I don't quite know how to rate this one, because it's so different from the first two volumes. I'm pretty sure this book marks the occasion of LumberjI don't quite know how to rate this one, because it's so different from the first two volumes. I'm pretty sure this book marks the occasion of Lumberjanes being made from a limited run series to an ongoing, so changes have been made accordingly, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about all of them yet.
The most notable thing of course is that the series has a new artist. Actually, two of them (plus several guest artists in the first issue collected here, which features all the girls telling ghost stories that are then drawn in various styles). This means a new color palette, and new ways of drawing the characters. It's a little bit toned down, less bright and frenetic, less crowded.
Actually, that describes the book as a whole. And you know what, I miss the freneticism, the almost schizophrenic action and quick cuts, and so much random plot happenings shoved into four small issues. It was more cartoony, but it also felt more quick and fun.
This new approach is probably smart, though, if the series is shooting for longevity. Spending more time on individual stories, calming the tone down so that you can get to know each girl more, and each weird storyline gets its due.
And its central weirdness is still present, even if it's calmed down a bit. A woman who can turn into a bear is still a central plot point. Mal and Molly get sucked into an alternate world full of dinosaurs. Meanwhile, April, Jo and Ripley spend a full day trying, and failing, to be normal. It feels a bit like treading water, but it's also pretty amusing.
In all, it feels like Lumberjanes had to rethink its identity a little bit, and is still finding its feet. I'm confident it will, though. Volume 4 comes out in just a couple of months, and I'm so there.
If you loved Lumberjanes, Vol. 1, you will also love Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max, because it's the same thing, except MORE. More friendIf you loved Lumberjanes, Vol. 1, you will also love Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max, because it's the same thing, except MORE. More friendship, more monsters, more weird mysteries surrounding their camp, more little girls riding velociraptors.
This volume centers around three main events: a friendship bracelet making session none of the campers are that interested in, but their beleaguered counselor Jen (who is so earnest it's painful) wants them to learn instead of going to the Raccoon Rodeo (whatever that is), and then they are attacked by raptors and save the day with friendship in the most literal way possible:
Plus, in this one, Jen comes into her own. Last time she was the one the girls were constantly ducking, and her inability to keep track of the girls and control the weird happenings of the camp were causing her to become somewhat upset. This time, she decides to embrace the weirdness, and her discomfort while also being hilarious, is very very endearing.
In this volume, we also get an epic game of Capture the Flag, in which it's revealed that one of their fellow campers is a magical being in disguise, an organized Lumberjane jewel heist to filch something from camp director Rosie's office (and don't think we're not all suspicious about just how much Rosie knows about all this weird stuff going on!), some truly adorable friendship moments between April and Jo, Ripley and everybody, and Mal and Molly (<3), as well as this:
This series is so silly and wonderful and full of joy. I love it....more
Endings are so tough. A bad ending can deflate the whole experience of a narrative. A good ending ties everythingWhat a great ending to this series.
Endings are so tough. A bad ending can deflate the whole experience of a narrative. A good ending ties everything together, and nothing can beat that feeling of satisfaction you get as all the threads are tied up, secrets revealed, and connections made.
Also, though, this was brutal. I'm not saying I haven't read books that aren't more of a bloodbath than this one is, because I have, but the body count is large, and people you love will die. Horribly.
I cried, like, four times while reading this. (I didn't get to the sobbing stage, but there was actual fluid leaking out of my tear ducts. Emooootions.)
Even the artwork, which I didn't love at the beginning, grew on me. Actually, I'm pretty sure it evolved over the course of the run, because by the end I'm 99% positive that Tyler's facial features migrated from the center of his head out towards the rest of it, so that he no longer resembled a beachball with a face drawn on. And some of it was breathtaking (and brutal).
Highly recommend this series if you like fantasy, dark fantasy, or horror. (I would also recommend reading the whole thing all in one go, if possible. This is a series that rewards attention to detail, and because I read two at a time, sometimes months apart, occasionally I had to strain to remember things, and I know I missed some things I probably shouldn't have.)
And now, I can finally listen to that full cast audio production they released on Audible last year. WOOOO.
This is the one where you get all of the answers. And they are good answers! There's nothing so satisfying as a series that poses lots of interestingThis is the one where you get all of the answers. And they are good answers! There's nothing so satisfying as a series that poses lots of interesting mysteries, then gives you compelling origins and solutions for all of them. Also, when some of those answers manage to surprise you, and re-contextualize what you thought about the story previously.
Clockworks opens with a strange flashback to the Revolutionary War, and we learn at last the origin story of the Keys. And so too do Kinsey and Tyler, as they discover the Timeshift Key, which allows them to visit and observe events in the past. This turns out to be how all of the past Keepers of the Keys have learned most of the secrets of the Keys and Keyhouse. So while Dodge hiding in Bode's body is finally in possession of the Omega Key, Kinsey and Tyler not only learn where the Keys come from and how they work, but also go back to see what happened that year that everything went wrong for their father and his friends.
