Previously: Saw the cover for this tonight at Written in the Mitten. Gorgeous (though now all I'll be able to think about when I see it was the discus...more Previously: Saw the cover for this tonight at Written in the Mitten. Gorgeous (though now all I'll be able to think about when I see it was the discussions it caused on horse and dragon proportions and genetics (ish)...) =D And then: Just for my own records, my copy has 320 pages, not 240. 320 glorious pages. This is 2 lovely, perfect books in a row now; I am decidedly in Merrie Haskell's corner.
Review: A couple of days ago, I gushed about The Princess Curse, which is sort of loosely connected to Handbook for Dragon Slayers. Though it may not be a fairy tale retelling as The Princess Curse was, it has a lot in common with that charming middle grade book that took over my brain. They have similar worlds (separated by some centuries and location, yes, but with a generalized medieval Easter European setting), and there are also subtle little "easter eggs" that link the two books more fully. Both feel complete as stand-alones, but also work as companion pieces in the larger framework of Haskell's two (so far) apprentice stories. But what they share most strongly is their excellent, plucky, admirable main characters.
I talked a bit in my review of TPC about how Reveka was exactly what I wanted - and needed - in a female protagonist as a kid, and how she's the type I still immediately fall for now. Tilda, the main character of Handbook, is much the same. Haskell has a way with plucky, awesome characters, girls with strength and determination and spirit, and a passion to make them memorable. You can't help but root for and love Haskell's characters; they're fresh and vibrant and thoughtful. And most importantly to me, they're smart - not in an obnoxious, precocious way, but there is a subtle layer to both characters that tells the reader (ie mostly young girls) that these girls are smart and talented, and they use those smarts and talents to follow their passion, and that's what makes them awesome. At the risk of sounding boring and cliched myself, they're role models - but they're not boring and cliched. [See what I mean about how Haskell's books were exactly what I wanted/needed when I was a kid?]
On a similar note, Handbook's main character, Tilda, has a clubfoot. This is a painful-enough affliction on its own, but in medieval times when modern medicine and pain relief are hard to come by, if not non-existent, and you're a princess who's supposed to be seen as strong leader material? Needless to say, this is a huge plot point for Tilda, and I thought it was handled really well. Tilda suffers, but she isn't a whiny martyr; it does have an undeniable influence on who she is and how she reacts to the world around her - and how she expects the world around her to react to her, but in the end, she won't let it define her. I thought Haskell made a lot of smart choices in the handling of Tilda's disability, and the fact that there's no magical resolution was an excellent choice for me. Not only does it make her more relatable and sympathetic, and add a great deal of "interestingness" to her character, but to have a magical, fantastic story that doesn't wave a wand and do away with any "unsavory" bits is exactly what I would want, and what I think is needed. Having a clubfoot doesn't make Tilda less, and though she has this brief moment where she thinks (hopes, longs for, wonders if) maybe she could be magically cured, I think it was an excellent choice on Haskell's part not to.
There's a lot going on in this story...many, many plot points, and to some it may feel chaotic or confusing. I never found it too much to keep track of, and I think the points played well off of one another, but I can see why, to some, it may make it harder to follow, or make them feel like the story was rushed or scattered. But to me, it's a sprawling adventure story in that grand way that you only seem to get in kids books, and reading it brings back some of that irrepressible eagerness and energy that comes with being a kid. As a middle-grader, I would have been completely engrossed and would, without a doubt, have fallen in love with Haskell's world, her characters, and their adventures. As always, highly recommended for those who like middle grade, have middle graders, or want a fun historical fantasy/adventure with a strong, likable female lead.(less)
INITIALLY: Whoa, wait a minute. More September? Woot! Edit: Just read the description, and Holy Effing Velocipedes, I want this NOW.
AND THEN: What can I...moreINITIALLY: Whoa, wait a minute. More September? Woot! Edit: Just read the description, and Holy Effing Velocipedes, I want this NOW.
