Aug 31, 2010
Aug 31, 2010
it was amazing
I'm running out of superlatives.
Seriously, after praising The Well of Ascension as a reader's dream book, I was worried. What would I say if The Hero
I'm running out of superlatives.
Seriously, after praising The Well of Ascension as a reader's dream book, I was worried. What would I say if The Hero of Ages was better? Even finding the perfect GIF for that book didn't solve the problem - because soon enough, there'll be The Alloy of Law, and I still haven't read Elantris.
And then this book came along.
Now, I'll admit that I took my sweet time. About six months, off and on, actually. For a lot of that, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. There were flashes of the sort of brilliance and depth I've come to expect from Sanderson, but it was nowhere near as fast-paced and engrossing as Mistborn: The Final Empire, and it took even longer for me to get interested than it did for Warbreaker. Part of that comes from how little time I dedicated to it. On a good day, I might get through a single chapter, and I could easily go a week or more without reading any at all, simply because I had other books at hand. And part of it comes from the fact that this book is, quite simply, ridiculously dense. There's a payoff, yes, but that didn't come for me until past the halfway point, and until it hits you're struggling under the weight of names, places, religions, histories, and even ecology.
After that point, whatever it may be for you, things start to... well, not to make sense, necessarily, but to be confusing in a perfectly acceptable fashion. You know enough about the world and the characters to start going with the flow and trusting that eventually, all will be revealed. Even if 'eventually' isn't in this book.
You see, at a certain point, you realize that Brandon Sanderson has never really demonstrated his writing ability before. He reminds me of a scene from The Princess Bride - the swordfight between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black on the cliff. You've seen it, right? You remember the moment when Inigo switches hands in the middle of the fight and - even though he's been fencing beautifully up until that point - he seems to get even better?
(I wanted a GIF, but couldn't find one.)
That's what Brandon Sanderson has just done. He's been holding out on us all this time and here, finally, in this massive masterpiece, is a glimpse of what he's really capable of. Warbreaker is a great piece of work. The Mistborn trilogy managed to balance serious themes and reconstructing tropes of fantasy. I've no doubt that Elantris is, as well, a fantastic novel. Well, The Way Of Kings is going to redefine epic fantasy, and that is that.
I'm guessing this book is going to be compared to one more than all others: The Eye of the World, the first entry in the Wheel of Time series. Now, I've read the first three WOT books, and I'm not a huge fan. They weren't horrible, and maybe the rest of the series changes things, but I found them dreadfully predictable. Anyone who didn't know that Rand Al'Thor was the Dragon Reborn by a few chapters into the first book wasn't paying attention. And the worldbuilding - don't get me started. Suffice it to say that Jordan ripped some things off and didn't even pretend to hide it.
You cannot imagine how relieved I was to find neither of those problems here. Oh, sure, it was slow for a while, but it was never predictable - well, except for one bit at the end, where there was only a single solution that kept one character alive and allowed personal growth in another, but it was so damned awesome that I really didn't mind. In fact, it was one of my favorite scenes.
And as for worldbuilding... well. This is what will make it or break it for a lot of readers. If you don't like worldbuilding, there's no way around it: don't even try. You've gotta love it to love this book. But if fantasy that is literally built from the ground up appeals to you, buy this book right now. The worldbuilding is the backbone of this novel and oh, what a strong thing it is. Even the ecology is stunning! The basic concept is pretty simple: on a fairly regular basis, the world of Roshar is scoured by incredibly powerful 'highstorms'. Being outside in one is a death sentence. That life even exists in this place is amazing, but it has clearly adapted. Plants retract into the rock or bend over to avoid the full brunt of the gale. Animals have thick, crustacean-like carapaces. It's a savage place in many ways, and yet so clearly filled with beauty and wonder - one has only to look at the gorgeous sketches sprinkled through this book to see that. Now, I'm a biology nerd, so I'm biased, but I loved this concept beyond all expression.
The mythology! Holy shit, the mythology! I can't even - gah. The fact that the first of three prologues (yes, there are three; suck it up because they're all awesome) is set 4,500 years before the rest of the book should hint at how incredible the mythos of Roshar is. I hesitate to use the words 'epic' or 'sprawling', because they're kind of cliche, so instead: it's fragmented. One of my developing pet peeves in fantasy is the idea of the bajillion year-old prophecy that has somehow been retained without a word being changed, despite language shifts and translation errors and disasters and this and that and the other thing. That is not the case here. Shit Went Down in the past but no one really knows what happened. Did the Knights Radiant betray humanity? Well... maybe. But they don't even know what the Radiants were in the first place, so that's kind of begging the question. And oh, by the way, the first prologue seems to indicate - possibly, maybe, there's an off chance - that instead of the Radiants being the betrayers, it might have been the Heralds. Who are still revered by the religions of Roshar. Hmmm. I do believe I've spotted a Sanderson theme here - the fragility of religion. We'll see how it develops.
But anyhow, I was raving about the mythology. Right. I can't say too much, though, because a lot of it is revealed very very slowly and carefully and frankly, I'm not sure how much I even understand yet. So maybe I should move on...
Okay, how about characters. No doubt you've heard that this book has loooooooads. Believe that. It's true. Don't worry about it, though. There are four that you really need to know: the three protagonists (Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar) and Szeth-son-son-Vallano, who doesn't get nearly as much page time but is at least as important as any of the other three.
Here's the rundown:
Shallan is a young woman with more than a few secrets who, for less than honorable reasons, desperately needs to get apprenticed to Jasnah Kholin, a famous heretic and scholar. She's got a deep love of learning and a keen wit, which makes her an enjoyable protagonist just because she's fun to read about. Her internal conflict and her naivete make her more interesting and give her depth, and her relationship with Jasnah is fascinating and complex.
Kaladin is a slave in a war-camp, son of a surgeon, who's hit rock bottom. He is also my favorite, and the one I can tell you least about because every bit of his character development plays into the larger plot. What I can say is that I was afraid he was going to be Kelsier the Second, and he was not - the critical difference being that when Kelsier was faced with a setback, he got angry; when Kaladin is faced with one, he breaks down. Not only does this make more sense, given Kaladin's age, it makes him a little more sympathetic since he's less inclined towards "KILL THEM ALL" speeches.
Dalinar is the king's uncle, and he's seen better days. Once a famous warrior, he's now suspected by many to be losing his edge, if not outright insane. Strange visions haunt him, as does the guilt of failing to protect his brother, the current king's father, who was assassinated several years ago. He's caught in several wars, both political and violent, and doesn't seem to want to fight any of them. Dalinar did the most to shed light on the history and mythos of Roshar, though even that wasn't much, and sometimes his sections were boring... but not too often.
Szeth is the man who killed Dalinar's brother, though not for any reason of his own. He's essentially a human tool, even a weapon in the hands of someone who knows his capabilities, and the brief scenes with him in them seem inconsequential until near the end, when it all builds into something that will no doubt fuel the next several volumes. All I'll say about Szeth is that I feel really, really sorry for him.
There are, of course, a bevy of supporting characters. Shallan's brothers; Jasnah; the priest who tries to convert Jasnah through Shallan; Kaladin's fellow slaves and the family he left behind long ago; Dalinar's two sons, Adolin and Renarin; his brother's widowed wife, Navani; the young king, Elkohar; the king's other adviser, Sadeas. And more. Many of the negative reviews mention the one-shot characters who appear in the 'Interlude' sections as useless fluff, but I respectfully disagree. Part of their virtue is for worldbuilding, but no doubt we'll be seeing more of the characters and areas they introduce later in the series, and as far as I'm concerned that makes them worth it.
IT'S TIME FOR THE JASNAH KHOLIN APPRECIATION SECTION!
I am an atheist. So, it would seem, are a lot of fictional characters, if only because their author hasn't bothered to create believable religions in their world at all. You get your standard Christianity rip-offs, the evil flesh-eating cult or two, and maybe some basic Greek-style polytheism or the occasional animist. Main characters, it seems, very rarely have a defined relationship with religion, which I often read as atheism by default. And that's fine. I'd rather slot a character into my personal default than go through something ham-handed like the discussion of faith in Eldest. If the writer doesn't want to include religion in their worldbuilding, that's okay. It's hard to do right and can ruin everything if done wrong.
Brandon Sanderson does it right. We know this already - from Mistborn, if you've read nothing else of his. Think of Sazed, always able to list off another faith and explain their beliefs in a perfectly plausible, tolerant manner. Think of the way a religion cropped up around a brutal tyrant. It's part of the world and it works.
But just because he can do religion right doesn't mean he can do atheism right. It's hard for people who hold one belief strongly to create detailed, well-rounded, authentic characters with directly contrasting beliefs. Fantasy gives a level of removal from that problem, but it's still there: how can you write someone if you can't see from their point of view?
I don't know. I honestly don't. Sanderson does, though. Jasnah is a very believable atheist, and she can argue her points eloquently and intelligently, as befits someone as renowned for intelligence as she is. I was so, so worried she was going to be a strawman, set up just to be knocked down by TEH TRUTH ABOUT GAWD but she wasn't, she wasn't, she wasn't! and I cheered, a little bit, in my head, because she was so awesome. I love the way she thinks. I love her intelligence, her devotion to research, her snappishness, her ideas about justice. I love the idea of this strong, beautiful, powerful, confident, courageous, wise, good-hearted woman. Oh, she's flawed, but despite that - or maybe because of it - she is a celebration of what it means to be female.
Particularly worth noting is this conversation, after Jasnah and Shallan go looking for trouble, find it, and Jasnah obliterates it:
"That was horrible," Shallan finally said, hand still held to her breast. "It was one of the most awful things I've ever experienced. You killed four men."
Victim blaming: addressed, debated, PUT IN ITS PLACE, and then later framed in the context of one of the themes of the book: justice.
She is the kind of character that makes me think, I wanna be like her when I grow up.
END JASNAH KHOLIN APPRECIATION SECTION.
Now... the plot. Well, it's not fully hatched yet. It kind of pupated for the first 400+ pages, which is fine, really, because big plots need big expositions. When it gets going, it's properly high-stakes and awesome.
The shifting focus can get frustrating, just because at the end of a chapter about one character, all you want is to know what comes next - but then you read the next chapter, which is about someone else, and you finish it wanting to know what happens to them and almost having forgotten about the other one until you get into their chapter and get absorbed again and, well, it keeps repeating. I'll admit, I flipped ahead sometimes to skim the first few paragraphs dealing with whichever character I was most worried about and find out a bit of what happened. This was particularly prevalent in Part Three, which alternated only between Kaladin and Shallan right as really important, exciting things were happening to them both. And being without Shallan's narration for all of Part Four was difficult, even though what happened to the others was still intensely interesting.
I can't say too much about the climax because, of course, that would give away tons and tons of important information. I will say that it was what cemented Kaladin as my favorite - in particular, that he had a serious badass moment when he was all:
and everyone, even really high-ranking people, just did it because he is really that awesome.
Oh, and about twenty pages from the ending, we get a little more Shallan, which is when Sanderson decides is a good time to drop a tremendous reveal on us. My experience of it went something like this.
Never fear, though, because it's not a nasty cliffhanger. Indeed, the various plot threads are wrapped up pretty satisfactorily, with plenty of room and impetus for a sequel. It's a complete book, not the first half/third/tenth of one. Thank goodness.
There are going to be nine sequels to this, right? And if I guesstimated correctly, we'll be waiting at least two years for the next one. Hopefully it won't be much longer. But anyhow, nine sequels.
And to those of you who didn't like this book and maybe think I'm crazy to be showering it with praise, that's your problem.
There's a part of me that thinks if you don't like this book, maybe epic fantasy just isn't the right genre for you, because this is epic fantasy at its best. But, you know, whatever floats your boat, I guess. You can call it bloated and boring all you like. I will be over here eagerly awaiting the next one and crossing my fingers that Sanderson goes on tour soon. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 07, 2011
Aug 06, 2011
Feb 07, 2011
Aug 06, 1996
did not like it
EDIT: 14 Dec. 2012. I no longer get notifications for the comments. Feel free to duke it out with each other; just don't expect me to respond.
