One of my favorite books ever, and I don't say that lightly. Now, if only Mr. Wright had ever given my copy back! (Note: Never loan a book based on th...moreOne of my favorite books ever, and I don't say that lightly. Now, if only Mr. Wright had ever given my copy back! (Note: Never loan a book based on the Mahabhrata to your Asian Humanities teacher. You might as well have dropped it into a black hole.)
Anyhow I'm not really sure how to describe why I love this book so. The story is beautiful, that's a large part of it. The characters are strong and well-shaped, that's another part of it. The prose is gorgeous. The setting is truly magical. The tragedy twisted at my heart. I read it once and was impressed; read it again slowly, savoring, and was swept away. Hinduism really has a claim on the whole 'fate and reincarnation' thing that keeps getting tossed around in YA. And while reincarnation isn't a subject of this book, fate is. If you want to read a brilliant, tortured star-crossed romance, this book is for you. If you want a great adventure story, this is a good bet. If you're wondering what this Mahabhrata thing is all about, try this perspective on for size before you go after the far lengthier versions. Because of this book, one of my goals is to get through a 900+ page translation of that great epic, and if I'd never read The Palace Of Illusions, I might never have discovered the Mahabhrata at all.
Alexandra Bracken just keeps getting better. Now, I'm a bit biased - I read Brightly Woven when it was in ARCs and I've been on the fan train ever sin...moreAlexandra Bracken just keeps getting better. Now, I'm a bit biased - I read Brightly Woven when it was in ARCs and I've been on the fan train ever since (choo choo!) but seriously, damn.
Where do I even start?
I guess... first of all, all of the strengths of The Darkest Minds are still present. I love this vision of dystopic America, I love the characterization of all the side characters (the terrified savagery of the kids, the anger or the kindness of adults, the constant portrayal of the choices people have to make to survive now), I love Ruby and Chubs and Liam and Vida and Jude and literally all of the protagonists and their relationships. The narrative twists and turns are fantastic, the villains/antagonists both scary and believable.
The standout aspect of this book is Ruby's characterization. She is so.... gah. Ruby Daly is amazing, and definitely among my favorite YA protagonists ever. The way Bracken portrays both her flaws and her strengths is incredible; the fact that she can't seem to go anywhere without gathering a group of people she desperately wants to protect; the way that she cares so much and is so afraid of herself - it's so perfectly rendered, and makes her into such a strong character and a protagonist I cheer for. (No, seriously. The last line of this book? PERFECTION.)
I will say that it felt very second-book-y, particularly given the events that happened in the denouement. A lot of this book seemed to serve mostly to get people to the physical places and emotional states they need to be in for In The Afterlight - but at the same time, it was so well-done and so engaging to read about how they got there that I don't mind in the slightest.
(also: COLE??? COLE WTF. COLE.)
If you're not reading this series yet, go pick it up. It is, in my opinion, the best YA dystopian series on the shelves right now. (less)
I was going to start this out with a warning that this review isn't objective, but honestly I hope most people on this site know that no review is. Th...moreI was going to start this out with a warning that this review isn't objective, but honestly I hope most people on this site know that no review is. That said, I do view this book somewhat through nostalgia goggles, so take my opinion with a grain of salt if you'd like.
I have a lot of fond memories associated with this series, and particularly with the audiobooks. (They're performed by the spectacular Nathaniel Parker, who can make his single voice sound like a full cast production, and if you haven't listened to them you really should.) My whole family loves them, actually, and they propelled us through many a road trip. In fact, my parents are fond enough of these books that they're one of the few things we'd check out from the library for multiple trips - we don't do a lot of re-listening, but these books are exceptions.
It's been a while since I've read them now, and I'm actually two books behind on the whole series, so when I came home for winter break and was looking for something light to read, the shiny gold cover of book 1 called to me. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it stood up to my expectations about as well as I remembered it doing in the past, despite the fact that I'm now 20 instead of 8.