AND THEN: What can I say that I didn't already say in my review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated? When I finished the first book, it felt complete. That's not to say there wasn't room for more, but it felt like it easily could have been a somewhat open-ended stand-alone book, and I was happy about that. But that doesn't mean I wasn't tickled to death to hear there was a book two - and that it dealt with September's shadow! In fact, I wasn't even nervous going into this that it was going to be a lesser book than the first, as I often am with sequels and 2nd-in-a-series books. I went into this fairly confident that Valente would masterfully avoid the Sophomore Slump, and I think she did. The Girl Who Fell is just as strong as its predecessor, but with a with a more mature, more insightful September at the helm.
Now, I think some people are going to find this a little...hmm - harder? to connect to; I think they'll find it less whimsical and a bit darker, and September a little more serious, and they may interpret that as the story losing some of its magic and charm. But I don't think that's the case, and I personally found it the opposite. I think it's simply that things have changed. September is older now (as our narrator coyly tells us, she now has the beginnings of a heart), and her perception and experiences are different. She's more thoughtful - and more hesitant - which I think for some readers will mean the magic is starting to die. Which in the scope of all things fairy is generally true - the older you get, the more it slips away... But September is still September, even though everyone around her is a shadow of what they're supposed to be (literally), and I think she still comes through very strongly. I actually really really love that September is starting to grow up (as much as we may not want her two); this makes her so much more authentic, AND ALSO this means that a younger audience reading this can potentially grow alongside September and relate to her, and that gives me Happy Reader Shivers.
But even if September is a little older, a little wiser, and a little more introspective, the fact remains that she's still September and she's still going to do Septemberly things and approach the world (both "real" and Fairyland) as only September would. And frankly, Fairyland-Below = awesome. It expands the world of Fairyland really nicely; familiar characters popped up in unexpected ways, and new characters crept in - many of them fleetingly so, as in the way of the first book, but what's so wonderful is that even the minor characters who just pop up and disappear are never confusing. Instead, they make the world full - everything has a place, everything has a purpose, and everything comes into play.
The struggle with the shadows and with Halloween (the Hollow Queen, ie September's sort-of-stolen shadow) are just fantastic. I loved that nothing is ever easy/black and white. I love that you begin to feel for the shadows and for Halloween just as much as you do for their tangible counterparts. I LOVE the idea of everyone's shadows just hanging out, being a part of you but never really getting to experience, never getting credit, never getting to do their own thing. The bittersweet, melancholic streak I talked about (and loved!) in Circumnavigated;is stronger in Fell; (shortest yet), and perfectly suited to Fairyland Below, AND to where all of the characters are now; it's not just September who has grown and changed, but all of the characters - even some you may not expect. There are FACETS. I like FACETS. Makes everything shiny.
Basically, I doubt anyone who liked Circumnavigated will dislike Fell; those that found the beginning of the first slow moving will find the same here, but again, it's a good slow. It's a savory slow. And it will once again charm the pants off kids and adults alike. (Um, scratch that; everybody keep your pants on. You can be charmed with pants.)
Valente is still the Queen of Nonsense, and I still mean that in the best of all possible ways. As far as I'm concerned, she always will be. Long may she reign.
So if you've read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and liked it, you should pick this up. If you haven't, you should do that. But if you can't pick it up just yet, maybe read this Fairyland short story to tide you over? ----->
But before you go, head over to my guest post from Catherynne (and while you're there, enter to win!!) (Ends 10/8/12) And don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour here!(less)
This one...started off a little weak to me. I love these books (it's easily my favorite urban fantasy series), so I was awaiting its release pretty ea...moreThis one...started off a little weak to me. I love these books (it's easily my favorite urban fantasy series), so I was awaiting its release pretty eagerly -- it's not often I pre-order books, afterall. I was so ready to jump back in, but this one was kind of a slow burner. I did end up liking it, as always, but there were some things that left me feeling a little let down.