WARNING: EDIT: 14 Dec. 2012. I no longer get notifications for the comments. Feel free to duke it out with each other; just don't expect me to respond.
WARNING: If you enjoyed this book, even a little bit, you may not want to read this review. It will probably make you angry. Heaven knows that the book made me furious, and I intend to turn every bit of that wrath back on it.
Instead, I suggest you read karen's review, Brigid's review, Joyzi's review, or any other of the gushing four and five-star reviews here. If video reviews are more your style, I suggest Melina Pendulum's vlog about this book.
Realistically, I know a lot of you are not going to listen, which is why the edit is here. At least it will slow you down a little.
EDIT: adding one more thing because, despite the warning and the redirect links I kindly provided, I have indeed gotten the kind of sexist bullshit comments I anticipated. Before you launch into the usual defense, therefore, I give you this:
"Alternatively, some fans may find it tempting to argue “Well this media is a realistic portrayal of societies like X, Y, Z”. But when you say that sexism and racism and heterosexism and cissexism have to be in the narrative or the story won’t be realistic, what you are saying is that we humans literally cannot recognise ourselves without systemic prejudice, nor can we connect to characters who are not unrepentant bigots. Um, yikes. YIKES, you guys.
And even if you think that’s true (which scares the hell out of me), I don’t see you arguing for an accurate portrayal of everything in your fiction all the time. For example, most people seem fine without accurate portrayal of what personal hygiene was really like in 1300 CE in their medieval fantasy media. (Newsflash: realistically, Robb Stark and Jon Snow rarely bathed or brushed their teeth or hair). In real life, people have to go to the bathroom. In movies and books, they don’t show that very much, because it’s boring and gross. Well, guess what: bigotry is also boring and gross. But everyone is just dying to keep that in the script."
Here's the scoop on this review. For a book that I hate, I usually write a lot. After suffering for several hundred pages, I have pleeeenty of things to say. I've never hated a book that was quite as long as this one quite as much as I do, so I've had to alter my review so that I can say everything I want to without going over the character limit.
The first part is an unorganized rant. I marked pages with particularly annoying quotes on them; for these rants, I broke the book into segments of 100 pages and wrote up quotes and responses for each segment into separate blog posts. These are all linked below.
The second part will be a more organized rant masquerading as a review. MAKE NO MISTAKE: THIS IS A 'HATER' REVIEW. IF ANYTHING WAS GOING TO CAUSE ME TO SPONTANEOUSLY DEVELOP THE ABILITY TO BREATHE FIRE, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN THIS BOOK.
There are books I don't like.
There are books I loathe.
there's this book, which did its level best to drive me to drinking.
and I don't even like alcohol.
I wanted to like this. I wanted it to be as excellent as so many people insist it is. There are some books that I went into expecting them to be horrible, but this isn't one of them. Oh, my hopes were high here - it was recommended by a plethora of great authors, including the guys of Writing Excuses, who I absolutely love. Reviewers who I greatly respect rated it four and five stars and wrote at length about how awesome it was. Other people praised the book as "the greatest achievement of the fantasy genre so far" and Martin as "the greatest fantasy writer of all time".
It's those last two that are most important, I think, because I love the fantasy genre - always have, and hopefully always will. Fantasy is what got me into reading (well, Harry Potter, specifically) and it's been one of my mainstays for as long as I can remember. I bought this book in large part because it was so often touted as, if not always the greatest achievement of the genre, one of the major works of fantasy published in our time. Having recently read several works by Brandon Sanderson, all of which were innovative, highly readable, and deeply philosophical, I was excited to see what Martin (by all reports an even better writer than Sanderson) could do. I expected my mind to be blown, repeatedly, and to be faced with the challenge of writing a review for a book so staggeringly brilliant that I could hardly think straight after finishing it.
That is far, far, far from what I got.
First of all, this book is definitely not what I think of when I hear the word 'fantasy'. It's certainly far from my definition of 'high fantasy'. Now, I realize that my definition of 'high fantasy', which includes pervasive magic, unusual creatures, and a setting that is vividly far from the real world, is not the definition you'll find if you look the term up online. I also don't care. Seeing as the critical definition appears to characterize high fantasy solely by the fact that it doesn't take place on our Earth, and as this definition is written as if high fantasy and sword-and-sorcery are mutually exclusive, I'm inclined to conclude that whoever wrote said definition is pretty damn stupid and carry on with my own outlines of what makes fantasy high, low, urban, epic, or any other subcategory or combination thereof.
That said - this book? High fantasy? Not as far as I'm concerned. It is, to say the least, distinctly lacking in the requisite elements of the fantastic.
Is it possible that Martin is going for a 'the magic comes back' subplot over the course of the series? Definitely. Do I give two shits about the rest of the series? NOPE.
This book comes off as a pathetic attempt at fantasy by someone who doesn't really care about the genre, or doesn't know much about it. It mostly struck me more as an alternate universe War of the Roses fanfiction, with some hints of magic thrown in in a halfassed attempt to give it a place on the genre fiction shelves of bookstores. You can explain to me over and over how Martin intended to make his world 'gritty' and 'realistic' and I will tell you over and over that that shouldn't matter: that it is possible to have a fantasy which is gritty, realistic, and also utterly fantastical. It's even possible to do it without losing the particular areas where Martin seemed to be trying for gritty realism: since he chose to make all of his characters of the nobility anyhow, he wouldn't have had to worry about overglorifying the lives of the peasantry, as one might with a more economically diverse cast.
Now, I'm willing to give Martin the benefit of the doubt a little bit on the possibility of the 'magic comes back' thing, because there did seem to be elements here that could become fantastical if fully explained later. The problem, of course, is that they're tossed out without background, let alone proper explanation, and so feel jarring and out of place - not a coherent part of the world, but bits tossed in to be linked together later. Right now... all they managed to do was trip me up, throw me ass-over-teakettle out of the story, and leave me blinking at the page in confusion and not a little bit of frustration.
(And yeah, maybe part of why I'm so sore about this is that, like I said, I started this book not long after reading some Sanderson, and Sanderson is basically the king of seamless, fantastical, elegant worldbuilding, so pretty much anyone looks bad in comparison, but still.)
If I had to assign this book to a genre, I'd call it 'low fantasy', because as far as I'm concerned it was running too low on the qualities that make fantasy what it is. It's about as much fantasy as fanfiction that translates characters to the modern day is - namely, basically mundane with a miniscule twist.
The characters of this book also stand out... and not in a good way.
There are a lot of them - eight POVs and plenty more on the side - and not a single one of them is likeable. They all had the potential to be, which makes it worse. Bran, the Stark boy who learns too much and is crippled as a result, could have an interesting arc if it weren't so slow and drawn-out. The hints of genuine pathos-inducing story are definitely there. They're also present in the chapters focused on Catelyn, who is the closest Martin gets to a truly nuanced character. Ned Stark, Catelyn's husband, is supposed to be the noble one - too bad his 'nobility' comes off as stupidity instead. Jon Snow, Ned's bastard child, is a truly stereotypical fantasy character: the super special 'outcast' who is nonetheless generally loved except by those the narration makes a point to show as bigoted and cruel, who never really has to work either for physical skills or personal growth, and who gets gifted by the narrative with an absurd number of SUPER UNIQUE TRAPPINGS, including an albino wolf (really, Martin, REALLY? Are you secretly a fourteen year-old girl writing horrendous anime fanfic or something? Answer: no, and the comparison is insulting to fourteen year-old girls.) and a bastard sword that was a family heirloom of a noble house not his own. Arya is by far the most entertaining of the Starks, but only because she fulfills all sorts of rebellious-noble-girl-learns-to-fight tropes that I'm quite fond of. Sansa's chapters made me set the book down for days on end; she is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most insipid, annoying, airheaded character I have ever read and she has not a single whisper of a redeeming quality. Tyrion Lannister is what Jon Snow could have become without the heapings of Gary Stu in his youth: a bitter middle-aged man with father issues who turns to sex and crudity as his only defense; somewhat akin to Catelyn, he had the potential to be interesting and nuanced if his behavior hadn't been played dead straight.
And there's one more: Daenerys Targaryen. Oh, Dany, Dany, Dany. I could write a dissertation on Dany and everything that went wrong with her story - but I don't have that kind of time.
For those of you not familiar with this most epic of George R.R. Martin's characterization and plot failures, here is a summary:
(oh and spoilers, but I honestly can't be bothered to tag it.)
When we first meet her, Dany is thirteen years ond and about to be sold (effectively) into marriage with Khal Drogo, a warlord of the Dothraki people, by her abusive and not-a-little-bit-crazy brother, Viserys. Viserys has convinced himself that Drogo will help him take back 'his' kingdom - this being the Seven Kingdoms where the rest of the book takes place - hence the whole 'selling his sister to be
To which my primary objections are:
1. The blinding obviousness of the ending
2. The fact that this single plotline - this single POV among eight - is so far distant from and so barely related to the others
3. The fact that Dany being raped is never treated as what it is, and that the relationship between her and Drogo is portrayed as love.
The first two are self-explanatory; the third, of course, is the big thorny problem. Now, I can sort of understand the perspective which argues that Dany is taking control of her sexuality - she comes to enjoy sex and even to initiate and control it at times. However, SHE IS AT NO POINT OLDER THAN FOURTEEN. There's a reason that such a concept as an 'age of consent' exists - there is an age at which teenagers are genuinely immature and probably shouldn't be making life-changing decisions like, say, things that could get them pregnant. Now, I understand that in the medieval times like those that this book is based on, girls were getting married and having children a lot earlier, and that people in general were more mature at an early age. However, Dany shows none of that maturity until after she's been with Drogo for weeks - if not months. When she's married to him, she is if anything unusually innocent for her age. It's a little hard for me to accept the idea that she's taking control of her sexuality when she's so young and clueless that her first sexual experience is a choice only inasmuch as she chooses not to fight back. Not fighting back, by the way, doesn't mean it's not rape, particularly in the situation that Dany is in (vastly younger than Drogo, vastly weaker, browbeaten by her abusive brother and told over and over that her obligation is to do whatever her husband wants). Nor are her later sexual experiences ones of choice; in fact, it is explicitly stated that even when she had horrible saddle sores and could barely walk, she was expected to be available for sex and treated as such. If anything, her eventual enjoyment of it seems more like a psychological block put up as a survival tactic than genuine pleasure in the act or love for Drogo.
Yet, despite the fact that this situation is obviously, beyond a shadow of a doubt, rape, it's never addressed in-text. If anything, it's portrayed as a positive experience for Dany, one that makes her stronger and enables her to stand up for herself.
Stupid me; I thought that the cancerous expansion of rape-as-love was limited to abusive jackass love interests in YA paranormal romances; clearly, I was wrong. It's everywhere, people. We are all completely fucking doomed.
Which brings me to one of the other major frustrations I had with this book: the sex.
Ummm... what to say? I thought reading some of the V'lane bits of Darkfever while sitting next to my mother on the plane was uncomfortable; to my utter shock, that was nothing compared to reading the sex scenes of this book alone. No worry about someone looking over my shoulder and reading about MacKayla Lane getting hot and bothered - and yet even more awkward. Why? Well, as one reviewer put it (and I wish I could remember who to give them credit), they're written kind of as if they're these tremendous mythic events. I cringe at the very thought of quoting them, but to give you a little idea of what they're like... (worst romance sex scenes you've ever read) - (bizarre flowerly euphemisms) + (gratuitous use of the word 'manhood')*(general strange reverence for penises above and beyond the norm) + (incidences of incest) = Game of Thrones sex scene.
In general: AWKWARD.
(Just to be sure you feel my pain.)
