I grit my teeth and got through about 60 pages before I threw in the towel. Here's where I was more or less screaming "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG" at the b...moreI grit my teeth and got through about 60 pages before I threw in the towel. Here's where I was more or less screaming "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG" at the book:
1. Setting: The period in which this is set (mid-Yayoi Era - 300BCE to 300CE) has the land that Himiko/Pimiko (if she existed) known as the kingdom of Wa (Chinese) or Yamataikoku (precursor to the Yamato nation, which was precursor to the various States that became the Warring States, which was precursor to a reunified Japan under the Shogunate several hundred years later). No mention of this is made in the book whatsoever from the get-go. Were they clannish? Yes. But they also had a royal court system, through which Himiko rose to power. Not known is much about her, but she would have also been raised within the royal complex or an aristocratic family in order to marry into the royal family. Friesner has them as a nomadish clan, not unlike Native Americans. WRONG. We know from the one large burial record (Chopstick Mound Grave in what's now Nara, Japan), that the Yamataikoku most likely existed in southern Japan - the Kinki area, where Kyushu is today, and that there was a royal court there with roots - not a roaming one.
2. Names: Friesner used names that are more acquainted with modern (modern meaning Meiji Era/1868 onward) Japanese names. Himiko, if she really existed at all, would have family members with names like Yamatohime-no-mikoto (who might have actually been related to Himiko through one of three Shaman families that rose to power within Yamataikoku during the Yayoi era), not simply "Masa" or "Aki". WRONG. Had this been a modern retelling, I could probably forgive it. But this is calling itself YA historical fiction. Nope.
3. Himiko herself: Would have been raised and reared as a proper lady, and watched constantly if she was indeed born into the royal family of Yamataikoku and did not marry into it, to ensure that she would marry and produce heirs. No tree climbing or hunting for her, and she would have been more docile, Shaman Queen or not, with the male members of her family. Her clothes would have been nicer, not the dirty tunics as mentioned by this Himiko's POV in chapter one, and she would have gotten in HUGE trouble for trashing any one of her outfits because they were simply so expensive and so labor intensive to make. However, her mother seems to disregard this entirely after she finds Himiko hurt after falling out of the Grandfather tree.
I understand wanting to use a legend to write your book, but for the love of everything holy, PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST. Or at least put a forward/afterword about how your subject might never have existed at all.
You know who did this correctly? Katherine Longshore in "Gilt" - she plainly discloses as an afterword what liberties she took as opposed to what we know happened in the actual Tudor/Howard court, as well as the possibilities of what might have happened, or where historical evidence was weak and she decided to put her own spin on that. Now that's how to do it right.
However, Friesner did not disclose any of this.
With Freisner's previous subjects in her previous books, we had more concrete proof that they existed, so she had more to work with. I've taken this into account. She took a big risk here. While I admire that, it felt like she didn't do the work needed to balance that risk out. It feels a bit like exploitation, as even today Himiko is taught in the Japanese school curriculum as has been long-revered as an idol of rule in times of strife. A 2008 study says that in elementary schools across Japan, she has been recognized by over 90% of all students, so Himiko is kind of a big deal. Everyone knows about her, even in the most basic of terms there.
However, I know that because of the fact that there's so much speculation and so little concrete first-hand evidence (most of the evidence we do have that's from the actual time period is from China, and then several hundred years later, second-hand accounts from the Japanese "Nihon Shoki", "Kojiki", and to a far lesser extent, the "Manyoshu" documents), that this is ripe for retellings and creative works within any genre, not just YA, that plays with speculative fiction and historical fiction. And usually, I'm fine with that. But it was extremely obvious that only the most basic research (Himiko, if she existed, became the Shaman Queen of Japan at the time) was put into this. It was half-assed, and it makes me angry.
So, one star. While I'm all for retellings, this one made me ill because of the lack of obvious respect to a revered cultural figure. I can understand why people enjoyed this who don't really know the history behind the figure that is Himiko - Friesner's style is very easy to read, and generally sets a good MG/young YA tone. But I urge you guys to spend your time on "Gilt" or some other better researched, better disclosed YA historical/speculative fiction book for the year, as this one just frankly doesn't deserve anyone's time.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Quirk Classics, you are one awesome publishing house. Not only did you send me the ARC copy of this book, but you also sent me a poster to go with it....moreQuirk Classics, you are one awesome publishing house. Not only did you send me the ARC copy of this book, but you also sent me a poster to go with it. And now I don’t know where to put it (see the original review at witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com to see the picture of said ARC/poster!). That said, I loved the original version (even if it did make me feel extremely anxious and paranoid after reading it), and this version makes Kafka’s classic even more palatable with the idea of Gregor Samsa turning into a kitten instead of a cockroach. And a lot less anxious afterward, too.