Let's start with the things I really liked: Stefan is back! It may be a somewhat minimal role, but I was suffering some serious Stefan withdrawal. And I actually like the reasons he was gone, because it made it more true. I was just talking about this the other day (with Miss Eliza, if I'm not mistaken), and Patricia Briggs is really good at making me feel the impact of serious things that happen in the books because she realizes that they are lives that are being messed with. Yes, I know they are fictional lives, but all the same -- if something traumatic happens in 1 book, it shouldn't be completely forgotten by the next. There are aftershocks, always. Things change people. Mercy went through something completely horrible, and Briggs saw it through in a really authentic way; she didn't brush it under the rug once it had served its literary purpose. The same is true of Stefan, and I applaud her more for showing the same diligence and veracity with even her minor characters. It lends everything strength, and makes me feel like she's not going to be the type of author (*cough*Laurell K Hamilton*cough*) who keeps raising the stakes and raising the stakes and raising the stakes -- only to have her characters discover some superpower or some magical something that saves the day, and then move on like it never happened or doesn't matter. If there's no danger and no real impact, what's the point? I hate Deus Ex.*
Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a tangent there... Moving on. Another thing I really liked, and I have to warn you, it's the teensiest bit spoilery, and it's a really cute part of the book that I don't want to spoil for you, so if you haven't read it yet, scroll past this next bit real quick... .... .... Are they gone? Okay, (view spoiler)[I loved Mercy's surprise wedding. That was the cutest effing thing ever, and it so perfectly suited the characters and the story. (hide spoiler)] Again, it's another of those little touches that makes the book and the world feel real to me, and makes me believe that it really is real to Briggs, and that she knows these characters inside and out. It made me smile and feel a little squishy, it was so sweet and cute. And I'm not so prone to squishiness.
Alright, spoilers over. Now we get into the mixed stuff. I did like that Mercy's Native American heritage was explored, and that the insertion of this new mythology is going to expand the world and give Mercy something new to work out. But there was part of me that disliked it a little bit too, or at least, the way it was handled. I really liked the parts that dealt with Mercy's father -- that was fascinating and funny. But there's part of me that feels like Briggs started with the bar too high, and it tread a little too close to that Laurell K Deus Ex territory that I asterisked up there ↑↑ (yes. I did just use "asterisked" as a verb. My adv. comp. teacher would kill me if he knew.) I would have liked a little more build up to the craziness, but I did like what happened. I just wonder where there is to go from here. I don't doubt that there is somewhere to go, but I just don't want to see this go the way of Anita Blake. That's all I'm saying.
Along the same lines, Briggs hit one of my major pet peeves (and whaddya know? It's another one Laurell K is good for...) I absolutely hate when an author feels the need to continually cover ground that's already been covered. This probably isn't fair, it's probably not solely the fault of the author -- publishers want to sell books, namely the one that just came out -- they don't want people to have to deal with the pesky idea of starting a series from the beginning; that might discourage sales (thought it might encourage library visits...). Therefore, there tends to be a lot of redundancy and blahblah to get through in each successive book in a series, mainly to bring new readers up to speed. I haaaaaaaaate this. I get the reason for it, but it lessens my hatred not a jot. If you want to know what's happening in a series, read the goddamn series. I don't want to be told the same things over and over and over. It makes me feel like: a) the book's not being written for me or for the characters, but for the next available wallet, and b) the writer either doesn't trust themselves to get the point across and make everything clear, or doesn't trust the reader to get it. Briggs did a fair bit of this in River Marked (and she writes fairly short books, so there wasn't a lot of room to waste on this kind of nonsense); she also extended it to a continual repetition of the bond between Mercy and Adam. We. Get. It. Show, don't tell, damn it.
