Just realized I forgot to mark this as read back in September or October, or whatever. Not my favorite of her variations, but they're always interesti...moreJust realized I forgot to mark this as read back in September or October, or whatever. Not my favorite of her variations, but they're always interesting, that's for sure. And she explored some paths that I haven't seen others explore. And that's really all I remember. Think I'll have to reread this one closer to AIA so I can review it.(less)
There's an interesting thing that happens with me and Mette Ivie Harrison's writing, in that I tend to have one big problem with something (oft...more3.75ish
There's an interesting thing that happens with me and Mette Ivie Harrison's writing, in that I tend to have one big problem with something (often something hard to pin down or explain), and I find myself dwelling on it, even when I like the book/story/character/ideas or whatever else I may really like. I talked about this before in The Princess and the Hound, but essentially, I fall into her writing really easily and find it readable (I think some may find it slow, but to be honest, I like that unhurried quality to it), and I always find myself appreciating her worlds and remembering them and her characters for longer than I generally do with books. I liked The Princess and the Hound, though I think perhaps less in hindsight, when my overwhelming impression seemed to focus on the things I wanted more from; but I liked The Rose Throne even more, which makes me curious how I'll feel about it down the line. I find Harrison's world and concepts really intriguing, and her two princesses, Issa and Ailsbet, believably distinct. They played well off of each other, and the changing POVs in the narration actually benefited the story, whereas I normally find things like this risky, gimmicky and sadly flow-breaking. I'm glad to say this was not the case for The Rose Throne. I also had very concrete images of the characters and various settings, but without ever feeling like I'd just had to wade through a ton of detailed world-building and info-dumping, and that makes me very happy as a reader. It makes it all seem a little more natural and effortless.
But that doesn't change the fact that there's always that one thing in her stories that causes a disconnect for me, and that I can't help but dwell on. And I think, with The Rose Throne, I've figured out what it is: there is a bit of a passiveness in Harrison's writing when it comes to the characters and with the way the story is structured. For example, there is a part where one princess slaps another, and you'd expect that to be a very tense, exciting moment. But the tension was dramatically lessened by the way in which the scene is written. It's not "I raised my hand and slapped her," which is active and felt more powerfully by the reader; instead, it's written as
"Issa raised a hand, and the sound of the slap rang in the room like music."
Pretty, yes, but it's one step disconnected from Issa's action: it's not "Issa slapped Ailsbet, and the sound rang in the room like music," which still captures the feeling of violence and beauty, mingled. Instead, Issa raises her hand, a slap is heard, and the reader connects the two - but Issa is removed from the power of immediate action. I know this may sound silly to some people, but subconsciously, things like this do make a difference in the way a reader reacts to a story. I think this is the "elusive something" that I couldn't put my finger on in my review of The Princess and the Hound, when I said that bones of the story were there, but it was missing something in the connective tissue.
The other part of the disconnect is that sometimes the reactions - or at least, the transitions into them - don't seem natural. They tend to either seem really understated and passive, or they blaze up to extremes, seemingly out of nowhere. In the case of The Rose Throne, I would say this is meant to mimic the two different magics, the neweyr and taweyr, but the same was true of The Princess and the Hound, so it seems to be more of a stylistic thing. And even if it was intentional, that doesn't necessarily make it the best choice... There's just not always a consistent, recognizable flow to characters and their actions, and though it's not necessarily something that's readily noticeable, it does cause a bit of a disconnect between the reader and the story. This means that I didn't always believe the characters' romances, emotions, and motivations, or their sudden insights - if they can figure each other out at a glance, why can't everyone else around them see through them and their schemes? But either I eventually got used to it and went with it, or things went on long enough in this vein to make it seem more natural, because by the end of the book, I didn't have as much of an issue with this. I think it goes back to the suddenness of their emotions and reactions - Issa and Kellin, seemingly in love upon first contentious encounter, Ailsbet's waffling on using her magic and ruling, or abandoning everything and everyone in pursuit of music, etc
Now, here I find myself, once again, giving this weird, overly-analytical review of Harrison's style, and I'm afraid that it ends up coming off that I didn't like the book. Fact is, I did. I found it intriguing and memorable, and in some of the ways I reacted to it, it sort of reminded me of Chalice by Robin McKinley (which itself was a bit of a problem book for me, but again, one I think highly of... It's all very confusing.); I even see why Harrison made the stylistic choices she made, and how they do make sense, in a way. And I find myself both liking it and puzzled by my not liking of it. And so, I think the reason I dwell on these things the way I do is because I see potential for a book I could really love, and I see real skill in the storytelling that is being held back by this thing, whatever it may be, and I just want to fix it.
So what I'm saying is, I doubt most of you will focus on these aspects of Harrison's storytelling, which means you probably won't take issue the way I have, and will be able to enjoy it unfettered. It think it is definitely worth the read for its complexities and the way that Harrison explores characters and themes. And if you do read it, I'd love to discuss it with you!