This book felt male-oriented in a way that is so painfully forced that it made me distinctly uncomfortable. I don't mean that women can't enjoy it - obviously, as all the reviews I linked back at the top demonstrate, they can and they do. I mean that the book itself felt as if it were written for the most stereotypical male audience imaginable. As Tatiana described it, it reads like a soap opera for men. Because MEN want lots of violence, sex, swearing by female genitalia, and paper-thin motivations, right? Which is exactly what Martin dishes up.
and so is the book he's produced.
I thought at around the halfway point that I'd finish the book and be able to watch the HBO show to get the rest of the series without suffering through more awkwardly described sex scenes (not to mention the rest of it). By the time I finished, though, I had developed such a virulent hatred for this book, its author, and everything related to either of the above that I start grinding my teeth just reading praise for it. Watching the show would be vastly to my detriment - mostly because neither my hand nor my bank account would do well after I put my fist through the screen of my laptop.
Oh, and to the diehard defenders of this series, like those who were plaguing Keely's review, who like to tell people who disagree with them that GRRM is the greatest writer of ALL TIME and that the female characters presented herein are feminist (or, to use an exact quote, that "GRRM has written some of the most independent, self-reliant heroines ever to grace the fantasy genre. It's more than half the reason he's so beloved. His female characters disdain male attention, are always smarter, faster, deadlier, and braver than any of their male counterparts. Kinda like feminists with swords" which is complete and utter bullshit), I have only one thing to say:
THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT. ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 21, 2011
Nov 10, 2011
Feb 04, 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Oct 23, 2012
ETA: My feelings on the cover.
Seriously though - stiff posing, random shirtlessness, and I'm pretty sure the wind is blowing her hair one direction (b ETA: My feelings on the cover.
Seriously though - stiff posing, random shirtlessness, and I'm pretty sure the wind is blowing her hair one direction (back, away from the viewer) and her dress another (to the right)... and is she trying to throw herself into the ocean?
(view spoiler)[I do believe Ms. Fitzpatrick has gone past the point of beating a dead horse and is now to the stage of humping it wildly. (hide spoiler)]
If you clicked on that, the mental image is your own damn fault.
GODDAMMIT MY PICTURES BROKE.
ANYHOW, I HAVE REPLACEMENT CONTENT.
AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL YAPNR AUTHORS, EDITORS, AND PUBLISHERS, IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I AM FUCKING SICK OF THIS SHIT:
DO YOU EVEN FUCKING UNDERSTAND WHAT THE WORD SAGA MEANS? LET ME LOOK IT UP FOR YOU, SINCE APPARENTLY YOU'VE NEVER EVEN BOTHERED TO GOOGLE THIS SHIT. LAZY ASSHOLES. I THOUGHT YOU HAD COLLEGE DEGREES BUT WTF APPARENTLY NOT.
HERE WE GO.
DICTIONARY FUCKING DOT COM, IDIOTS. USE. IT.
"sa·ga /ˈsɑgə/ ] Show IPA
1. a medieval Icelandic or Norse prose narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc.
2. any narrative or legend of heroic exploits.
3. Also called saga novel. a form of the novel in which the members or generations of a family or social group are chronicled in a long and leisurely narrative."
WHICH MEANS THAT TO CONTINUE CALLING THIS SHIT A SAGA, YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO ME EITHER A) HOW FITZPATRICK IS A MEDIEVAL ICELANDIC OR NORSE STORYTELLER, B) HOW THIS SERIES CONSTITUTES A 'LEGEND' OF 'HEROIC EXPLOITS' (AND WHEN YOU GOT DROPPED ON YOUR HEAD AS A CHILD IF YOU CONSIDER REPEATED SEXUAL HARRASSMENT AND RELATIONSHIP ABUSE TO BE A HEROIC TRAIT), OR C) HOW THIS DEALS WITH GENERATIONS OF A FAMILY OR SOCIAL GROUP IN A LEISURELY SENSE.
OH, YOU CAN'T DO ANY OF THAT?
DAYUM. BULLSHIT UNIVERSITY BETTER REVOKE YOUR DIPLOMAS.
THIS IS NOT A SAGA.
END OF STORY.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]> ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 01, 2011
Oct 19, 2010
Oct 19, 2010
did not like it
This book is preposterous, degrading, and offensive to strong women everywhere.
There. If you disagree passionately with that statement, you will be of This book is preposterous, degrading, and offensive to strong women everywhere.
There. If you disagree passionately with that statement, you will be offended by what follows.
You've been warned.
Oh yeah, and spoilers ahead, because I don't really care enough about this Idiot Plot enough not to give it all away. Capice? Good. You may proceed.
The worst part of Nightshade is that I actually liked the basic concepts. The notion of a world populated and semi-controlled by witches and werewolves, with incubi and chimerae and all that other good stuff- that interests me. I could go with that. So it's a shame to see that ruined by a cast of characters that made my blood boil, and plot that involved most of said cast being stereotyped and/or just plain willfully ignorant, and the only exception being stereotyped and occasionally douchebaggey.
But the one I really want to talk about is Calla.
At first, I was glad to see her characterized the way she is. A female alpha, a warrior, in command of her pack? GIRL POWER!
What followed was an argument between me and this book. Went something like this.
Me: GIRL POWER!
Book: GIRL POWER!
Me: So, because Calla's full of win and GIRL POWER, she's going to stand up to Ren and be his equal, right?
Book: Sure, since he says that's the way he wants it.
Book: Well, obviously male alphas have authority even over the females. You know, like in real wolf societies?
Me: Yes, but these are WEREwolves. They've got to have been influenced by feminism, right?
Book: No, they don't. I don't want them to. Then I wouldn't get my enthusiastically flity/feminine best friend, or the stereotyped tomboy bitch, or the empty shell of a girl who follows said tomboy bitch around.
Me: And Calla?
Book: Calla's an ALPHA. GIRL POWER!
Me: Yes, but no. See, she's very clearly an alpha in name only. Everyone- even her own pack before the union- defers to Ren. At times, they stand up to her and basically tell her to go to hell with her commands. IF she was an alpha with GIRL POWER, she would keep them in line and actually behave like a leader. Instead, she lets everyone steamroller her- from Ren to Shay even when he's human. She's never in control of her life, and she hesitates to take control. For an alpha, she's not assertive in the least. All it takes is a little kissing for her to give up every thought in her head, if she had one in the first place.
Me: And then there's her mother. You know what part bothered me most? I marked it specifically. "You cannot cross an alpha male, even when you belong to another. You risk your own life to do so." That's what Naomi tells her daughter after Ren's father has been sexually harassing her. Now, I understand the point in the society of the Guardians. BUT. Look at the larger message. You know what she's saying?
"If the men are stronger than you, you become their possession, and others of that level of strength may also possess you unless your owner man fights for you."
Here's my response.
Book: Have an angsty ending?
Me: NO. GO DIE.
And that's pretty much it. I would have been less insulted if Calla hadn't been an 'alpha'; by putting her in a position of assumed power and then subverting it, Cremer made her even weaker and more of an affront to true strong women. ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 17, 2011
Jan 19, 2011
Feb 16, 2010
Mar 22, 2011
Mar 22, 2011
it was ok
Let me start by saying that I know numerous people who liked or loved this book, and that I see why someone would and I mean no disrespect to your opi Let me start by saying that I know numerous people who liked or loved this book, and that I see why someone would and I mean no disrespect to your opinions. You have, in general, written very eloquent, expressive reviews describing why you liked it and I have read and enjoyed those reviews. I'm not here to step on anyone's toes.
Except maybe Lauren DeStefano's, because I didn't like this book.
Wither fans, I might be mean after this point. You've been warned.
The basic concept of this book is bullshit. Science 'perfected children' and freed the world of disease, but when their perfect generation had kids, the kids all died when they reached a certain age. It's so freaking precise it's ridiculous. Something flips a switch in women at age 20, and in men at age 25, and they die before they reach their next birthday.
Aw fuck, who told you you could throw science out the window?
Disease is not that precise. Period. Someone who is perfectly healthy for nineteen years doesn't suddenly start dying when they turn twenty. Believe it or not, nature doesn't give a shit about your birthday. If it had been a wasting disease that meant pretty much no one lived past their 25th birthday because they were withering away for their entire lives, I might have bought it. Maybe. But as is it's totally ridiculous and serves no purpose except to a) provide an excuse for everyone to be young and b) make them all angsty.
And that's just the beginning of the science fails in this book. My theory is that DeStefano has a horrible swell-up-and-die allergic reaction to research, because she doesn't seem to have done any. Which results in...
...a world where the polar ice caps have been melted and yet the action takes place in FLORIDA. You know what the highest point in Florida is? It's called Britton Hill, and it's 345 feet tall. If both polar ice caps melted, USGS estimates that sea levels would rise 215 feet. That means only 130 feet of Britton Hill would be exposed above the water. Florida's average elevation, by the way, is 100 feet above sea level, which means that in Rhine's world it should be 115 feet below the water. Manhattan, where Rhine lived before she was kidnapped, and L.A., from which some fabric is once ordered, wouldn't be any better off.
...a war in the history of this world that "demolished all but North America, the continent with the most advanced technology. The damage was so catastrophic that all that remains of the rest of the world is ocean and uninhabitable islands so tiny that they can't even be seen from space."
I'm not sure what kind of weapons DeStefano thinks can demolish entire CONTINENTS into tiny islands, first of all, but if she's alluding to nukes I can promise you that we, the loud and proud U.S. of A., would be first on some other nuclear powers' shit lists. Which means that North America wouldn't be left unscathed. And Manhattan certainly wouldn't have survived - because really, if you were an enemy power wanting to hurt the States, you'd hit D.C., New York, and Los Angeles before almost anything else.
Also, the idea of a war that could destroy the Himalayas is ridiculous.
And if everyone's dying before they turn thirty, there's no way they're still running a space program, so how would they know if the islands are visible from space or not?
This strikes me as a stunning cop-out. There's no need for the other continents to be destroyed, except maybe saving DeStefano from having to involve them in her plot. Frankly, if the ice caps melted the world would be fucked up enough without a war. Between ice caps, catastrophic war, and messed up genetic experiences, this world is bizarre beyond readability.
...characters who are supposedly smart, or who know about things, and yet think Christopher Columbus circumnavigated the world in the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. If anyone ever, ever, ever tells you this, hit them. It was MAGELLAN whose expedition first circumnavigated the globe; he had five ships and a two second Google search will give you the names of all of them, none of which sound remotely like Columbus's little fleet. But hell, that doesn't even take reasearch. Anyone who went through American high school should know that Columbus didn't sail around the world!
...a society that has holograms everywhere, ubiquitously, but still uses a card catalog in its library. I don't think I need to explain this. It's just preposterous.
...a Florida in which it snows. Heavily. A lot. I lived in South Carolina for about four years and do you know how much it snowed? ONCE. Also, if the ice caps melted, your average temperature should be higher, not lower. Big fucking duh.
...hurricanes that only start hitting the coast in October. Hurricane season starts in June! And also, if Africa is shattered, what makes you think you'll have hurricanes at all? They do require continents to form, you know; they don't just pop up out of nowhere.
So that's the science for you. Fucking stupid. Now, let's talk about non-scientific logic fails.
1. Though girls are supposedly ever so valuable as wombs, those who aren't bought by the wealthy are killed.
2. Christmas has somehow, for reasons never explained, become the solstice celebration. Look, if the world is screwed up, people are going to turn towards religion, not away from it.
3. Rhine's idea of a disguise is putting in contacts. As if her eyes are her only distinguishing feature. This girl ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer.
4. Linden, despite having lost someone very important to him before, supposedly can't understand Rhine and Cecily's grief when someone they cared for died. Uuuuum what?
And then there's the character of Rhine. She was, for lack of a better word, a tool. When she hears servants badmouthing someone who treated them like shit, she thinks that "none of these people, laughing at her expense, would understand anyway." She has no respect for her fellow sister wives, and it takes her far too long to recognize that Jenna isn't a weakling who's trying to ignore the world. (Jenna, the one character in the book who I really liked, is far better to Rhine than Rhine deserves.) Oh, and there's the time when Rhine, knowing Gabriel is going to come up with a logical reason why her plan is idiotic, kisses him to shut him up. I'm not kidding; here, have a quote: "I know, I just know, that he's going to use logic against me, and that will never do if I want to get out of this place at all before I die, so I kiss him."