Up until this issue, I thought Dodge was an okay villain. He's so so evil and creepy that it's hard to emotionally connect to him, even as it's easy to connect to his victims. But we learn in this issue that (view spoiler)[Dodge was once a genuinely great person. I'd been thinking this whole time that he was some sort of ageless spirit that had infiltrated Rendell's group of friends in 1988 for the same reason he infiltrated Tyler's group in the present day: to find the Omega Key. But no. Dodge was a real kid. A good kid. And this issue is mostly the story of how he lost that goodness and became the villain of the piece. And it's heartbreaking. (hide spoiler)]
So now the stage is set for the final act. Presumably the Lockes will find a way to defeat Dodge, and hopefully save Bode. If that last thing doesn't happen, I will riot. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Read back to back to back with the other two books, Kings Rising is a great series ender, and as one long narrative, this series is soo"Hello, lover."
Read back to back to back with the other two books, Kings Rising is a great series ender, and as one long narrative, this series is sooo close to being a five star read. All three books together create a massively compelling read. This is not a perfect book—there are actually some pretty big flaws up in here—but at least in terms of the emotional satisfaction possible to get from the story, I think Pacat really nails it here.
This trilogy consumed my life for the three to four day period I read it in. I know that time frame would have been shorter if I hadn't foolishly tried to wait a couple of weeks before starting this book in order to prolong my enjoyment of the story (I only made it a day before caving). I'm glad I ended up giving in and doing all three in a row. It really enhanced the experience of the story, and I know I got even more sucked up into it than if I'd read them further apart.
Spoilers for the first two books to follow, please don't read this review unless you want to get spoiled all to hell.
This is the endgame: Damen's true identity as Damianos of Akielos has been revealed to everybody, and now that he's no longer a slave, it's up to him to decide how and when he's going to take back his throne, and how much his plans will involve Laurent. (Spoiler alert: a lot. A lot a lot.) Not even the revelation that Laurent has known his true identity since the moment they first met will stop Damen from helping Laurent defeat his uncle, and in turn, take back his own throne. Damen holds one of Laurent's forts with the help of a northern ally that is still loyal to him, and brings troops and resources to bear. He and Laurent make an alliance that both Veretians and Akielons balk at at first, and it takes a lot of work and finesse to make their alliance not only successful, but plausible. Neither side of this tentative alliance is happy at first, and that includes their two kings.
Now that the two men may finally meet as equals, the plot descends into this elaborate dance of politics mixed up with feelings, especially for Laurent, who struggles to allow himself to be vulnerable with Damen, and to maintain his composure and strength in the face of his uncle (it's also finally revealed that, as many had guessed after the previous two books, after the death of his brother, Laurent was sexually abused by his uncle, which is also why he had such an affinity for poor Nicaise in the first book). Some of the resolutions do feel a bit sudden, but only a bit. As other reviewers have pointed out, the plot the retake the throne, Laurent's emotional issues, even Damen's hatred of slavery, are all resolved very quickly and neatly, if in a very exciting and dramatic fashion. Ultimately, though, it didn't matter for me. (I still wish book one had made it more clear where Damen, and thus the author, stood on the subject of slavery and rape, instead of waiting until almost the end of the story.)
I think it's to the book's credit that I was just as compelled when the book was talking about things like leadership and earning loyalty as when Damen and Laurent were smooching.
Ultimately, I know I'll be revisiting this series as a comfort read down the road the same way that I revisit all of my favorite love stories (and fantasy stories), and that's really the best compliment I can give it.
Okay, first let's have a talk: Anyone who calls this series erotica is fooling themselves, or trying to fool someone else. This is some straight up faOkay, first let's have a talk: Anyone who calls this series erotica is fooling themselves, or trying to fool someone else. This is some straight up fantasy adventure war spy tactics shit right here. That just happens to involve a m/m romance. So is that the erotica part because I'm confused. Is featuring a m/m romance taboo, so that's why it's "erotica"? The sole purpose of erotica is to titillate. It does nothing else. This is not that. At all. The ratio of sex to plot is entirely average in Prince's Gambit (for a romance novel, which are yes, more explicit than general fiction, but not the same thing as erotica). It's chock full of character development, though. And battles. And maneuverings and plot twists. And romance. Hiiiiii to the romance.
And I read the crap out of it.
This first book in this series was a really compelling read for me, but I wasn't sure I actually liked it until I was about a third of the way through the second book. What I found in Prince's Gambit was what I was expecting when I started the first one: two enemies gradually getting to know each other (and falling in love, against both of their wills, amid lots of exciting complications). It also has lots of stuff I wasn't expecting, like a compelling political plot, lots of exciting twists and reversals, and some ridiculously good character work. And thankfully, it has bits that are directly designed to counteract a lot of what happened in the first book, with all of the obscene and sexually permissive (and rapey) atmosphere of the Veretian court, which I myself didn't mind reading about as long as it was clear the author wasn't trying to make it sexy.
But yes, even though all the stuff surrounding it is fantastic also, the main event here is the burgeoning relationship between Prince Laurent of Vere and his slave Damen, who is really his sworn enemy Prince Damianos of Akielos, as they prepare an unlikely group of soldiers for a conflict that is sure to come now that Laurent's uncle has made his intentions towards Laurent clear. Damianos finds himself helping his rival to secure his throne, to take his place as the leader of his people.
