I really, really loved the very complex concept in this book - the idea of mirror cities, urban fantasy police procedurals, and an alterna3.5/5 stars.
I really, really loved the very complex concept in this book - the idea of mirror cities, urban fantasy police procedurals, and an alternate world with steampunk in it all rolled into one. However, I do feel like it needed one more good, thorough edit, because the coherency of things didn't really come together until roughly around the first half of the book. Nevertheless, this is a very ambitious story and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm definitely in for the next book in the "Split Worlds" series! If you're looking for a bold new urban fantasy series, "Between Two Thorns" is definitely something you should check out.
My biggest issue: because there are so many delicate parts to make up the whole of this book, it really needed one more editorial pass. Why? Because coherency of the book (as in, "I see where this is going") doesn't really start coming together until the end of the first half of the book, which is more than a little late, in my opinion. We get all of these teasing pieces to start solving right off the bat, with their accompanying POVs (one of the great things about this book is the alternating POVs with multiple characters, but it's also its curse in the first half). We don't really get the backstory of how Bath/Aquae Sulis/The Nether/Mundanus/Exilium are all connected until that point in the book, when really it kind of needed to be explained sooner. I wasn't sure if Aquae Sulis was in the Nether or in Exilium (I did get my answer a lot later), but a lot of things like the whole Split Worlds thing and how they work really needed to be answered sooner.
That being said, this is a really great book. It's am urban fantasy police procedural, an alternate world/parallel universe story, a steampunk story, a mystery story, and a contemporary story all in one. It does a lot of things at once, and after things start connecting together like dots, there are a lot of "oh wow" moments I had in terms of the worldbuilding and the character building (and towards the end of the book, the plot/arc construction). I love the idea of Eight Great Families with a flower-related Faerie connected as their patron, and the idea that one girl of said families wanted out of her lush, lavish (and more than somewhat backward compared to contemporary times) life. Newman does a great job with all of the world construction, and though it's complex, it doesn't get overbearing, lofty, or preachy in that way that fantasy books can get.
The sensory language was fantastic - especially when we were in the Nether or in Exilium. That's where Newman really shines the most - showing us entirely new worlds that are only connected by a thin string, and that are absolutely gorgeous to behold. Even though Exilium is described multiple times as "a beautiful prison", it was one of my favorite places within the sequence of the Split Worlds. Flowers and faeries and danger, oh my! Seriously one of my favorite renderings of the realm of Faerie so far. The ball that kicks off this first book's finale was no less breathtaking in its fashions and the tension/action that happened within it, and generally within the sensory department, things came together really well.
The characters. I LOVED Max (and his Gargoyle). LOVED him. There were a lot of bits to this book that felt very much like pulp fiction - the hard-boiled detective and his sidekick, the hot dame asking for help, and so forth. I also love that we pretty much open and close the book with his POV, leaving a bit of a cliffhanger when it comes to one of the bigger problems of the book (who destroyed the Arbiters - magical policemen/detectives - of his chapter, and why?). I seriously can't wait to find out the answer in book two. Cathy was also great, but I feel like Max stole the show in so many more ways than one. And can I have a Lord Poppy? Please? Even if he's a scary, manipulating fae? Please?
Final verdict? Extremely ambitious, but needed a bit more editing to smooth out the rough patches, I really enjoyed this one, guys, and I can't wait for book two. "Between Two Thorns" is out today in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
After finishing this book, it feels like my heart went five rounds and lost, hard, face down on the floor. After "Throne of Glass", it feels like MaasAfter finishing this book, it feels like my heart went five rounds and lost, hard, face down on the floor. After "Throne of Glass", it feels like Maas has made a huge leap from the writing in all technical aspects, which was originally setting us up in her world with her characters in book one, to making them feel so very, very real and full and there in book two. Definitely in my top ten for 2013 so far, "Crown of Midnight" is everything I could have possibly wanted in a sequel for "Throne of Glass" and more.