There are other things, of course. Cecily was a little brat for the entire book, and frankly she disgusted me - maybe that's just me being a prude, but there you go. Linden had moments when he might have been interesting, but he was way too oblivious and some of his actions seemed irrational. Also, while sometimes he was a nice guy, he occasionally just made decisions for his wives without even thinking about their sides of it.
My reaction to this book may be a result of the fact that after twelve years of public education I'm completely sick of immaturity. My tolerance level right now is miniscule. And because none of these characters are allowed to grow up, they act immaturely all the goddamn time.
But while that's probably a factor, it's not the only reason I disliked this book. It's supposedly science fiction, which means there should be more SCIENCE IN IT. And while it may not actually be dystopia, since it doesn't spring out of anything in the modern world, it doesn't fit in post-apocalyptic fiction either because the apocalypse is given only a passing mention and doesn't affect the world in the way it logically should.
Wither got its second star for the ending, because it was actually quite beautiful. Not good enough for me to read a sequel, but I left the book feeling a bit more positive than I expected. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 13, 2011
Jun 15, 2011
Aug 16, 2010
Jul 17, 2006
Jul 25, 2006
it was amazing
Note to self: You are no longer allowed to bring books this good on family road trips. It makes you antisocial. You ignore the great views outside the Note to self: You are no longer allowed to bring books this good on family road trips. It makes you antisocial. You ignore the great views outside the car. You resent being torn away from the book to spend time with family, and when you are you babble incessantly about how awesome it is and how everyone would like it and how cool the magic is and how great the characters and on and on and on until your family is probably sick of you. And then, even after an eight-mile hike in the desert when you're covered in sweat and dirt, you let your sister have first shower so you'd have more reading time. You even considered skipping dinner to finish it! This is the kind of book that stays at home in future, where you can sit and read all day and not be bothered.
And now for the rest of you - all the above is true. For the few days I was reading it, this book did its level best to take over my life. It was addicting. I craved it like chocolate, and not being able to read was hard to deal with.
I would expect nothing less from the man chosen to finish the Wheel of Time, or from a contributor to Writing Excuses, the podcast that got me into podcasts. I went into Mistborn ready to be impressed, but that's not what happened. I wasn't impressed. I was wowed. Blown away. Astounded. Engrossed. Shocked. Thrilled. And filled with a sense of loss when it was over.
This is not a good book, my friends.
This is a great book.
This is what fantasy needs.
As far as the genre is concerned, this book - this series - this author - is the Hero of Ages.
Thank goodness for Brandon Sanderson. Thank goodness for a writer with such a depth of imagination; for the wildly creative systems of magic he creates; for his vivid and haunting settings; for his masterful plotting and artful twists which are, always, "surprising but inevitable". Thank goodness for a male writer who makes his female main character strong, but not in a masculine way. Vin is seriously amazing. So is the rest of the cast - my one objection is that there aren't any other women in significant roles, but maybe that'll change in later books.
And the writing! I know from Writing Excuses that Sanderson has never wanted to be anything but an author, and that he spent years working as a hotel clerk so he had time to write, and that he had completed numerous novels before he managed to sell one. It shows. The language is almost entirely flowing and clear, suffering only occasionally from an over-use of commas. (One after every 'but' is a bit much.) More authors should learn to write like this. More authors should practice writing the way he has.
Normally I find more to say about books I like, but this time I'm too impressed. Sanderson has amazed me beyond anything I expected. I can't wait to read The Well Of Ascension. ...more
Notes are private!
May 24, 2011
Jun 06, 2011
Dec 02, 2009
Mar 04, 2014
Mar 04, 2014
it was amazing
March 5th: Done with first readthrough. It was, in fact, more perfect than expected. I only cried a little bit; mostly afterwards I just have this fee March 5th: Done with first readthrough. It was, in fact, more perfect than expected. I only cried a little bit; mostly afterwards I just have this feeling of intense satisfaction.
I will probably still wait to review until I've read through twice; I have a lot that I think I want to say but I haven't fully processed it.
August 10: It's obvious to everyone that I'm not gonna get around to a reread for a while, right? Cool. I'll do it eventually, because I have a lot to say about this book, but it'll take a lot more time and energy than I have right now.
4 MARCH 2014: IT'S OUT! I'm going to leave this review up as-is until I can replace it with an actual review of the book; as I'm going to be reading it twice (one speed-read before Sanderson comes to my area for a signing, one thorough re-read afterwards) that may be some time.
18 December 2013: Review rewritten/reorganized to be more coherent and remove out-of-date info.
19 January 2014: Links added for TOR-released chapters. There will be two more chunks posted on the website before the book comes out.
21 January 2014: First of those two remaining chunks released at noon EST. I feel pretty comfortable saying we'll see the last set of chapters - the ones Peter Ahlstrom has been hinting at by saying we haven't gotten the 'hooks' yet - at the same time on the 28th.
28 January 2014: I was right. Links updated below. Note that now all the chapters we know to expect have been released; this may be the end of preview material.
RELEASE DATE: March 4. This is pretty much set at this point.
COVER/FLAP DESCRIPTION: can be found here. If you're not sure who's who, title explanations are under the spoiler cut: (view spoiler)[the Windrunner is Kaladin, the Lightweaver is Shallan, and the Explorer is Eshonai. We're pretty sure the Bondsmith is Dalinar; I'm hesitant to list that as an absolute ID because I still think he's a strong contender for being a Stoneward. The Assassin, obviously, is Szeth. (hide spoiler)]
As of this review update, the version Goodreads has on their page for the book is the old version. There are obviously major changes between the two, but both provide interesting hints towards plot events.
- Eshonai interlude (Audio, part 1 (excerpt starts at 12:30), part 2 (overlaps somewhat with first part); transcript)
- Shallan flashback (Audio, transcript)
- Rysn interlude (Writing videos: prewriting, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve; transcript)
- Taravangian interlude (Excerpt)
- Jasnah prologue (Transcript)
- Kaladin, chapter 2 (Transcript)
- Dalinar flashback (Transcript)
- Ym interlude (Transcript)
- Lift interlude (Excerpt)
- Teeny fragment of conversation involving Dalinar (Excerpt, sort of)
-Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 at TOR (Excerpt)
- Chapters 3-5 at TOR (Excerpt)
- Chapters 6, 8, and 9 at TOR (Excerpt)
- Chapters 10, 12, 14, and Interlude I-1 at TOR (Excerpt; note that Ch. 10 and Interlude I-1 were previously released in audio as Red Carpet, Once White and the Eshonai Interlude; however, there have been changes in the final versions.)
As of right now, everything released via the Steelhunt is also on this list, so if you don't have a code you're not missing anything. One note: Everything marked 'excerpt' can be considered correct re: spelling and grammar, because it comes from an official source. Anything marked 'transcript' may have misspelled names or inaccurate punctuation. Obviously, any and all of these portions are subject to change before the final version.
Notes are private!
Mar 05, 2014
Sep 16, 2011
Oct 13, 2009
Oct 13, 2009
did not like it
I have forty eight sticky notes.
Well, forty nine, I suppose, since I use the little white backing thing too. They're quite nice sticky notes, designed I have forty eight sticky notes.
Well, forty nine, I suppose, since I use the little white backing thing too. They're quite nice sticky notes, designed not to be written on but as bookmarks; at some year in the past they magically appeared in my Christmas stocking, and I haven't really used them since. I suspect there were originally fifty, so I've used two elsewhere.
Anyhow. Forty nine sticky notes was what I started with when I commenced reading Hush, Hush a little after 9 AM on August 25.
Less than fifteen hours and over a hundred pages later, I ran out of sticky notes. I used the notes to mark particularly horrendous parts of the book- and frankly, I'm surprised they lasted this long.
In the interest of not broaching another set of sticky notes which I may want from school, I'm going to deal with this book segment by segment; when I finish one round of sticky notes, I review and then continue. 'Course, since I won't post this until it's finished you'll just get the complete version. No perspective analysis, unless I really feel like it. All I'm going to do is quote Fitzpatrick, comment on the quote briefly, and move on.
EDIT: Before I even got through Section 1, I was over Goodreads' character limit by 978 characters. I still have more than 9 pages (counting one side of a sheet of lined paper as a page) of handwritten notes to type up- and those aren't even including responses, they're just quotes. So I'm going to cut this review down to the maximum accepted size (and do some formatting too) and post the rest in comments. Lengthy ranting? Heck yes.
Section 1: 0-113
Chauncey was with a farmer's daughter on the grassy banks of the Loire River when the storm rolled in, and having let his gelding wander in the meadow, was left to his own two feet to carry him back to the chateau.
- Book begins, very first sentence, with sex. BAD SIGN.
-Is this going to be relevant? Do the doings of one randy duke in Sixteenth Century France really concern the later plot?
Kneeling there, blinking up through the rain, he saw two thick scars on the back of the boy's naked torso. They narrowed to form an upside-down V.
- Is it the scar tissue that narrows? Because that's how it seems.
- I'm no expert on anatomy, but the V thing seems odd. Wouldn't having flight muscles attached to your latissimus dorsi (I believe that's the name, but the ones that wrap from the front of your ribcage to the back) be awfully strenous? Wouldn't you build up those muscles to unrealistic and bizarre-looking proportions?
'Welcome to Human Reproduction (Sex)'
At my side Vee Sky said, "This is exactly why the school outlaws camera phones. Pictures of this in the e-Zine would be all the evidence I'd need to get the board of education to ax biology."
- Is it really necessary to introduce Vee with first and last name, especially as this is written from Nora's perspective?
- Odds of a BoE getting rid of biology in any school curriculum are next to nil. Odds of BoE firing idiot teacher or changing the curriculum are pretty good, though.
Coach considered teaching tenth-grade biology a side assignment to his job as varsity basketball coach, and we all knew it.
- The frick? No. Biology is an ENORMOUS subject. Anyone who teaches it and can get a job teaching it has to, by definition almost, be devoted primarily to it.
- For future reference, Vee and Nora are sophomores, which means they'll be between fourteen and sixteen, probably sixteen.
"Science is an investigation," Coach said, sanding his hands together. "Science requires us to transform into spies."
- I will not digress into my own academic scientific background, but this is wrong. Science is an investigation, yes. Science requires observing things in a way which may be spy-like, yes. But it's not espionage. Deviate how you will from the scientific method, but most science is going to require experiments at one point, not just observation and certainly not just 'sleuthing'.
Vee is my un-twin. She's green-eyed, minky blond, and a few pounds over curvy. I'm a smoky-eyed brunette with volumes of curly hair that holds its own against even the best flatirn. And I'm all legs, like a bar stool.
- Descriptioninfodump not appreciated. Bits and pieces, Ms. Fitzpatz, bits and pieces. Your readers are smart enough to 'patch' together a description from fragments scattered here and there where relevant. This spoon-feeding paragraph is distracting from the 'action' of the story and just slightly insulting to my intelligence.
My heart fumbled a beat and in that pause, a feeling of gloomy darkness seemed to slide like a shadow over me. It vanished in an instant, but I was still staring at him. His smile wasn't friendly. It was a smile that spelled trouble. With a promise.
- Does darkness slide over something like anything but a shadow? Superflous description.
- If this is her first impression of Patch, it bodes ill...
Coach said, "Human reproduction can be a sticky subject."
"Ewww!" groaned a chorus of students.
"It requires mature handling. And like all science, the best approach is to learn by sleuthing. For the rest of the class, practice this technique by finding out as much as you can about your new partner."
- Yes, it does require mature handling- which neither Fitzpatz or her character displays. Immature puns? Not amused.