Now, I'm probably just being super sensitive because this is such a big pet peeve of mine. Many people may not be bothered by it, or even notice it for that matter. But I think it bears warning, in case you're a little angerball like me who will feel the need to compose angry letters in your head that you're never going to send. I don't think that these negative traits were bad enough in this book to keep me from enjoying or recommending the book, but I am going to be watching you, Ms Briggs, so I'm putting you on notice -- trust your reader, trust your self, and tell your publisher to stuff it. Readers want a good book, not a good primer for the series. [Don't let it happen again. I don't like scolding you like this.] ;}
So there you have it. It's a mixed-bag review, but I love this series, and this book is no exception, for the most part. I may be a little, eensy, weensy bit wary for the future of the series, but I recommend it wholeheartedly for now.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
You may recall from my review of The Iron King that I felt a little let down. It's not that I disliked it, really, but everyone had absolutely raved about it that I had high hopes -- and they weren't quite met. This time around, I still don't feel like my original expectations have been matched, but Kagawa has come a damn sight nearer. I still had a few of the same issues, but to a lesser extent, and on the whole I found this one better developed and more enjoyable all around.
Basically, I still sometimes questioned Meghan's choices and her learning curve; she does make fewer ridiculous deals with faeries, but I wonder at her making any. She should know better by now. I also buy her relationship with Ash a little more, and her general humanness when feelings for Puck also come into play. It's something that would normally annoy me because it seems like too much of a gimmick, but in this case (for the most part, for the time being), Kagawa actually seemed to make it work in a way that felt authentic. Meghan doesn't feel like both men are her soulmates and how will she ever choose, she feels like she likes Puck and really likes Ash, but lust and pure I-shouldn't-be-doing-this are factors, and it all comes off as more authentic and teen and true than I was expecting. (Please note I am still opposed to all of the "team" BS.)
I still had a bit of an issue with the fumbling-then-suddenly-allpowerful thing that I mentioned in TIK. It's a crutch, and it can be wishy-washy. I'm not going to believe your person who was so damsel-like then suddenly discovers she's got kick ass powers, then...forgets?...and is a damsel, then discovers, then has them blocked, then discovers, latherrinserepeat. Yes, self-discovery is cool and teen-appropriate. But I want to buy in, and I don't want to think that everything impossible is going to be cleared away at the end with a sweep of a hand that, oh look!, has magic in it after all. Especially when I can see it coming a miiiiile away.
But beyond that, I found this one pretty enjoyable. It was still visual and current like the first one, but with a good deal of growth, and some interesting developments where the characters are concerned that impressed me. Kagawa wasn't afraid to embrace the gray area in this, and showing that things aren't black and white, and that there is good and bad, darkness and light, in everyone did a good deal to make this more mature.* I don't know that I am going to put #3, The Iron Queen (who didn't see that coming?) at the top of my To Read pile, but I certainly will read it, and if the growth from Kagawa continues, I may even be impressed.
*Of course, there are still stock characters present to undermine this. Her villains don't seem to get the same treatment to layer them and add depth, they are simply Bad, capital B.(less)
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)
Bone Crossed is the 4th book in the Mercedes Thompson trilogy. Mercedes (Mercy) is a VW mechanic (the irony is not lost on her) and a "skinwalker" cap...moreBone Crossed is the 4th book in the Mercedes Thompson trilogy. Mercedes (Mercy) is a VW mechanic (the irony is not lost on her) and a "skinwalker" capable of shapeshifting into a coyote. In Bone Crossed, Mercy finds herself on the run from a very angry vampire queen. But Mercy may just be running into more trouble than she's running away from. Out of the frying pan, as they say...
Briefly, I just want to tell you that I liked this, just as I always do. I wouldn't be on book 4 if I didn't like it. No, it's more than that. I may read this many books in a series that I think is okayish and fun, but I own each of these books. In something like this that I know I am going to tear through and be done with I would generally get from the library (CIP: I've never bought a Laurell K. Hamilton book); but I like these enough that I would actually reread them. So yes, I liked this book, and I think if you like [urban fantasy/strong female leads/sexy supernaturals/a writer who shows restraint in description:] you'll like these and should pick one up.
From here on out, thar be spoilers.