Hm. I was hoping for more out of this one, but I guess I'm satisfied with what I got. "The Spindlers" is a pretty solid young MG book that will delighHm. I was hoping for more out of this one, but I guess I'm satisfied with what I got. "The Spindlers" is a pretty solid young MG book that will delight anyone who loves fairy tales (and being in them) as well as heroic quests to save people. It's a simple story, but it has a rather sinister theme underneath - that of trying to fight the lethargy that has descended over parents since the Great Recession started - and that of hope. Hopefully kids will get this theme, because it's pretty awesome that Oliver threw that in there, and hopefully kids reading who are having a hard time at home will find some solace in it.
For me, I think the large problem was that this book was just too straight forward in its quest for Patrick (and all that comes with that). The worldbuilding and characters were top notch, but the plot just felt too easy getting from point A to point B in order to get the real Patrick back. I wanted a little bit more in terms of challenges that Liza needed to overcome in order to get Patrick back. Had that been present I think that I just generally would have enjoyed the book more, period.
The characters: My biggest beef? The Queen of the Spindlers also felt more than a bit just too stereotypically evil. She tricked Liza (saw that one coming, as it happened repeatedly in the book), was generally kind of moustache-twirlingly evil. A bit boringly so. I loved how plucky Liza was, and her rat friend was more than a bit annoying, but came through for her in the end. Patrick was lovable in the way all little brothers are. I think my favorite characters were the Nocturni - I want a whole spin-off about them. I absolutely adored them and just wanted more on them in general. The parents were so authentic it hurt, especially in the areas about the bills, and how Mom and Dad now have worry grooves in their foreheads from how tough things have become.
The worldbuilding: Absolutely gorgeous. The troglods were hilarious, and the Nocturni - well, I've already talked about them. I loved all of the different locales of Below, but I feel like we didn't quite see them all as we quite have could. There was telling in more places than actually seeing, and that was a bit disappointing. But this happens sometimes, so I just tried to roll with it. It wasn't something that annoyed me endlessly but it still could have been better.
Final verdict? This one is going to be great for the young MG crowd, but older MG readers might want a bit more out of this book like I did. "The Spindlers" is out tomorrow in North America through Harper Children's, so definitely be sure to check it out if just for those Nocturni alone!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
My thanks to the author for lending me her copy to review. This is a very hard review to do unbiased, as Block is my mentor, but I will try nonethelesMy thanks to the author for lending me her copy to review. This is a very hard review to do unbiased, as Block is my mentor, but I will try nonetheless.
This is also generally a pretty difficult review to write, mostly because of how much the book moved me. I don’t say that often in my reviews, but I had to pause more than once when reading this because my eyes just kept filling up. While Ariel gets a happily ever after in this book and (presumably, since it’s not concretely sketched out for us at the end of the book) her cancer-stricken mother does too, unfortunately, Block’s mother did not. Gilda Block died almost two years ago, and this book is dedicated to her — and I think Gilda would be very, very proud of this book. Block wrote this from a place of grief, but all the same, that same grief moved her to a place that’s above some of her most wonderful works to date. “The Elementals” is definitely one of her most mature and tender books to date. It’s not a happy book, but is one that will ultimately make you grow and give you hope.
My best friend died at age 12 – three months away from her 13th birthday. Block, through Ariel and her search for her BFF Jeni, talks about how the vanishing or murder of someone so young stays with you. And it does. Never knowing what could have been stays with you, and while Ariel and Jeni are older than my friend who died (also from cancer) so young, the idea of youth vanishing at such an innocent age is a haunting one - I know it definitely haunted me because I identified with Ariel so strongly in that department. This book is structured as a murder mystery, but Block does it through her traditional style of magical realism. Are the new friends Ariel finds really magical? Or is she really losing her mind from the grief of losing her best friend and trying to battle it out along side her sick mother? It’s a question that gets asked repeatedly, reminding the reader that Ariel may or may not be a reliable narrator (spoiler alert: the question is never firmly answered, but it is implied that she is a reliable narrator in the end), and that reality is all about perception. Because Ariel is perceiving things in a magical way, they are magical when happening to her.