- SLDKJFLAJ: EXPERIMENTS GODDAMMIT. Not ****ing SLEUTHING, EXPERIMENTS.
- 'Technique'? What technique? Word implies that he's taught them some kind of technique to use in 'sleuthing', but he clearly has not.
- What's with Fitzpatz's love of this word 'sleuthing' anyhow? Did she just learn what it means or something? Is she trying to show off?
I sat perfectly still. The ball was in his court- I'd smiled, and look how well that turned out.
- We find out later that Nora wants to get into an Ivy-League school, or at least that she's capable of it. So why is someone who must have been going after her grades nigh-on aggressively her entire highschool career content to sit back passively and let someone else control the fate of an assignment? She has no drive and no persistence, obviously.
Great. At this rate I would fail.
- SO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT YOU TWIT.
"Call me Patch. I mean it. Call me."
- Horrible pick-up line. Does Fitzpatz really think teenagers speak like this?
- Useless pick-up line. 'Call me' doesn't work unless you give the subject a relevant phone number.
"I wasn't finished," he said. "I've got quite a collection going of an eZine columnist who believes there's truth in eating organic, who writes poetry in secret, and who shudders at the thought of having to choose between Stanford, Yale, and... what's that big one with the H?"
- GINORMOUS RED FLAGS. He's stalking you and taking pictures, Nora, you airhead. He's at the very least a voyeur, at the most a sexual predator. REPORT THIS SHIT. That's what the police are there for.
- This is Fitzpatz trying to characterize Nora through someone else's exposition- we are told she is all of these things, but never shown any of them.
The hair at the nape of my neck stood on end, and the temperature in the room seemed to chill. Ordinarily I would have gone straight to Coach's desk and requested a new seating chart.
- I cannot believe it. She just basically ACKNOWLEDGED changing her viewpoint character's personality becausse of (what will become) TWOO WUVE FOEVAH AN EVAH. Under ordinary circumstances she would have requested a change, but because it's PATCH THE SUPER SPESHUL MAN she doesn't. Bullshit.
He was a dark-Levi's-dark-henley-dark-boots kind of guy.
- Boots? Jeans? Henley? Agh. I pictured this and it looked horrible. Ominous maybe, fashionable definitely not.
"Go for it. I could use a hook for my next eZine article. 'Tenth Grader Fights Back.' Better yet, 'Seating Chart Takes Slap in the Face.' Mmm. I like it."
- And from this we learn that Vee can't write for jack. Seriously lame, both of these; pompous and not in the least bit clever.
"How was school?" Dorothea asked with a slight German accent.
- Poor description. This makes it sound like she's assuming the accent, not that it's natural.
- Why is the housekeeper always accented? What, people born in the USA don't need to take such jobs?
On the line beneath it I added, Smokes cigars. Will die of lung cancer. Hopefullly soon. Excellent physical shape.
- You do realize that 'will die of lung cancer' and 'excellent physical shape' shouldn't normally go together?
- Why did she scribble the last comment out? He's creepy about her; she should be creepy right back. Besides, it's the most Biology-related thing she's done yet.
I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something about Patch wasn't right. Something about him wasn't normal. Something wasn't... safe.
- And yet you still descend into the depths of a bar that you're too young to be in to find him. Brilliant. Stanford is drooling over that.
"As it turns out, I'm in need of a healthy female sacrifice. I'd planned on luring her into trusting me first, but if you're ready now..."
- This would make a fine joke, if it was said in a lighthearted situation, a joking tone, and to someone who wasn't already scared of Patch. As is, it just shows that he's an insensitive bastard.
Patch casually but noticeably slid his sleeve down over his wrist. "You'd prefer it someplace more private?"
- And he officially has the Magical Ability to Turn Any Situation Into Something Perverted. Just fantastic, eh?
"Intelligent. Attractive. Vulnerable."
- PREDATOR. Singles out those who are on the outside edges, the weakest, and then takes them down. Basic predator/prey interaction. Nora is the deer with the broken leg in this one.
"I'm starting a petition to have Coach fired," Vee said, coming to my table.
- Why the hell is everyone referring to him as Coach? Is that his given first name? Or is he just such a whackjob that he prefers it even off the field? And besides, aren't there many coaches at this school? Vee could be referring to any of them!
"Let's give the seating chart a few more weeks. Oh, and I was serious about tutoring Patch. I'll count you in."
- WHAT. THE. FUCK. What kind of screwed-up school did you go to, Fitzpatz, that you think teachers are like this. They're NOT. Especially not to the good students, as Nora seems to be. Teachers aren't there for the money, they're there because teaching is what they want to do. No teacher will condone, facilitate, or even allow the abuse Patch dishes out to Nora, and no teacher would not only refuse to make a simple change to ease a studen's mind but also lassoo said student into tutoring someone she is afraid of.
Vee unlocked the doors to her 1995 purple Dodge Neon.
- What is it with Fitzpatz and the year, model, and make of these beat-up old cars? At the very least drop the year; NO ONE CARES. Hate to stereotype but your book will be read primarily by hormonal teenage girls. You don't need to appeal to the inner car mechanic in most of them, trust me.
I had never been seriously interested in anyone. How wierd was I? "It isn't about the boys, it's about... love. I haven't found it."
- WHAT THE FUCK. AGAIN. NOT HAVING INTENSE CRUSHES DOESN'T MAKE YOU A FREAKSHOW. GOD. (and I don't use that lightly, as an atheist.) Seriously, talk to a couple of teenagers. I personally am DAMN FUCKING PROUD to have made it to sixteen years old without a first kiss. No, I'm not shitting you. Sometimes high school boys are just stupid and not worth your time; there's no shame in that. Hell, I can name someone who shares my 'romantic state' and is two years older than I am. Assuming that all teenagers are horny little idiots and that high school 'romance' is the center of their universe makes no one look worse than the IDIOT AUTHOR.
- Now, keeping in mind that I have little romantic experience, point two. Saving yourself for your One Twoo Wuv is all well and good in fairy tales, but in real life is impractical. Like anything you pin all your hopes on, the potential for disaster is enormous. You know the saying 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall'? Applies double to expectations. Build yourself up and it'll just be worse if/when it goes wrong. And let's face it, Nora's idiot enough that it's GONNA GO WRONG.
"Someday this is going to be us. Ravished by half-dressed cowboys. I wonder what it's like to kiss a pair of sunbaked, mud-crusted lips?"
- MEMO TO VEE AND ALL ROMANCE WRITERS: 'Ravished' does not mean wild, passionate, consensual, kinky sex on a rug. It. MEANS. RAPE. I don't need to go on and on about how Rape Is Wrong. I think review readers understand that. I wish authors did. This word makes me so incredibly angry I can't even- I just can't.
My sixth sense graduated to high alert.
- I swear, 'alert' should be replaced by 'school'. At least then it would be funny. As it is, SENTENCEFAIL.
At first I couldn't distinguish any facial features, and then I realized he was wearing a ski mask.
- First off, one word: CLICHE. (This is the Review Of Much Caps.)
- 'At first' she couldn't distinguish facial features... and then she realized she couldn't distinguish facial features due to the ski mask. Okay, so why the 'at first'?
I watched with horror as the door began to bow. He was tearing- it- off.
- How much will you bet me this turns out to be Patch?
- Dramatic- dashes- do- not- achieve- effect.
Lifting my eyes just high enough to get a look at him without appearing that I was, I took in his fine-boned, handsome face. Blond hair hung at his shoulders. Eyes the color of chrome. Unshaven. Impeccably dressed in a tailored jacket over his green sweater and dark designer jeans.
- Tried to picture outfit; failed. Asked friend Fashion Maven to picture outfit; she rejected it. Conclude that 'Impeccably' doesn't mean what Fitzpatz thinks it means.
- Brought this scene up to other friend and she made good point. Why are they having breakfast at a bistro on a school morning? I could understand Vee doing this, as she doesn't give a crap for her grades, but Nora's suppsed to be Ivy-League caliber. Also, Wikipedia will tell you that bistros are defined by their food- namely things which are cooked SLOWLY. Like, say, exactly the kind of thing you really don't want to be eating when you have to be in class on time? Yeah, precisely like that.
"Mmm, check it out," said Vee. "Mr. Green Sweater is getting out of his seat. Now that's a body that hits the gym regularly. He is definitely making his way toward us, his eyes pursuing the real estate, your real estate, that is."
- Run-on sentence; the last comma should be a period.
- Editorfail: Pursuing? Or did you mean 'perusing'? Though I wouldn't put it past any of these characters to get the two mixed up... if they know the word 'perusing' in the first place...
- I have officially joined the Veehaters.
When he didn't answer, I turned sideways. "Soap. Shampoo. Hot water."
"Naked. I know the drill."
- How does this supposed supernatural creature have the exact same Awkwardness Summon abilities as a regular hormonal human teenage boy?
- SQUICK PATCH. SQUICK.
"Nora." The warning in Coach's voice pulled me back to my quiz, but I couldn't help speculating about what Patch's answer might have been, and it had me wanting to slide far away from him.
- This would have been an excellent point for Fitzpatz to show us that Nora is smart and a good student, the kind of person who would have to choose between Ivies for college. Instead, she leaves us with the telling of this we got earlier and shows us Nora as a hormonal idiot who is distracted by a guy she finds creepy. Sorry if I don't believe the characterization I was told and instead go with what I was shown.
My voice caught on the word, and I wondered if after today I would ever feel like calling Vee my friend again.
- Pity this didn't occur to Nora earlier.
- And yet this comment doesn't come into play later. Where's the ongoing doubt in Vee's trustworthiness or the value of her friendship? At the Delphic Amusement Park, for instance?
I was all alone, free do to as I pleased.
I came to a stop at the third door on the left. I sucked in a breath and knocked, but it was obvious from the darkened window that the room was empty. I pushed on the door.
- This may seem a minor nitpick, but SENTENCE VARIATION, DAMMIT. Four sentences in a row that start with 'I (past tense verb)' are amateur. Seriously, I used to pull this formulaic shit to get out of required writing assignments when I was in elementary school. Any close-reading editor should have caught this and made Fitzpatz rewrite this little section so that it was smoother and, oh, MATURE.
He jerked his chin out the door. "I need you to exit the building immediately."
- Mental image: chin flies out the door. Hilarious, but stupid.
- I dunno about Fitzpatz, but I've actually been at school during a bomb threat. And you know what they do? THEY MAKE YOU STAY PUT. You don't leave the building or even the room, especially if you're in someplace where a student shouldn't be. This reaction is ridiculous.
"All the seats here are taken," I said. When he didn't answer, I grabbed my glass back and took a sip of water, accidentally swallowing an ice cube. It burned the whole way down. "Shouldn't you be working instead of fraternizing with customers?"
- Where's the choking 'Gaaaack, gaaack' that is normal aftermath of swallowing an ice cube? Maybe it's a nitpick, but if you're going to make your main character do something like that, use all aspects of it- wouldn't it be interesting to have her embarass herself this way in front of Patch?
Even though it would probably come back to haunt me, I was curious enough about Patch to go almost anywhere with him.
"I want to get you alone," Patch said.
- Do I even have to make the comment here? Good. Because I can't compose myself enough to get past the DLSKJF; STUPID CHARACTER rant stage. So it's nice that this one speaks for itself.
He was dressed in knee-length basketball shorts and a white Nike sweatshirt.
- What kind of imbecile wears a sweatshirt to PE, when you know you'll be sweating buckets and giving off heat like nobody's business?
"Run!" my team shouted from the dugout. "Run, Nora!"
"Drop the bat!" they screamed.
I flung it aside.
"Stay on first base!"
- The hell? Someone who doesn't do well in sports and doesn't like them much isn't going to go for the gusto. You take first base and you stick with it, because it's better than getting struck out. So either Nora has no strategic/logical brain at all (possible) or Patch being there completely screwed it up. (possible).
- Choppy writing supposed to be dramatic? Because it's not.