If anything, this made Kafka’s original easier to understand in terms of philosophy. For some reason, using cats instead of cockroaches just makes more sense to me with all of these ideas (especially in the “trial” part of the novel). I can see why Kafka originally used cockroaches (duh), but I just like the idea of a cat salesman better.
Quirk Press puts out a ton of awesome mashups each year, but all of the ones I’ve read this year so far pale in comparison to the fuzzy wuzzy politics of cat society versus human society. (Seriously though, guys, enough with the Jane Austen and Zombies series. I’m done with it, no more, please and thank you.) Coleridge was very careful with rewriting the original, and basically left most of it intact aside from changing words and people/cats involved. That’s hard to do when doing a literary mashup, and I applaud him for sticking to the original as he did.
What I also appreciated was the short but hilarious writeup about Kafka as an appendix after the book. It educates the reader if they haven’t read the original, but does it tastefully. By doing this, I hope that those who haven’t read the original do. If anything, the literary mashup genre has renewed the interest and love of modern classics within the Western canon of literature (though I’d love to see them do something with “The Three Kingdoms” or “Tale of Genji” — now THAT’s a challenge!) that, over the years with technology booming and print books decreasing/becoming more expensive, has definitely wavered. Here’s hoping that a lot more kids (and adults) read the classics after the mashups.
Quirk, you’re doing a great job. Keep it up. Now try doing more Kafka, and you’ll have my love (and money) forever.
(crossposted to librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
I admit that I haven’t read “Persuasion”, but I’ve read Peterferund’s previous work, and loved it. “For the Darkness” doesn’t disappoint. In a world s...moreI admit that I haven’t read “Persuasion”, but I’ve read Peterferund’s previous work, and loved it. “For the Darkness” doesn’t disappoint. In a world several hundred years after humanity has nearly destroyed itself, a new society has been built by the new nobility, the Luddites, the peasants, the Reduced, and the new middle class, the Posts and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It actually makes me want to read the original if just to compare. All I know is that I absolutely adored this retelling, and when I reached the last page, I wanted to turn back to the first and start all over again.
This is not an easy book to read in the emotional sense – there’s a lot of heartbreak with Elliot and Kai, budding love with the Groves and the other Innovations, and a lot of lack of family love within Elliot’s family (especially with her father and sister). The entire “threatened estate” bit felt a whole lot like something from “Downton Abbey” and I absolutely loved that. I loved Elliot as a heroine even with the lack of love and her emotional issues (and the fact that the entire North estate is now on her shoulders in terms of survival), and Peterferund just really had her character nailed. Elliot felt like a real girl, 100%. Kai was a little less filled out, but I was satisfied with his character construction as well. In fact, with all of the characters, I couldn’t really find anything to really poke at. When it comes down to it, Peterferund knows what she’s doing, and you can tell this one was definitely a labor of love on her part.
Her use of sensory language and imagery was perhaps the most powerful I’ve read from her so far – I loved her “Rampant” series, and that was pretty rich in terms of sensory language, but “For the Darkness” tops it. The Star Cavern, the Cliffs, the terror of the Birthing House…all of it was as if I was really there, next to the characters as the story played out. I could smell the dust of the new racing track, feel the chaffs of wheat, dance with everyone at the Fall Harvest Party. It’s definitely one of the most intense reading experiences of the year in this aspect – in my top ten for sure. Going hand in hand with the sensory language is the worldbuilding – we get a hint of the world before humanity became Reduced, but Peterferund really rebuilds the world into something new and bucolic and even with Elliot’s small rebellions, very bucolic and utterly charming. It felt like a real, full world – and I think that’s more than partially due to how it was written – interchanging POV narration with that of the letters between Kai and Elliot and journal entries from the past. It’s one of the more different approaches to worldbuilding that I’ve seen for this year, and I hope authors take note from her technique.
The rest of the technical details are outstanding – the arcs and sub-arcs were executed beautifully and generally, there’s nothing I can find to really poke or pick at except for the fact that I wish there was a little (but not too much) more of the previous world lurking about in terms of the setting (like ruins or something), but that’s kind of a minor detail in terms of setting. Overall, I was very, very satisfied and pleasantly surprised at how this knocked me off my feet. I read this in one sitting with only a few breaks, and I know I’ll be reading it again. I’m a bit sad this one is a standalone because I got so attached to the world and the characters, but at the same time, I’m glad it’s a standalone because now I can have the mental freedom to wonder what’s going to happen to our heroes next. Final verdict? A definite must-read, as this one’s in my top ten for best of 2012 so far list. “For the Darkness Shows the Stars”is out from Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen on June 12, 2012. You simply cannot miss this one, guys. Highly, highly recommended!
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)