The lass leads a lonely life. She lives in a remote little Norwegian village that is blanketed by a strange, never-ending winter. Her mother refused t...moreThe lass leads a lonely life. She lives in a remote little Norwegian village that is blanketed by a strange, never-ending winter. Her mother refused to name her, and she is largely disregarded by all but her father and her beloved eldest brother, Hans Peter, who seems to the lass to be hiding a deep pain. But when the lass is blessed with the strange ability to be able to speak to animals, her life begins to change. People of all kinds seek her out for help -- and then, so does an isbjorn, a massive polar bear with a trouble and a loneliness of his own. When the isbjorn promises the lass that her family will be wealthy if she will agree to live with him in a remote castle for a year, the lass agrees and finds herself in a strange palace of green ice, waited on by even stranger servants. But the plush surroundings mask a dark secret, and soon the lass must decide to risk everything she has ever wanted for something she never knew she could have, and embark on a fantastic and daunting journey that has the potential to change the world in which she lives in this well-wrought retelling of the tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon".
It's hard to write about something when it's either very bad or very good, so this will be a (fairly) short review:
There is very little I didn't love about this story.
Something to understand about me: I am a tabber. I have a crazy amount of those little post-it flags in just about every color, and as I'm reading I tab things I like or want to be able to find again. There are no tabs in this book -- I flew through it too fast, and was too absorbed to reach for the tabs.
Jessica Day George followed her passion and chose to study Norway, and that passion shows. She crafts a story that is layered and has depth beyond what is generally seen in a fairy tale or retelling. The traditional elements are there: the downtrodden heroine who, it turns out, has some pluck; the rags to riches; the fantastic element; the danger and tension; the family dynamics, good and bad, and the sort of "karmic" balance -- everything works together to create one of the strongest retellings I've ever read. George's love of Norway and fairy tales help her create a rich and believable base for a story that shines and flows beautifully. Things are well developed and rich. It is very visual and alive, and thoroughly enjoyable. The romance-aspect was enjoyable and not at all creepy, which I was initially worried about.
The only drawback for me was that, compared to the rest of the story, the end felt a little rushed and underdeveloped. It wasn't a complete bust by any means, but after so much layering and depth, I would have liked to see that followed through to the conclusion; an opportunity to pack in a bit more oomph was missed, but this should not at all keep you from picking up a copy. Now.
The "Beauty and the Beast"-esque story that is "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" has captured many writer's pens lately, but I have trouble believing that any of the other retellings will top George's.
I really didn't mean to write a rave, but sometimes, that's what happens.
Leviathan is an alternate history, steampunk inspired tale of WWI. It centers around Alek, the fictional 15 year old son of Franz Ferdinand, whose mur...moreLeviathan is an alternate history, steampunk inspired tale of WWI. It centers around Alek, the fictional 15 year old son of Franz Ferdinand, whose murder was the spark that ignited the war. Alek is awoken in the night to find his world has been turned upside down, and he is now hunted by his own country. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp, a 15 year old English girl who wants to be an airbeast pilot, disguises herself as Dylan Sharp and joins the force, making it onto the famous living ship, Leviathan, quite by accident, just as England is being sucked into the war. Told from these two interwoven standpoints, Leviathan is full of contrast. Deryn and Alek couldn’t come from more different backgrounds or be more different people, and they are played off of each other nicely. What was great (and a brilliant choice on Westerfeld’s part) was that there is a sense of urgency and danger in both storylines, so one never felt more crucial than the other. Alek is on the run for his life, and is beginning to question everything he’s ever known, which could have easily tipped the balance of the story in his favor. But at the same time, Deryn is living among strangers disguised as a boy, always trying to prove herself, and always leary, lest someone find out. There was great tension of different kinds in each storyline, and it was fascinating to watch them begin to come together. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book (even more than the engaging characters of Alek and Deryn) was the “technology,” as it were. On one side are the Clankers, Westerfeld’s vision of the Germanic/Austro-Hungarian powers. Their world is one of monstrous machine juggernauts of steampunky goodness. Pitted against them are the Western powers of England, France, etc., whose world is made of fabricated beasts. In this version of history, Darwin not only discovered the idea of genetics, but of DNA, and used it to start the science of gene-splicing and created creatures. The Leviathan itself is a whale/beast/machine hybrid, a massive living dirigible. I must say, I was all for the steampunk nature of this book; it was one of the things that attracted me so strongly to it. But as I read, I found England’s fabricated beasts and the idea of this societal genetic freeforall even more fascinating than the Clanker’s machines. When the narrative shifted to Alek storylines, I found myself anxious to get back to Deryn. Not only do I love “disguised” storylines (like Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series), but Deryn’s world was captivating and rich. Even in all of the fantastic elements, there was a layer of truth. Nothing was clean-cut and simple. Even in England, there were people who found the idea of fabricated beasts immoral, frightening and repugnant. This rang true to me, and illustrated one of the things I love so much about Scott Westerfeld: even in the midst of his far-fetched, extreme worlds, there is always a solid foundation of reality and truth to ground them. Occasionally, shifting between the two worlds could be jarring, but I think that was part of the point, and added to the story. Either way, both were so fully realized and fascinating that I didn’t want the book to end (and now have to wait like a madwoman for the next installment). (less)
I reviewed this in full on my blog, but since it was a somewhat non-traditional review, I will include a snippet here. If you want the full thing, alo...moreI reviewed this in full on my blog, but since it was a somewhat non-traditional review, I will include a snippet here. If you want the full thing, along with some bonus material, head over here...