"Trust me, Dorth, there are no boys in my life." Okay, maybe there were two lurking on the fringe, circling from afar, but since I didn't know either very well, and one outright frightened me, it felt safer to close my eyes and pretend they weren't there.
- Patch OUTRIGHT FRIGHTENS HER. Feh. Warning sign much, you airhead?
- The imagery here makes both boys sound like sharks. Eeew. Not a healthy image if you expect her to fall in love with one of them.
Dorothea had moved down the hall to the powder room.
- No teenager in their right minds would seriously use the words 'powder room' in place of 'bathroom'. Sorry, no dice, Fitzpatz.
(To Be Continued in comments) ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 25, 2010
Nov 04, 2009
Jan 01, 2010
Aug 31, 2010
did not like it
Halo is a truly epic tale. Set in a dystopian world which has been ravaged by war, it follows two people: Bethany, an angel sent to riot-torn Los Ange Halo is a truly epic tale. Set in a dystopian world which has been ravaged by war, it follows two people: Bethany, an angel sent to riot-torn Los Angeles to save as many of the remaining citizens as she can and Xavier, a damaged boy she struggles to befriend and heal of his emotional wounds. As she works, another war is brewing - this one highly localized and poised to set the city ablaze yet again, ruining all of her efforts.
Oh, no, wait, that's not it. Let me try again... oh, I've got it!
Halo is a truly epic tale. It's the story of Bethany, an angel sent to the most distressed areas of the world to destroy demons, and her sidekick Xavier, a young would-be priest who follows in her wake spreading the word of the Lord and doing good wherever he can. Together, they defeat evil time and time again.
No, wait, that's not it either. Hmm... but I bet this one is! Third time's the charm and all that.
Halo is the less-than-inspiring story of a trio of angels who are, for some bizarre reason, sent to a posh little town called Venus Cove. There they live the lives of the rich and self-righteous, doing little real good except some volunteering. The plot follows one of them, Bethany, on her meandering and melodramatic way into a romance with a human boy named Xavier. Eventually some real conflict shows up, several hundred pages too late to make the book any good, but that's okay; as the author makes clear several times when she gets up on her soapbox, this book wasn't written to have any sort of artistic merit! It's really just here to preach at you and take your money.
Yeah, that's the right one.
I thought, after I finished Hush, Hush, that I would never hate a book as much as I hated that. Well, my friends, I was wrong. Within the space of a few chapters, I hated Halo more than I have ever hated a story. Period. No exceptions.
This book is a disaster from start to finish, quite literally - from the poor grasp on perspective demonstrated on the very first page to the clumsy, imbecilic, tacked-on 'cliffhanger' on the very last.
To be honest, though, I feel sorry for Alexandra Adornetto. Clearly, the girl's got some problems. Her depiction of girls as obsessed with sex, boys, and material goods is horrifyingly shallow, which suggests to me that she's never really had any close female friends. The 'romance' that she writes has disturbing parent/child undertones, what with the way Xavier is always nagging Bethany about her safety and what she eats and this and that and the other thing. At one point he literally picks up her fork and flies food into her mouth like an indulgent parent. That's creepy. And I'm not really going to touch on the strange view she has of her own religion, or the way she twists it to condemn large swathes of modern society. Or the entitlement complex she demonstrates again and again throughout this book, seeming completely oblivious to poverty, disease, and real strife.
Also, if she ever grows up and becomes a decent writer, which I suppose is still possible at this point, this book will hang around her neck like a rock. You know those things you wrote when you were a few years younger and less mature, the ones that are cringe-worthy when you look back on them now? This will be hers, except it got published and now everyone can see it. How awful.
To be fair, this wreck is not just her fault. Her parents, who are supposedly English teachers, have failed her here: as she shows again and again she has no command over perspective, zero sense of proper pacing, complete ineptitude when it comes to characterization, and a sloppy style of writing. They've also neglected to teach her the cardinal rule of writing anything: do your goddamn research first.
No editor with real respect for their work and for fiction should have let this book be published in this state. Cheap hacks looking to make a buck off of Edward Cullen fangirls, yes. But a real editor should have at the very least forced this through many intense revisions until something which vaguely resembled a proper novel was extruded. Reading this book makes me wonder what editors are getting paid for these days.
But enough about the people behind the book. Let's talk about the book itself: specifically, its failings, of which there are many.
1. Portrayal of love
"It seemed from my reading of literature that being in love meant becoming the beloved's entire world. The rest of the universe paled into insignificance compared to the lovers. When they were separated, each fell into a melancholy state, and only when they were reunited did their hearts start beating again. Only when they were together could they really see the colors of the world. When they were apart, that color leached away, leaving everything a hazy gray."
I'm sorry - are you describing love or a drug addiction?
This is not love. This is obsession. And frankly, it's a scary thing to read about. What's scarier is that here it's being shown as an ideal - indeed, this exact phenomenon is highlighted in a relationship which is supposed to be so pure and awesome that it's sanctioned by Heaven. When Xavier doesn't talk to Bethany for a few days, she goes into a
2. Ridiculously privileged protagonists
"In his physical form, Gabriel might as well have been a classical sculpture come to life. His body was perfectly proportioned and each muscle looked as if it had been sculpted out of the purest marble."
"In her physical form, Ivy looked like a Renaissance Madonna with her swanlike neck and pale oval face. Like Gabriel, she had piercing rain gray eyes."
The angels are flawless. No, really, it's said straight out several times - they have no flaws. They're gorgeous, talented, have access to all the knowledge of humankind and more, have magical wings which somehow manage to fold up and sit flat on their backs (despite the fact that wings proportionally sized to carry their body weight should probably stretch from over their shoulders to their lower calves even when furled), are infinitely full of energy (except when they aren't because the plot demands), heal easily (again, except when the plot demands), and for their mission on Earth they've been given a huge, beautiful, expensive house in a privileged small town, where one of them teaches at a private Christian school and another one attends it.
Fucking GAG ME.
There is zero effort made to render them as sympathetic characters, probably because that's not what they exist for. They're fantasy avatars, in a way. Bethany is not there to be empathized with, in the way you empathize with another person or a well-rounded character. She's there so that readers can live through her. Gabriel and Ivy have no real purpose in the story at all, except to act as authority figures (sometimes, if the plot demands; or to be lax if that's what's required) and to have some minor, rote parts in the 'climax'. And we'll talk about Xavier later.
3. The pathetic nature of the angels' 'heavenly mission'
"Molly lowered her voice. 'There's been robberies and freak accidents all over the place - there was a flu epidemic last year and six kids died from it.'
'That's devastating,' I said weakly, feeling a hollowness in the pit of my stomach. I was starting to get a sense of the extent of damage done by the Agents of Darkness, and it wasn't looking good."
Stephenie Fucking Meyer can render a better town in distress than Adornetto can, though that's not saying much. For all the lip service paid to the trying times Venus Cove is suffering through and the horrible things which have happened there, very little that's horrible above and beyond the ordinary actually happens. Newsflash: accidents happen. So do sicknesses. And it sucks, yeah, and it's horrible and tragic, of course, but it's not something that requires an angelic intervention! Multiple times, Adornetto mentions other regions of the world with greater troubles than Venus Cove, but she always brushes it off by saying that other angels are there - as if that meant it was okay for Bethany to be living the high life, slacking on her community service, and putting Xavier higher on her list of priorities than Heaven itself! No. Just no.
4. The obsession with and then glorification of prom
"'Are you for real?' Molly's eyes widened. 'It's a rite of passage, the one event you'll remember your whole life, apart from maybe your wedding. It's the whole shebang - limos, outfits, hot partners, dancing. It's our one night to act like princesses.'"
"However, with only two weeks left until the senior prom, all social service projects were temporarily abandoned. The mood of the girls at school was bordering on obsessive."
"She was imagining the start of the prom, when couples would make their entrance together and have their photos professionally taken. Turning up alone would be tantamount to social suicide."
"Some groups had arrived in limos and chauffeur-driven cars, while others had opted for the double-decker party bus, which now pulled in carrying its jubilant passengers."
"Tables were set up around the room, covered in white linen and set with fine china... At the back of the room, the band was tuning their instruments. Waiters bustled around us, carrying trays of nonalcoholic punch."
I'm willing to make allowances for the fact that not everyone's prom was like mine, but still - this is too much. I'm also willing to make allowances for the fact that Alexandra Adornetto is not American and therefore cannot be expected to have experienced an American prom. However, I supremely doubt that anyone's been to a prom like this. (If your evening did consist of live music, waiters, china table settings, limos, and the threat of social suicide if you arrived partnerless, please inform me. Until someone does, I'm going to stick to my guns.)
Neither have I know any dance to be so all-important that it was the focus of such intense obsession. Again, Adornetto imagines girls to be terribly shallow, which I as a girl find deeply insulting.
I've read just about enough of these types of things. Everyone thinks prom is the event of the year, not to be missed at all cost, where everything important happens, and that's just not true. Maybe someday I'll write a novel where the heroine goes to the dance not with her true love, but with a group of friends, and they rock out and have a great time anyway. It doesn't take a significant other to make a dance enjoyable, after all.
5. The soapboxing
"We thought of technology as a sort of corrupting influence, promoting antisocial behavior and detracting from family values. Our home was a place where we spent time with one another, not whiling away time shopping on the Internet or watching mindless television programs."
"'Well, I was interested in design for a while but that was, let's say, discouraged.'
'Isn't considered a serious career, is it? The idea of having invested all this money into my education only to have it end in unemployment doesn't thrill my parents.'
'What about what you want?'
'Sometimes parents know best.'
He seemed to accept the decisions made by his parents with good grace, happy to be guided by their expectations."
Listen up, Adornetto. That first quote alone makes me hate you, and also marks you as a hypocrite. I'm willing to bet you didn't type this pathetic excuse for a book on a typewriter, let alone handwriting it. No doubt you use e-mail. I'd be shocked if you never watched TV. And yet you still have this close-minded archaic offensive attitude towards something that yes, can be a great distraction, but more importantly can be one of the greatest tools at the modern person's disposal.
Though if you have an aversion to the internet, that would explain why you didn't do any research. BACK, BACK, FOUL DEMONS OF GOOGLE! TARNISH NOT HER UNSULLIED ENTITLEMENT! RAVAGE HER NOT WITH YOUR FEARFUL FACTS!
As for the second one, well, I'm just going to leave that there.
6. The sick, sick relationship between Bethany and Xavier
"I had been quiet for so long, absorbed in my fantasy of being stranded on a secluded island somewhere in the Carribean or held captive on a pirate ship, waiting for Xavier to come and rescue me, that it seemed they had temporarily forgotten I was there."
"...Molly was a realist and held the view that friendships had to take a backseat when relationships started - especially if the relationship was as intense as mine and Xavier's."
"I knew that if (the assignment) slipped my mind, Xavier would complete it for me and hand it in without my knowledge.
He became fiercely protective whenever anybody he didn't approve of came within a two-foot radius of me."
"'I'm serious. I hope you realize you can't lecture me about safety ever again,' I said.
'Babe, injuries are inevitable. It's all part of the game. You can play nurse afterward if you like.'"
"'I'm an idiot, I know,' Xavier cut in. 'Letting you go to the prom with Jake. I guess I had too much faith in you.'"
Bethany is a fucking celestial being. She acts like a two year-old. Her dependence on Xavier is so near-total that it is deeply disturbing - the above rescue fantasies and assignment-finishing are only the tip of the iceberg. And putting the relationship above friends? Letting Xavier chase off people "he didn't approve of"? Does that not sound a little bit like the symptoms of emotional abuse? Oh, it's not portrayed that way, but that's what it would look like to another character who was paying attention: Xavier controlling who Bethany gets to know, telling her to avoid some people without explanations, taking precedence over everyone else she knows. His double standards are annoying, too - he's allowed to be protective of Bethany, but she has no say about anything that happens to him and isn't justified in being worried when he's actually injured. (Also, he calls her 'babe'. I swear, if any man refers to me in that way he'll get a swift knee to the family jewels - it's unspeakably insulting.)
