Harry's private reflection that he is also, in many ways, much like another character in the Trilogy: Gollum, who made bad choices with good intentions, who tried to overcome evil in himself and failed, and who, though ultimately twisted and broken, also ensured that evil was defeated--but at at a terrible cost. By the point in the book at which Harry is musing on this, it's pretty clear which character he privately believes himself to be--and the reader cannot entirely disagree.
I strongly recommend this book as a continuing example of Mr. Butcher's ability to make Harry a developing, fascinating, and sympathetic character even twelve books into the series, and to deliver (against all probability) increasingly epic climaxes to his novels despite having topped himself in each preceding book. This one's a doozy, folks--and the image of Harry in full-plate armor and robes is just too cool to miss. (Not to mention the joking nod to the cover-art, wherein Harry wears a hat, while novel-Harry refuses to do any such thing.) And the changes are not just limited to Harry himself. Karrin Murphy, Thomas, Susan Rodriguez, Ebeneazar McCoy, and even Molly must all face major changes in their lives. The only comfort for me, here, is the knowledge that Jim Butcher *isn't* ending it all here......more
This definitely makes the cut as one of my all time favorites. Though there are quite a few out there in the 'Ancient Roman P.I. mystery' genre, the FThis definitely makes the cut as one of my all time favorites. Though there are quite a few out there in the 'Ancient Roman P.I. mystery' genre, the Falco books are particularly charming, with their well-researched history couched in very modern language. The juxtaposition works--and what is more, Marcus Didius Falco is a deeply likable character. Wise-cracking P.I. (private informer, that is) he may be, but he's also very honorable and incredibly courageous. There aren't many heroes out there who willingly risk their lives and sanity by going undercover as a slave in a silver mine just to seek justice for a murdered girl. Then, of course, there's Helena Justina, Falco's match in every way, and every bit as likable, honorable, and courageous....more