The "story" unfolds via a man's poetry journal. Intending to document the glory of life, it ends up recording the downfall of civilization as he: runs from zombies, is bitten by zombies, becomes a zombie, bites and creates more zombies, and embarks on the never-ending quest for fresh flesh and the all important zombie food source, brains.
Some of this anonymous man's poetry is only so-so (but what do you expect of a man who keeps a haiku poetry journal), and his pre-zombification haiku are as pretentious and pointless as you'd want them to be. But when said poet gets bitten, things take a turn for the worse -- while his haiku takes a visceral turn for the better, in my opinion. Dripping blood and pus and various other fluids onto the pages of his precious journal, he goes in search of the first of a slew of meals - -I mean, victims. (I'm not going to tell you who the first victim is, but ugh).
I previewed a few of the disgustingickyawesome haiku on a previous teaser tuesday, but they were just the, *ahem* tip of the juicy cortex. Though there are throwaway bits, there are some moments of gross brilliance in here. Our mysterious zombie man retains his vocabulary pretty much intact (which somehow doesn't seem ridiculous), but everything becomes a little stilted and skewed, creating a nicely eerie, Other effect. And of course, some of his phrasing, reactions and desires are just hilarious. (less)
I'd been hesitant to read this one. On the one hand, it has a beautiful cover and I'd heard a lot of omging raves about it. On the other, I have yet t...moreI'd been hesitant to read this one. On the one hand, it has a beautiful cover and I'd heard a lot of omging raves about it. On the other, I have yet to read an angel book I liked, and I never really trust the OMGers of the world... (sorry. sort of.)
When I first started it, I thought maybe this was the angel book that was going to break the mold and live up to what it promised - And then Luce met Daniel.
Nimira is a "trouser girl" singing and dancing for her living in Lorimar when she is approached by powerful sorceror Hollin Parry. Hollin wants to hir...more Nimira is a "trouser girl" singing and dancing for her living in Lorimar when she is approached by powerful sorceror Hollin Parry. Hollin wants to hire her to sing with the accompaniment of a life-sized, piano playing automaton he owns. His offer promises to change Nimira's life drastically for the better -- but there is a catch. Every other woman he has hired has run away, terrified of the automaton, which they insist is alive. Nimira takes the job, refusing to be afraid of an automaton, but when it comes alive for her, she finds herself in the center of a story of a fairy prince trapped in a wooden body, and a dangerous man who wants the prince dead -- and she must find a way to put things to rights.
When I won this book from WillowRaven of Red House Books, I was excited because I had seen it around and thought it sounded cute, but I figured it'd be a throw-away read. A cute little story about a fairy prince and the human girl who can save him, aww isn't that nice, the end. I didn't think I would find myself very invested in the story or the characters, and I didn't think I would be late coming back from my lunch break at work because I wanted to finish the chapter...
So Magic Under Glass surprised me. I actually genuinely liked it. Not unreservedly, but more than I expected to for sure. Nimira is an engaging heroine, and I absolutely loved how she communicated with the fairy prince/automaton. I also liked that things weren't completely easy for her in her feelings or her decision making, and that her foreign background wasn't dismissed, but there was some social/racial tension and some wistfulness for home. It added a layer of authenticity and depth to the story, so that even though it wasn't a main issue by any means, it helped paint the scene.
It's a very fast-paced book with a nice blend of feistiness, romance, magic and culture. The drawbacks for me were few, but they are big enough that they deserve a mention: 1. There is a blurb on the cover saying "For fans of Libba Bray and Charlotte Bronte" which amused me to no end at first. I assumed it was just because of the time-period of the book, and I was like, "Charlotte Bronte? Really? They're just going to throw that out there?" But when I got further into the book, I realized why that comparison was made. There is a strong resemblance to Jane Eyre in certain aspects of the book, which I can't go into without being completely spoilery. It didn't bother me much, and if you haven't read Jane Eyre, it won't bother you at all, but I am sure there are those of you who are going to read this and be a little pissed that it has a rip-off feel at times. 2. I felt the first 1/2 was better than the 2nd. Now, to be fair, I read a proof copy, so I don't know how mine differed from the finished version. But for me, with the ARC, the first 1/2 was gripping and fast in an enjoyable way, and really captivating. I liked the set-up of the world and getting to know Nimira, and everything flowed really well. In the second 1/2, I felt like the snowball was rolling a little too fast. I wanted better pacing, more of a chance to absorb what was going on and let everything develop. The second 1/2 wasn't bad by any means, but compared to the first, it felt like a little bit of a rush job.
Those 2 caveats aside, I really enjoyed this book. It was the light, fun read I expected, but with a little more oomph than I'd hoped for, and that's a good thing. If there is more coming (if this turns out to be a series, which it will, if the rumor mill is right) I will certainly pick up book 2, and I look forward to reading more from Dolamore in the future.(less)