Oh, and there's the fact that apparently he 'let' her go to the prom with Jake. Like she didn't have the freedom to make that choice for herself. And then he has the gall to not let her explain the circumstances, treating her like she has nothing worthwhile to say to him even though she's the only one who knows what happened. Bethany, of course, instead of getting angry at her asshat boyfriend, goes home and gets all mopy. (See above.)
This whole situation is just... wrong.
Three more quotes, just because:
"I had to admit that it was fairly stylish as far as uniforms went. The dress was a flattering pale blue with a pleated front and a white Peter Pan collar. With it we were required to wear knee-high cotton socks, brown buckle-up shoes, and a navy blazer with the school crest emblazoned in gold on the breast pocket. Ivy had bought me pale blue and white ribbons, which she now weaved deftly into my braids."
"I'd listened in on the prayers of teenage girls and most of them centered on being accepted by the 'popular' crowd and finding a boyfriend who played on the rugby team."
"'Meaning that the human and the divine were never meant to merge. If it happened, I believe the angel would lose his or her divinity. There could be no redemption after such a transgression.'
'And the human?'
'The human would never be able to return to normal existence.'
'Why?' I asked.
'Because the experience would surpass all human experiences,' Ivy explained."
I could never in good conscience recommend this book to anyone, but if you're looking for snark bait, this is a doozy. Also, if you're an aspiring writer who wants to learn how not to do it, this could be useful. But ye gods, if you're genuinely searching for a good read, stay as far away as possible. ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 12, 2011
Aug 20, 2011
Jun 03, 2010
Oct 05, 2005
Sep 06, 2006
did not like it
Pictures have been fixed, hopefully for forever.
Right. This is going to be totally tongue-in-cheek, or at least mostly, because I don't feel ATTENTION
Pictures have been fixed, hopefully for forever.
Right. This is going to be totally tongue-in-cheek, or at least mostly, because I don't feel like saying what's already been said about this book. If you want to know how I feel about the technical/storytelling aspects of this book, go read any of the numerous articulate, well-written one-star reviews. The one thing I will say is: I still like Alice. She was my favorite character when I liked the books and the only one I consider worth the while now. Pity the book isn't about her. Jasper is okay, but not as interesting or fun as she is.
TEN REASONS THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR IS HOTTER THAN EDWARD CULLEN
Setting aside, for the most part, the obvious fact of physical hotness of actors.
Because really, this:
cannot hope to compete with this:
Okay, okay, minor fangirling episode aside, the actual list. Oh yes. Illustrated as much as I could manage, but some things just aren't possible.
10. Eating fish custard is much cooler than drinking blood.
Here's the thing: vampires are old hat now. And by 'now' I don't just mean in the wake of the craze Twilight itself created. I mean that there was already an adult PNR before this book even came along. Vampires, drinking blood, all that stuff - been there, seen that, and seen it better. Now, Timelords are a different thing. While Who is the second longest-running TV show in the world, it never gets dull. (I choose to ignore Love and Monsters for purposes of this review.) Vampires, no matter how many 'new takes' you have on them, do. Heaven knows I roll my eyes a bit now, and I've read a lot of different ideas about them. I would have liked this book ever so much more if Edward and his family had been some sort of original creature. Also, that would have required more work of Ms. Meyer, and more work might have produced a better final work.
Also, fish sticks and custard are much tastier than blood. Just sayin'.
9. Eleven looks amazing with a bow tie.
(Don't deny it, he does.)
The real point of this is: the Doctor actually acts like an old-fashioned gentleman. In every sense of the word. Sure, Edward holds car doors for Bella. But he still invades her privacy and watches her sleep, and he still takes advantage of her hormones. The Doctor, on the other hand, has class. He is infallibly polite, except to his enemies, and let's be honest: would you be polite to xeoncidal alien races? Thought not. He doesn't invade his companions' privacy. He doesn't take advantage of Amy's hormones, even when she makes it reeeeeally easy. And sure, some of that is because he's awkward around women. Some of it, though, is because he's been around long enough to learn some goddamn manners. Edward could do with a few lessons.
8. He has mad dance moves.
And he's not afraid to show it. My point here is that Eleven has a genuine personality. He has interests that don't relate to the females in his life. He has his own goals unrelated to them; he doesn't dote on them (though he does care for them); he isn't full of happy coincidental interests. Inasmuch as Bella has interests, Edward shares them. The rest of his time and mind power is pretty much spent on her. Excuse me while I gag - okay, all better.
Also, Edward doesn't seem to me like he knows how to have fun. Seriously.
7. He's Space Gandalf.
This goes back to the personality thing, and also the not getting boring thing. I mean, how could Edward describe himself? He calls himself a monster a few times - wonderful, very sexy, loving the self-hate - and he's popularly called a sparklepire. Now, let's look into these. Space Gandalf pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the Doctor: very, very old, very wise, very powerful, kind and self-sacrificing, and more concerned with the big picture. What do we learn from the world 'sparklepire'? Well, that he sparkles... and he's a vampire. The 'monster' thing tells us he's emo.
Bottom line being: the Doctor is much more interesting than Edward. Much, much, much, much more.
6. He has a much cooler ride.
Do you know what that little thing in the left corner is? It's the U.S.S. Enterprise. Remember how huge that ship is? Yeah, it's drawn next to the full TARDIS structure to scale.
I'd take that over a silver Volvo any day.
5. He'd rather travel space and time than watch sappy movies.
Edward makes most of his goal in life to 'keep Bella safe'. And he does so by not letting her really live it up. The Doctor, on the other hand, owns up to the fact that his life is dangerous - and then offers to take people with him anyway, because he has faith in their personal strength. Edward treats Bella like a hapless child. The Doctor, to whom the entire human race can be rather childlike, treats his companions like adults. He doesn't assume the worst of them, but the best. He is a positive force, whereas Edward uses his supposed fear of Bella getting hurt to keep her where he wants her - and acts as a source of negativity in that way.
4. He defeats his enemies with words alone.
For this I have not a picture, but a video: here.
Edward has to use physical force to tear his opponents apart, and then he has to set them on fire. All the Doctor has to do is talk them down. Is there any question who's more badass here? Because if there is, newsflash: true badassery comes not from being the most violent or physically forceful thing around, but from being so determined and unstoppable that no one even wants to engage you in a fight in the first place.
3. He is clearly better at attracting women.
First off, Amy is hotter than Bella could ever be. But that's not all. Bella, as I kinda mentioned above, has little to no personality. She hates Forks. She likes Jane Austen. She's apparently smart, though she doesn't act that way. She mothers her own father, and she's SO IN LOVE with Edward. Amy? Amy is curious even as a young girl. She has a sense of wonder. She is tenacious - just ask those four psychiatrists who tried to tell her the 'Raggedy Doctor' wasn't real. She has a powerful, persuasive personality. She loves Rory, and she makes it clear that she doesn't want to live without him, but not everything in her life is about him. Most of all, she saves the Doctor and herself several times. Locked up by aliens? Pick locks and break the hell out. Good friend about to walk the plank into shark-infested waters? Grab a cutlass and save his life. And yeah, she doesn't always make the right choices, but at least she does things. Partly, Bella's problem with not doing jack comes from the fact that the people she would have to fight are a trillionbajillion times stronger than she is, but partly it's because she's a wuss. Amy has drive, goals, curiosity, desires beyond being with her man forever. She, unlike Bella (and this drives me APESHIT on Bella's side) actually values her friends.
If I got in a fight and I had Amy Pond and Bella Swan with me, I'd toss Bella to whoever we were fighting and then do my best to kick ass as well as Amy would.
Also, it bears noting: someone goes creeping in Amy's house and she hits him over the head with a cricket bat and handcuffs him to a radiator. Someone goes creeping in Bella's house and she thinks it's smexy.
2. He can rock a fez.
There's no deeper meaning to this one. Just - look at Eleven in that short-lived fez, and then look at Edward in the same sort of headgear:
1. He saves the whole world, not just one pathetic girl lacking survival instinct.
When the guy tops io9's list of characters who've saved the world the most, you know he pwns everyone else.
This is also a matter of scale.
I mean, Edward is pretty much immortal, right? And he's all strong, fast, able to read minds, etc. So why isn't he doing something for the greater good? Yes, yes, can't go outside in sun because he sparkles, I know, but there are other things he could do. He's been through high school and college quite a few times; couldn't he be working on a cure for cancer? Or genetically engineering crops to fix world hunger? Or in some way actually contributing to the planet? See, you can tell me that Edward Cullen is a good guy, but the fact is he's a pathetic little coward who hides in his corner of the world and refuses to use his gifts to help the rest of the planet and those who are suffering. As for the Doctor, his whole mission in life is to help the world. In one season, he saved the world four times. FOUR. TIMES. He manages to see both the big picture and the small picture, both the personal crises and the lives that need changing and the massive invasions or conflicts. He is not a coward. He does not hide. He fights his own battles and he wins.
Want to convince me that Edward is a hero? Put him on the big stage and show me his shine. (or his sparkle, I suppose.)
I should note that while I hated Robert Pattinson as Edward for many reasons, I won't bear him permanent ill will unless he screwed up Water for Elephants. I do like making fun of his portrayal of Edward, and I find him distinctly unattractive.
(view spoiler)[The first time I read it, I liked it.
The second time, which directly followed the first, I liked it.
Then I took some time off to catch up on the rest of the series. New Moon had me up until two in the morning (though in my own defence I read a chapter of it, a chapter of Silent Spring the whole time). Later, at camp, finding a friend reading it, I borrowed it and flipped straight to one scene to re-read it, just 'cause.
Eclipse was okay, and I was fine with Breaking Dawn on first go-through. (Another all-nighter, on principle this time.)
My problem with Twilight is much less its story (though the sparklepires are dumb beyond expression) and much more its fanbase. It does not deserve this screaming, plauge-of-locusts-like fanbase. Hell, no book deserves that- and this is coming from someone guilty of rabid fangirling, so no grain of salt required.
Eventually, when I've run out of good new things to read, I'll get back to Twilight and give it the thorough, mostly unbiased review all books deserve. I will not read Cleoland before reviewing. I will not read Cleoland before reading. I will not even touch Ferretbrain. I will simply sit down with the book some lazy summer day when I should be writing or hiking or doing AP homework and read it and make notes.
But not now. And probably not this summer. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]> ...more
Notes are private!
May 12, 2011
May 18, 2011
Aug 26, 2008
Jan 11, 2011
Jan 11, 2011
did not like it
Edit: 9/27/2014 Retroactively reducing my ratings for these books because when I first read them I did not notice the racism/cultural appropriation.
Ok Edit: 9/27/2014 Retroactively reducing my ratings for these books because when I first read them I did not notice the racism/cultural appropriation.
Okay, I just cannot be bothered to write a long review for this book. I can barely be bothered to write a review at all. The writing was terrible and the pacing painful from beginning to end, but the characters weren't a total waste (well, until Kelsey suddenly and inexplicably decided to be stupid and push Ren away. You know, I was sort of enjoying watching the slow build of her relationship with him and it was kind of sweet, and then - what the fuck, girl, is all I really have to say) even if they were generally cliched and pretty silly. The plot is pretty far from mind-blowing but it serves its purpose. That being said, the writing is really so abysmal that if it hadn't picked up a bit at the end, this would have been a one-star read for that reason alone. There were times, especially in the beginning, when I could barely get through half a page without hitting a sentence that made me cringe.
Anyhow, at this point I really just don't give a fuck anymore. Other than its writing (and really, has this seen the eyes of a professional editor? Because if it has and it still came out this way, they should be ashamed and possibly fired for not doing jack shit) this book didn't really make me angry. It didn't make me happy. Reading it was... not suffering, but drudgery. I could not in good conscience recommend it to someone, except maybe on April Fool's Day and then only if I didn't like them.