The first time through, it's fun to watch the two of them actually get to know one another and re-evaluate their previously held opinions and judgments, and a lot of the book is designed it seems solely to re-contextualize stuff they did in book one, or to shed light on their motivations. The more Damen and Laurent get to know one another, the more they begin to respect (and love) each other, despite their differences, and their history with one another.
And here is where I need to spoil the heck out of the plot in order to talk about this book and its place in the series as a whole, including the revelation that totally changes everything, so if you haven't read book three yet, NO CLICKY.
(view spoiler)[Prince's Gambit ends with the intimation that not only might Laurent know that Damen is actually Prince Damianos, but that he's known the whole fucking time. I could probably save this bit to talk about in Kings Rising when Damen learns about it, but I want to talk about it here because of what it means for this book, and for what happened in Captive Prince.
So the first time through this book, you watch these two yahoos falling in love, and you think it's just swell because Laurent is coming to respect Damen despite their differences, which is a reversal from book one where Laurent was openly hostile and violent towards Damen, seemingly for no other reason than that he's Akielon. This makes Laurent seem cold and vicious and calculating to both Damen and the reader. Damen, meanwhile, believes that Laurent only knows him as a warrior, not Damianos. But Laurent knowing the whole time explains so much, and removes a lot of the ick factor of Damen falling in love with the guy who flogged him in book one. Laurent is not cold and vicious and calculating. He is an abuse survivor, in a battle for his life and his throne with his uncle, who was given his most hated enemy as a present, and then forbidden to harm him. He's lonely and damaged, and very very smart.
It explains Laurent's immediate hatred of Damen. It explains the weird encounters Damen has with him and his uncle, that he clearly isn't understanding the subtext to in the moment. It explains that bathroom scene in the first book, which was clearly a pre-text for Laurent to trap Damen into committing an infraction that would allow Laurent to flog him, and thus take his revenge on the man who killed his brother six years before. But Damen doesn't die. And the more he sticks around, including an episode where he saves Laurent's life, the more Laurent realizes that Damen is a good person, whom in another set of circumstances Laurent would have admired and sought friendship with, and so begins to forgive him.
So the fact that they fall in love is even more unlikely than we thought, and more gut-wrenching. The whole time Damen is worried about what will happen when Laurent realizes who he is, but it's needless worry. They have bigger problems. (hide spoiler)]
The more I write about this book, the more I like it. I really, really seriously wish that more people who gave up after the first book would give the series another go. Probably a lot of you still wouldn't like it, but I just know that a lot of you would end up loving it, because this book is night and day from the last one, and not only that, but it and the next book actually change your perception of what happened in that last book.
Bottom line: if it's your particularly flavor, this book is excellent fantasy, and an excellent m/m romance, and while it's certainly not without its flaws (there are some instances of purple prose, for one thing), I enjoyed the hell out of it.
So first, funny story. I'm sure many of you have similar ones, but I'mm'a share anyway. I ordered my copy of this book from Book Depository. I paid $4So first, funny story. I'm sure many of you have similar ones, but I'mm'a share anyway. I ordered my copy of this book from Book Depository. I paid $4.18, for shipping I assumed, since World Book Day books are free. I was fine with this. I waited weeeeeks for my copy to get here, as it was coming from the UK; luckily a friend with a similar problem sent me a copy by mail so I got to read this before my copies arrived. Yes, copies. Plural.
I HAVE SO MANY COPIES OF THIS BOOK. They didn't ship me one book. They shipped me one package of books. There were like, forty books in there at least. (I didn't actually count.)
Luckily, the week I received them, I was set to go to a Rainbow Rowell signing/speaking event in Tempe, so I just brought a crap ton of them (though I still have about fourteen left) and passed them out before she started talking. (Sidenote: If you ever have a chance to see her speak in person, do it. She will say she's nervous and bad at it, but she is just as smart and sincere and funny and compassionate in person as she is in writing.)
Anyway this book. It was too short, Rainbow. Too short! That's really my only complaint. I wanted more of it.
I don't want to say too much because it is so short, and saying much would really spoil the whole thing. Basically all you need to know going in is that Elena loves Star Wars, and decides to wait in line to see The Force Awakens. She wants to be part of the grand tradition. Only, things don't turn out like she expects.
Par for the course for RR's writing, the characters are wonderful, their dialogue is so thick and scrumptious you can snack on it, and even in the short space of this story, she manages to grab your emotions and force you to become involved.
At the signing, she mentioned that she's taking a (well deserved) writing break for now. I believe she's still writing, but nothing is in the pipeline as of yet. That is tortuous to me. But honestly, if this is what she needs to do in order to keep churning out books I will give five stars to, I will support her 1000%.
(She also mentioned that she has an outline for an Eleanor & Park sequel that she developed before the book was even published, but shhh because she doesn't know if she will ever actually write it.)
(Also she will more than likely write another book about Baz and Simon.)...more