If you've read the series, you may have been wondering, like me, how book 4 would pick up the thread. [If you haven't read the series, you shouldn't be reading this. Serious spoilerage is about to occur. You will not be warned again.:] At the end of book 3, Mercy has been the victim of a bizarre and magically-achieved rape, and she's barely holding it together. I thought the way Briggs wrote the scenes and the end of book 3 was heartbreaking and understandable (and hey, it made me love dickhead werewolf Ben a little bit. More than a little bit. Not gonna lie). I thought it was a smart and risky move on Briggs part, and I wondered how she was going to deal with the aftermath of having strong Mercy feel like prey. I have to be honest, I thought she handled it very well. It felt realistic and not overdone; there wasn't a ton of wallowing, which would have been uncharacteristic for Mercy, but she didn't just let Mercy brush it off, either. I think the incident really helped further Mercy's and Adam's (and Ben's) characters, and helped deepen the relationship dynamics. By the end of book 4, you get the feeling that, though it will be an ongoing battle for Mercy, she will be the strong and resilient heroine we've come to love over the course of the series.
If you saw my Teaser or my Character Connection, both of which centered on Stefan, you will know this is a Stefan book. Oh, Stefan. Where to begin. I told you in the CC that with Stefan and me, it's not a lustful thing*, but some sort of unidentifiable pull that says he should be my friend. I was so excited to see that Bone Crossed was going to give me some more Stefan. And though I could have had a little more Stefan, I think Briggs is wise in giving us Stefan in sips; keeps the mystery. But, also wisely, she ups the game a tad with Stefan. I mean, not so much as to make things precarious (I don't know how else to word it), but enough to ensure that we know Stefan is there, is always going to be there, and always wants to be there. It makes him a little more dreamy. And did I mention it turns out he's great with kids? Yeah, I want more Stefan books.
Alright, I really didn't mean this to turn into a spoilery ramble on the boys in MT's life, but sometimes you just can't help yourself. But aside from the boys, there's all the usual mystery, danger, supernatural hoodoo, etc. Long story short, this is another strong book in a strong series, and I am eager for Silver Borne.
*Not totally true. There's some lustful there.(less)
I bought this edition -- the first three books in this series -- on a whim, figuring it would be something quick and fun to read between other books....moreI bought this edition -- the first three books in this series -- on a whim, figuring it would be something quick and fun to read between other books. I was a bit worried that it was going to be a Laurel K. Hamilton knock-off, . Though it is certainly in the same vein (ha!) of Hamilton and Kelley Armstrong, et al., I think it's certainly strong enough to stand on its own. Where it diverges from Hamilton the most is that it's not an orgy. I know that's going to disappoint some of you, and I'm not saying it doesn't have its fair share of sexual tension. But it's more realistic with it. Briggs doesn’t go overboard describing the “beefcakes” the way some authors (ahem, Hamilton) do; they are there, but you can flesh them out to your tastes, which is a good choice on Briggs’ part. The Anita Blake books are brief periods of fighting, zombie raising and sleuthing in between bizarre sexual and quasi-sexual encounters, and entertaining as that may be, sometimes it's just too much. With Mercy, you have a strong female lead who is independent almost to a fault. She doesn’t let people push her around, she’s strong and she’s smart, and she doesn’t know when to give up, which is fabulous in a series like this.
The paranormal elements in the books are believable and not over done, and have elements of real world nature in them. Briggs did her homework, thought out the world, and it shows. I think that she was smart, too, in not keeping her paranormal characters too much in their own world. The fae have “come out” to the public a decade before the story begins, the werewolves are on the verge of coming out, and though the vampires have no plans of coming out, that’s not surprising, as they eat people. The struggles of the paranormal community to be accepted rather than feared and attacked by the human world is realistic as it mirrors humans’ own very real civil rights struggles; the addition of werewolf Warren and his lover, Kyle, adds a nice layer, as it links the two struggles and shows tension among the werewolves, too. Like real life, even those who are targets of bigotry themselves can be bigots themselves. Briggs makes great layered choices, adding depth and realism to bolster her stories. Certainly an author to watch. (less)