Ariel is one of the most sympathetic main characters, either in adult or in YA (and this is a book for adults), that I’ve ever ‘met’ (as much as a reader can meet a main character). She gets kicked around by life pretty hard her first year at Berkeley, and she’s trying so hard to keep functioning each day without losing her mind or her heart, or both. As I know how that feels on the grief end of losing someone so close to you, it pulled at a few very old triggers in me, so I did have to take breaks when reading it. Ariel does not hold back from the reader as she narrates us in her journey through her mother’s illness and her quest to find her best friend/who took her best friend. But Block once again manages to go through the “tough stuff” genre elegantly, knowing how to phrase things, and how to start knitting together a tale you can’t put down, even if it makes you feel things that you can’t quite immediately comprehend.
The plot is easy to follow, even with the question of magical reality versus insanity planted firmly within the audience’s mind. Block hasn’t written this murder-mystery plot before, but I couldn’t really find a place where she once stumbled or made me question the believability (even in the most fantastic parts of the book) of Ariel Silverman’s tale. Every character was filled out wonderfully, every arc and sub-arc executed with skill and grace. Her sensory language in this particular book is some of the most powerful I’ve read from her yet. I’ve never been to Berkeley or San Francisco (though I do know LA very well), and she yet made me experience both of those places through words. This is so very hard to do, and not everyone can excel in it, but I think that writing from this place of grief really ultimately helped enhance Block’s skills everywhere, and especially in the sensory language and imagery department.
Final verdict? A must-read, especially if you’ve read Block’s YA works – you’ll see how much she’s grown here. And if you haven’t, what better way to introduce yourself to her style than through this book? Either way, this is a mainstream adult debut you really can’t miss this year. “The Elementals” is out through St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan October 16th, 2012 in North America – other places, please consult your local bookseller. Seriously, guys. Not for the faint of heart, but the payoff is huge in the end. This one makes my best of 2o12 list so check it out when it gets published in October!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Damn, another hit right out of the park for Meyer on this one, guys. If you liked "Cinder", you will LOVE this. And if "Red Riding Hood"4.5/5 stars.
Damn, another hit right out of the park for Meyer on this one, guys. If you liked "Cinder", you will LOVE this. And if "Red Riding Hood" is one of your favorite fairy tales (like it is mine) - you will most definitely love this. I feel like Meyer really grew with this volume - a huge leap forward even though she's already immensely talented. If you've read "Cinder", you simply must, must, must continue your journey with "Scarlet".
What I have to say impressed me the most and where Meyer grew the most: tying things together that don't seem related. While I read a very early ARC (distributed at ALA 2012) and there are a few areas where the transitions are a little wobbly (between Cinder and Scarlet/Wolf), how everything was linked really impressed me. Meyer decided to further use the relationship web school of worldbuilding in this second book, and it was the best decision she could have made. That helped tie together everything absolutely fantastically, and it was all really...wow. That's the only word I can find for it, wobbly first-pass ARC transitions aside.
It seems whatever fairy tale that Meyer touches turns to gold. The way she decided to use the idea of werewolves and tie that into the whole war between the Earth and the Moon was possibly one of my favorite parts of the entire book. While it's woven throughout the slowly, the big reveal as to what Wolf and his packbrothers are is nothing short of breathtaking. It makes sense. It makes utter and total sense in a time where magic is just bioelectricity and cyborgs are just apart of everyday life. And Wolf? He was wonderful. I liked that he was the more fragile character of the two (compared to Scarlet), and that he needed more love, more reassurance, and it reminded me more than a bit of "Beauty and the Beast". He's not always in control, and he's always trying to figure out how to handle Scarlet and how gung-ho she is about finding her grandmother. He has a lot of secrets, and yet, his character is very layered, very complex, and utterly satisfying.