Personally, I think this book does just about everything I could want from a middle grade novel, and with surprising skill given that it came so early in Colfer's career. The characters are sympathetic (yes, even Artemis; did everyone who finds him hateable buy into Argon's explanation of his choice at the end? because let me tell you a thing: that was bullshit), the action and worldbuilding interesting, and the pace fast but not breakneck. Honestly, the only thing I'm less than happy with in this book (other than the minor formatting errors in my Scholastic Book Sale copy - yes, I bought it in elementary school) is Juliet's characterization; she's portrayed as much less competent here than she gets to be later in the series, and I wish she'd been allowed to be a bit more badass.
This is, obviously, a book targeted at middle-grade readers, so I'm not too surprised that many people who read it as adults find themselves less fond of it than those of us who read it as kids. That's fine, but to those people I would like to say this: whatever problems you may have with the plot holes, if you ever have children of your own, consider this series for them when they reach the appropriate age. It's got strong, complex, nonsexualized female characters, a protagonist whose abilities are more mental than physical, interesting moral questions, and tasteful, sharp humor. (seriously, there will come a time when your choices are Artemis or Captain Underpants. Choose Artemis. PLEASE.) If you're worried about Artemis as a role model, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that he grows to become a much better person over the course of the series, though it does happen slowly and subtly, not overnight.
((and seriously, check out those audiobooks. you will not regret it even a little bit. Nathaniel Parker might actually be a demigod.))(less)
Review to come, hopefully in a few days as I'm packing to go back to school soon. For now: fantastic (though I would expect nothing less from Phoebe N...moreReview to come, hopefully in a few days as I'm packing to go back to school soon. For now: fantastic (though I would expect nothing less from Phoebe North). This book broke YA tropes all over the place, and Terra is one of the most realistic, human, and flawed protagonists I've encountered in a while. A++ book, perfect note to start my 2014 reading list out on. Thank you, Phoebe.(less)
EDIT: March 26, 2011. Rest in peace, Ms. Jones. The world has lost a wonderful author today.
Review: Can I give this book six stars? How about ten? Twenty...moreEDIT: March 26, 2011. Rest in peace, Ms. Jones. The world has lost a wonderful author today.
Review: Can I give this book six stars? How about ten? Twenty? No? Well, darn.
I finally read this book after watching the Miyazaki movie for the second time, and I love them both, no matter how different they are. (It bears mentioning that the fact that it's impossible to get the face of movie Howl out of my head is probably part of this.) Seriously, though. Day after I watched the movie for the second time, I picked up the book and just read straight through. Took me around three hours; totally worth it. I will read this one again and again and again.(less)
I'd honestly forgotten what took place in this volume, and even though the pacing felt smooth while I was reading it, afterwards I was surprised to no...moreI'd honestly forgotten what took place in this volume, and even though the pacing felt smooth while I was reading it, afterwards I was surprised to note that the Lab 5 plot started here - somehow it was all tied up in the events of the fourth volume for me, so realizing that I had recalled incorrectly was a tad bit jarring.
That being said, it doesn't really reach its fruition until the next few chapters, so the highlight of this volume is definitely the chapter about Ed and Al returning to Resembool. It's a good thing that this happens so early in the broader scheme of things, too, because the relationships they have with the people and places of their hometown really humanize them. Imagine how jarring it would have been if Arakawa had waited until after five or six volumes of these boys being like superheroes to show them as ordinary human beings. Instead, she establishes this aspect of them early, which is nice. The essential strength of the story, after all, is that it's about the kind of people who feel real - even if they can snap their fingers to create fire or clap their hands and remake buildings. There's a market for stories about powerful, distant characters, it's true, but they're rarely the kind of narratives that really get into your heart.
(This is also the volume in which Sheska and Maria Ross are introduced, as if I needed more reason to love it.)(less)
This is really quite lovely, in a depressingly believable way. I love dialogue as a storytelling technique, and Cory uses it beautifully: the descript...moreThis is really quite lovely, in a depressingly believable way. I love dialogue as a storytelling technique, and Cory uses it beautifully: the descriptions are sparse and elegantly to the point, with most of the story and even the worldbuilding carried in short, untagged lines of dialogue.
As for the worldbuilding, well, it feels like the kind of thing modern society would degenerate to: groups of people hiding from the deadly world outside, living in what seems to me like a fever-dream of sex and drugs and loud music even as the rest of the planet and human civilization falls apart or explodes beyond their little enclave.