[Side note: I just saw the comparison to Cassandra Clare in the synopsis, and I just want to say: I think they're way off on that, AND I'd choose Mette over Cassie any day.] (less)
I have to start this review with a little bit of a disclaimer: I wasn't entirely aware of what I was getting myself into in this book. I knew there wa...moreI have to start this review with a little bit of a disclaimer: I wasn't entirely aware of what I was getting myself into in this book. I knew there was another book that came before it, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, but I thought the two were more interconnected standalones than one being a direct sequel of the other. And maybe they're meant to be, and it just wasn't carried off, but either way, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen plunges you right into the heart of a story that's already going on. I mean, really - it's right in the middle of a ball, which (to my understanding) the last book spent much of its time building up to. By the time this story begins, the two main characters are already confessing their devotion to each other, and I'm like, wait - we don't know each other that well, folks, let's back this up a bit. But then they would say things like how they've only known each other 2 days, and I'd be like, Um, maybe I misread the confessions of love? I kept flipping back and forth in the beginning, trying to confirm what was really going on, and how long these characters had known each other, and where the timeslip to Jane Austen's time came in, and Darcy's romance with her, and how Darcy became DARCY, and - it was hard for me to get my bearings, is what I'm saying. And this is no fault of Sally Smith O'Rourke, mind you. At least, not entirely - it's my own fault for reading a book 2, though I still find the brevity of the romance to be suspect... But some of the things that completely threw me off may not phase another reader who has read book 1, and maybe those 2 impassioned days of whirlwind romance are really enough to make the reader buy them as a couple by the time this book starts. I don't know. So: disclaimer. There you have it. Take any negatives I may have with a grain of salt, because I'm kinda shooting blind.
Now, that being said, I was eventually able to make sense of who was who and what had been going on before this. Some things were always a bit unclear to me, but for the most part, I was able to suss things out and dive into the story. And I have to say, there were some things I really enjoyed, though they're maybe not the things I was supposed to like the most. YA, JA is split into 3 different storylines: 1) at some point in the past, a modern day man named Fitzwilliam Darcy traveled back into Jane Austen's time, and sorta maybe wooed her a bit - storyline 1 deals with what's going on in Austen's timeline as a result; 2) Fitzwilliam Darcy came back to the present, where a woman who has stumbled on his past romance with Jane has come to seek him out - storyline 2 follows their immediate true lurves; 3) a stableboy from Jane's time, Simmons, wants to make a better life for himself, and decides to follow Darcy back home, which means time travelling into the current timeline - pretty straight-forward, that Simmons, and I gotta say, his storyline was my fave, hands down. The other two storylines had their positives and their negatives: I was amused by Jane, and liked how O'Rourke used her actual words (from her letters and stories) to make her seem more real... but she never quite gelled for me; the romance between modern-day Fitz and Eliza had potential, but it was more of a chaotic neutral - things seemed to happen too fast, and were a bit roller-coaster-y, which auto-tips me into my Prime Judgement Zone, but in the end, it was a pleasant-enough romance.
But Simmons. Oh, Simmons. I liked his story so much more than any romance. His was a story all about striking out on one's own, about seeking a place in the world where you can be valuable and respected, and about taking huge, bold risks to do so. Frankly, I could have done with a whole story following Simmons and his jarring travels in the modern world. It was funny, it was sweet, and it seemed realistic, which is always a big bonus in a time-slip novel. Even though I enjoyed the other two threads in the book, I found myself constantly wanting to get back to Simmons - this was not the reaction I expected to have when his 3rd POV was introduced into the book. I was worried that so many plot lines, so many different points of view, would fracture the book and make me not like it. Instead, I thought they all worked together well, and gave a more-complete picture, but it was Simmons, the thread I thought I'd find unnecessary and want to just snip from the overall fabric, Simmons whose story I kinda fell in love with.
So, I don't know. It was a bit of a strange reading experience for me, in that I didn't get at all what I thought I was going to get (my fault), but I ended up really liking the things I didn't think I was going to like (Sally's fault, so good on her, 'cause she won me over). It's hard for me to know whether to recommend the book, though, as I haven't read the first one, and so can't recommend it - but while I liked this, and loved Simmons, I can't recommend this either, without saying, read the first book... So, I guess, if you have read The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and liked it, or want to see how the story wraps up, pick this one up and you'll get Bonus Simmons. If you haven't read either, but are curious, just know there's some interesting timeslip and a really cool stable boy to look forward to... =D(less)
My August Rewind (up late, but better late than pregnant... Err, never. Better late than never.
THE BOOKS: The Fairest of Them All| Carolyn Turgeon [re...more My August Rewind (up late, but better late than pregnant... Err, never. Better late than never.
THE BOOKS: The Fairest of Them All | Carolyn Turgeon [review] Mansfield Park | Jane Austen (obvs) Among the Janeites | Deborah Yaffe [review] The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. | Adelle Waldman [review] Austentatious | Alyssa Goodnight [review](less)
Err, I didn't realize the third book was out. Scratch that, I didn't realize there was a third book; I still haven't read the 2nd. As much as I loved...moreErr, I didn't realize the third book was out. Scratch that, I didn't realize there was a third book; I still haven't read the 2nd. As much as I loved book one, I need to get on that.(less)
I'm always on the lookout for fairy tale retellings that take on lesser-known and lesser-used tales, so of course when I heard there was a Bluebeard r...moreI'm always on the lookout for fairy tale retellings that take on lesser-known and lesser-used tales, so of course when I heard there was a Bluebeard retelling, I was all over that. Fortunately for me, Strands of Bronze and Gold didn't disappoint. Jane Nickerson has placed the "Bluebeard" tale in antebellum South, using a Southern Gothic style to create a retelling that is gorgeously atmospheric and lush. More on why I loved that, plus a touch of controversy, HERE.(less)