And Scarlet. Oh my. I totally have a girl crush on her. Or I possibly want to be her - I haven't decided yet. A gun-wielding, red-hoodie-wearing tough French girl? Yes, please, sir, may I please have some more? If anything, I've found myself liking her more than Cinder. And I LOVE Cinder. Meyer has a way with her female characters - even if they need rescuing, they still manage to take charge of the situation and have that rescuing on their own terms. I honestly think that this is why so many people love this series - girls, especially. Both Scarlet and Cinder, traditionally very needy fairy tale characters, have gotten the power and glory they so desperately deserve. Even poor tortured Grandmother gets power in the end, and that was wonderful to see, even if her demise was quite...grisly.
In Cinder's department, I definitely have to say that there's a definite "Firefly"/"Serenity" feel to things (especially when Cinder and her new friend are off in their spaceship) - so I can't help but wonder if there's more than just one little tip of the hat to Joss Whedon in there. Seriously. I loved all of the scenes with Cinder, Iko, and the spaceship and generally wanted more.
I also loved how we got to see more of the Queen and her motives, a general expansion of her character and that of the world of the Lunar Kingdom. She's a little more complex than she first appears in "Cinder", and you can bet that I'll be reading the next bridging novella coming up that will be tiding us all over between this book and book three: "The Queen's Army". I can't wait. I'm starting to love this Lunar Queen, and I would love for her to get her own book. That'd be awesome.
And finally, Kai. Poor Kai. He's become a bit of a doormat, though I won't spoil why or how. Yet I do feel like there could have been a bit more longing on both his part and Cinder for each other, though what we got was enough to go on pining for book three.
The other technical areas? Sensory imagery and all that? So flawless I won't even address them.
Final verdict? "Scarlet" is a definite must-read for 2013, and now I'm chomping at the bit of book three and that upcoming novella. I demand more. Now. "Scarlet" will be out from Macmillan in North America on February 5, 2013, so be sure to check it out then. And be sure to stop by the blog on February 2, 2013 for a guest post by Marissa Meyer on retelling old tales! It should be a ton of fun.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
After reading "Need", I admit that I put this series to bed for a bit while I caught up on all of the other paranormal/faerie related seri3.5/5 stars!
After reading "Need", I admit that I put this series to bed for a bit while I caught up on all of the other paranormal/faerie related series. It was good, it didn't blow me out of the water, and the ending is much the same. The author did grow in the course between books one and four, which is always a good thing, but this is a good series to get started with in the genre. I was a bit disappointed in that the author hadn't grown as much as I'd hoped. Regardless, "Endure" is a good, solid ending to a good series, so if you've been reading the series, you definitely have to read this final installment in it.
I think the thing that bothered me the most about the ending of this series is that the love triangle that emerged in book one STILL HADN'T BEEN RESOLVED here by book four. In fact, it continued throughout the book. It seemed to have been resolved by the start of the book, but unfortunately, it wasn't the case. Good job on Jones' part for making it appear like everything had been settled but wasn't. However, I was hoping very much for a resolved romance bit by this book, and I didn't really get it until the last fourth of the book. That was pretty disappointing.
However, the idea of putting faeries in Valhalla/Hel is a VERY interesting concept, and on expanding that concept alone, I have to commend Jones. I don't think anyone's mixed the realm of faeries with Norse mythology, and it's a brave thing to do. Though I really wanted to feel everything more through the sensory realm - while Jones has definitely improved since book one, I still wasn't quite where I wanted to be in terms of sensory language/imagery, and I wasn't really experiencing these legendary mythical realms like I could have been.
Overall, it was a good ending. It wasn't mindblowing. It's solid and stable and just a good place to end. There were some pretty awesome curveballs thrown in, and the references to some of my favorite series/media gets brownie points. We get a lot of conflict and action in this volume, perhaps the most we get for the entire series. If you were feeling a little stuck/slow in previous volumes in terms of conflict-driven plot/sub-plots, Jones definitely makes it up to you here.
Final verdict? If you're a fan of the books/have been reading the books, give it a read. It's worth it. I was underwhelmed, but I think those who really adore this series will think differently. "Endure" is now out through Bloomsbury Teen USA in North America, so be sure to check it out and come to your own conclusion.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more