The final image is truly haunting - a gorgeous combination of imagery and quiet sadness.
Congratulations, Cory; this is a story to be proud of.(less)
This is at once both my favorite volume and one I can't stand. A testimony to the writing and characterization, I suppose, but that doesn't mean I don...moreThis is at once both my favorite volume and one I can't stand. A testimony to the writing and characterization, I suppose, but that doesn't mean I don't quietly resent it.
(view spoiler)[That Hughes's death can hurt so much to read/watch after such a short period of time is truly amazing, but much as I respect the skill that went into it, I still wish it hadn't happened. In fact, eventually I'm going to plot out and perhaps write a Doctor Who/FMA crossover to change that and see what happens. (hide spoiler)]
Spoilers for the nature of the evil plot: (view spoiler)[Re-reading is really nice, because now I know what Hughes figured out and how he did it. That man is a bona fide genius, to be able to put so many things together and see the transmutation circle on such a huge scale, especially after he'd only seen a rough diagram of it and just for a short period of time. And he probably at least guessed that Bradley was in on it, too, since his first reflex was to call the President and then he reconsidered. (hide spoiler)]
The bonus story at the end does make the volume a bit more bearable, since of course it's the Black Hayate one - always good for a smile and very necessary, what with everything else.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am going to save my reminiscing about this series for the third book. Or at least I'm going to try. Some might creep in unnoticed.
First off: I HATE S...moreI am going to save my reminiscing about this series for the third book. Or at least I'm going to try. Some might creep in unnoticed.
First off: I HATE SPIDRENS I HATE SPIDRENS I HATE SPIDRENS I HATE SPIDRENS. Spidrens were, actually, the first Immortals I ever read about, because I went straight from the Lioness Quartet to this series. So in the first chapter or so, when Kel finds a spidren biting the heads off kittens, I was deeply disturbed. I still am. What I love about that scene is Kel's reaction. She wades across a river, gathers a handful of stones, and goes after the monster with only rocks for ammunition. Seriously, this girl is the most badass ten year-old EVER. She's awesome. And she's got a great attitude, to boot: chock full of determination and not about to let traditionalists keep her from becoming a knight. Her motivation to seek knighthood, too, is wonderful; she has a powerful, idealistic belief in chivalry and cannot ignore injustice. This is the kind of pure good straight-up heroine that it's always great to come back to, because you never doubt her; she works for her goals and keeps them always in mind. You know the quip about how a woman has to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as a man? That's the situation Kel is in, and she handles it admirably, right down to making sure everyone remembers that YES, tradition has been broken and there is a girl in their midst by wearing dresses to dinner every night. She is so mature, so confident at such a young age - it's awesome. Rarely does she doubt herself, and she's never ashamed of her gender despite the disadvantage it places her at and the cruelty some of the other pages subject her to because of it.
Of course, Kel doesn't do this alone. She gains an excellent group of friends over the course of her year on probation, and that's what helps this series be more than just an Alanna Redux. As Raoul says in Squire, there are several kinds of knights; Alanna is the lone hero type, and Kel is the leader type. It makes sense, then, that while Alanna's story was really focused on her and her adventures, Kel's has a wider supporting cast and they're given plenty of development. (This is, of course, building towards the moment when she needs all of them in Lady Knight.) From quirky Nealan of Queenscove, who's the oldest of the pages and Kel's sponsor, to Kel's year-mate Merric of Hollyrose, they're all great characters and people I would want to be friends with, especially in Kel's position. And they care about her, as evidenced when Neal calls her out for roaming the halls looking for wrongs to set right. It's wonderful to see a tight-knit, realistic group like this portrayed in YA. Kel is no Bella Swan-esque moping loner, and it makes her a far richer character.
I'm not really sure where this review is going, or for that matter where it's been. (It's a bit messy up there, I think.) A lot of what I want to say about this series I'm saving for the later books, so for now: If you're new to Tortall, you can start here easily; if you're familiar with the world, this entry in its history is not to be missed. Kel is a heroine to root for and look up to, and if I had my way young girls everywhere would be reading about her adventures instead of about sparklepires and the like.(less)