Two stars for apathy instead of anger. I cannot fucking believe that I'm still going to read the sequel, but it was a gift. ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 19, 2011
Dec 30, 2011
Dec 14, 2010
May 01, 2005
May 30, 2006
it was amazing
Warning: the review that follows is terribly unprofessional (you know, in the way that no one ever bitches about for some reason) and full of love and Warning: the review that follows is terribly unprofessional (you know, in the way that no one ever bitches about for some reason) and full of love and lots and lots and lots of
I think I've wished for half-stars maybe three times, at the outside, in the years I've been on Goodreads. Generally, though I may waffle between stars for a little while, I can settle on a rating which I feel accurately represents my feelings about the book in a... mostly unemotional manner. (All my ratings are to some extent emotionally based; I am, after all, not a computer.)
However, when it comes to Brandon Sanderson books I'm simply so biased that this system doesn't work for me. I'm not sure half stars would help, actually. What I really need is a system that breaks the book down into qualities like 'writing style' and 'plot coherency' which I can then rate out of ten because, considering them separately, I could probably manage more objectivity. This system would then spit out a rating based on the average of the subcategories, which would likely be lower by at least a star than my shiny emotional-first-reaction five stars up there.
Since this system has yet to be created, let alone implemented, the five stars will stay. Take them with a grain of salt; the book is not perfect, but I honestly do not care.
And now, after two preambles, we bring you the main event: an actual review of the book, and not just Anila's abstract feelings about it and the rating system. We'll start with the bad, because it's the smallest section.
Like most first novels, Elantris suffers from some predictable problems. Sanderson's prose is rockier here than I'm used to - I've noticed over time that, logically enough, it becomes more polished with each new work, so of course this would be the roughest of them all. The two main characters, Raoden and Sarene, feel like prototypes of the characters he's put in his later work: they're larger-than-life and slightly messy combinations of the virtues and flaws that he's since separated out to make more realistic, tidier characters. Here we see the seeds of Kelsier's leadership and idealism, Vin's cynicism, Elend's bookishness, Jasnah's keen intelligence and sharp attitude. As is to be expected, all those qualities are powerful when used in moderation in other characters; here, they feel a little bit exaggerated and unlikely, particularly in Raoden. Speaking of Raoden - I love him, really (more on this later) but some aspects of his character felt a weeeeee bit deus ex machina. (view spoiler)[His unexplained 'affinity' for the Aons being the big one, of course. (hide spoiler)] With characters like this, it comes as no surprise that scenes of conflict are underwhelming: not only are our heroes almost absurdly full of virtues, they're also extraordinarily talented and powerful in many areas. Everyone else is sort of dim next to them, and so any confrontation doesn't last long and no one really puts up a fight. It's hard to be invested in the tension of a scene or feel emotions at success when the ending was a foregone conclusion.
...I think that's all the bad stuff. Excellent. Let's move on to the meat of this review: things I love without shame or moderation.
1. The concept. And not just the whole 'Eternity ended ten years ago' thing even though wow, what a killer tagline, am I right? No, what appealed to me most was the way Elantrians - now cursed - changed their natures to suit the situation. What they are has forced them to adopt or lose their minds to neverending pain, and it's really fascinating.
"On the outside, people tend to be convinced of their own immortality. We are more realistic. One rarely wins a battle without at least a few wounds, and here even a couple of slight cuts can be more devastating, and more agonizing, than a swift decapitation."
This is most interesting, I think, for its contrast to conventional fantasy. Usually in a fantasy novel there will be someone who can heal with a touch or a spell or a potion; failing that there are herbalists, doctors, sometimes even surgeons. The Elantrians, however, have none of the above nor the resources they would require to be effective - and on top of that, even if they did, their wounds would still never heal. The way this changes their interactions varies depending on the situation, but in general creates a world where only the half-mad actually fight other people. One injury too many means a fate worse than death; it could turn a previously sane man or woman into a listless broken wreck who can do nothing more than chant a mantra of their greatest regrets over and over and over again.
This is really astounding, in a worldbuilding sense, and forces what might otherwise have been a violence-centric story to become one of diplomacy and negotiation. It's also all the more painful when people are injured, as does happen from time to time, because the reader knows what they are suffering and that they have lost the last shred of their humanity, but will be forced to live on without it.
I have... feelings about Raoden.
The truth is, I sorta adore all the male characters Brandon Sanderson creates. Raoden, however, is the only one I want to pluck out of the book and mash faces with. (view spoiler)[(If Kelsier were real, he and I would be at loggerheads over the whole 'wiping out a group of people because of circumstances beyond their control' thing, and as for Elend, well, would you dare to steal Vin's man? No, thought not. Kaladin is too good for me, and also belongs right in that book where he already is, thank you very much, so I can have more wonderful exploits and badassery to read about.) (hide spoiler)] which is not really a spoiler but actually a tangent.
Raoden started worming his way into my heart on page 51. How?
"Books!" Raoden said with excitement.
Open note to all authors: any character who reacts exuberantly to the presence of books will start out in my good graces. If it's your love interest, well... bonus points are an understatement. Enthusiasm for books and enthusiasm for whales are two hugely appealing things to me.
Anyhow, that's really just the beginning. Raoden is the kind of character who, like Kaladin, would be the center of a lot of montage scenes if this book were made into a movie. He's one of those leader types who goes in and gathers people who all love him and help him work towards a goal and they're successful and it's beautiful and deep down inside you know it can't last because the montage is just leading up to the big emotional moment when everything goes south, but you really really really want them to just do everything right and live long happy lives in the paradise they've created for themselves. I love montage scenes, and I love the people who orchestrate them, and really this is kind of pathetic but one of the easiest ways for a character to become sympathetic and engaging is for them to participate in one. Trufax.
There's also the fact that not only is Raoden enthusiastic about books, he recognizes their value as a resource and uses them to solve problems. Words cannot express how many characters in how many books could have fixed their shit right up if they would just go the fuck to the library, or the nearest comparable resource. (I include older, more knowledgeable characters in 'resources', by the way. Seriously, guys, sometimes adults really do know something important. Talk to them. It bears noting that this is only a little bit of a tangent and not actually off-topic, because Raoden makes a point of learning from other characters. WUT.) Raoden manages to figure out a great deal about Elantris and what caused its problems by careful research and logical deduction. (view spoiler)[I do agree with the assertion that he comes by this deduction rather too easily, the same way that he gets a nebulous 'affinity' for Aons rather too easily. Buuuut... whatever. And anyhow, the primary tidbit of information that enables him to solve the riddle - that the basic Aon represents the major geographic features of the land - comes from someone else, so that gives him a little more leeway in my eyes. (hide spoiler)]
Umm. There will be more (spoilery) fangirling over Raoden later. Yes, in a whole other subsection. This is what I mean by feelings.
...a lanky, brusque woman who was almost past her prime.
Sarene is not my favorite of Sanderson's female characters. That would be Jasnah Kholin, always and forever. She is also not the most well-rounded or well-developed character in this book, and she has a lot of habits and characteristics that annoyed me.
A lot of them annoyed me, though, because I see them in myself.
Personal digression in spoilers; has nothing to do with plot: (view spoiler)[I'm eighteen and I've never once been asked out, let alone kissed. To my knowledge, no one has ever had a crush on me. I don't know why, and I'm not sure I would want to, because in general I really like who I am, but sometimes (especially when I'm talking with friends my age who have steady boyfriends or, even worse, change boys frequently) I'm struck by a feeling of missingness. Something is absent. I form perfectly wonderful emotional connections with other people, and I have friends that I love like siblings or better, but the physical aspect is just - not there. It's not something I worry about all the time, not by a long shot. I'm not a particularly physical person; I don't wish I had a significant other so I could jump their bones. But it would be nice to have someone I felt that comfortable with in that way - someone who I could walk with holding hands, or whose shoulder I could rest my head on, or whose cheek I could kiss in just a casual, natural, affirmative way. I miss that, as much as anyone can miss something they've never had, and so I understand how Sarene feels so very, very well. The longing that she feels for that kind of emotional connection may be annoying to some readers, but to me it feels intensely real. (hide spoiler)]
It's a little hard to re-ground myself after that. Sorry.
Anyhow, Sarene. Yes. Sarene is a pistol. I admired her spunk (for lack of a better word) from the get-go: she finds herself in a country not her own, legally married and obligated to mourn for a dead man she never met, frustrated by a king who thinks women are for decoration and court ladies who act as if he's right. And of course, as soon as she decides that the kingdom of Arelon is in trouble, she does everything in her power to help it, even though she owes it no obligation. Interestingly enough, she doesn't really do it out of pure selflessness.
She had spent nearly three decades loving a country without ever feeling it loved her back. Teod had respected her, but she was tired of respect. She wanted something different from Arelon.
Sarene is, I think, the second most flawed character in this book. She wants to do good, yes, but that's because she wants the affirmation she thinks she'll get from others. And the real kicker is: she doesn't know how to do the right thing. It's a sharp (and sometimes unfortunate) contrast with Raoden, who seems to come upon the exact right decision by constant good fortune to the point that it gets kinda annoying. Sarene, on the other hand, doesn't always have a complete picture of the situation and so she does what she perceives to be best at the time - which isn't always what's best in the bigger picture. This, of course, leads to some not-so-positive results, which is how it should be: flawed characters make mistakes and suffer for it and then they get better. I like that Sarene does this. I don't like that her mistakes are more frequent and more directly commented upon than Raoden's. (view spoiler)[His biggest one, in shoving her out of the city through the front gates after Hrathen's potion wears off, really really bothers me because he never even stopped to think about it, especially since it came right after she explained Hrathen's campaign to get Arelon to convert. Actually, I kind of blame Raoden for the whole Eventeo-converts-to-Shu-Dorath thing, because if he'd taken a moment to consider everything that had happened, he probably would have kept Sarene hidden and devised a better strategy. This would be better if it were addressed as a mistake, but... it wasn't. So it niggles at me. (hide spoiler)]
The final word on Sarene, though, is still 'awesome'. She's smart, well-meaning, emotionally believable, and willing to kick ass when it's necessary.
4. Hrathen. He just fascinated me. Actually, as I think about it, I feel that a lot of the reasons that I liked Hrathen were the reasons Inspector Javert is my favorite character in Les Miserables, because they are both noble people doing bad things for all the right reasons, and with little malice in their hearts. I also loved, loved, loved Hrathen's religious conflict, and the way he struggled to balance what he felt his duty as a gyorn was with what he felt was right. He's got a lot of baggage from doing something purely from duty, and I felt that it affected his actions in Arelon to a real and nuanced degree.
It didn't matter that he had acted in the name of the Church, or that he had saved thousands upon thousands of souls. The destruction Hrathen had caused in Duladel ground against his soul like a millstone. People who had trusted him were dead, and an entire society had been cast into chaos.
Though at his introduction I'd expected Hrathen to become the villain of the novel, I was quickly sure that this was not the case. Far be it from the eminently skilled Mr. Sanderson
(view spoiler)[My one reservation is what happens with Hrathen at the very end. I liked his actions, and that he turned away from the strict doctrines of Shu-Doreth to do what he felt was right, but I felt that decision was somewhat marred - nay, tainted - by the brief narrative comment explaining that he had been in love with Sarene. Umm... what? First of all, there was very little basis for real love between them. Mutual respect, yes; romantic love, no. (In Homestuck parlance, I'd say that they could have been morails or even kismeses at certain points but never matesprits.) It also felt a little unrealistic given Sarene's previous romantic experience - if she'd gone her whole life finding no man who believed himself in love with her, the idea that two would show up in such short succession is a bit preposterous. (hide spoiler)]
5. Religion. It's always a theme in Sanderson's books, and one that he includes on purpose, which I think is really quite fascinating. Because I've been aware of it as a theme since before I read Warbreaker, so I pay special attention to it. As always, it shines. There's not much to say about the way he handles it, actually, that I haven't raved about in other reviews - particularly for The Well of Ascension - but I do want to mention that even though the religions here feel somewhat more derivative than I'm accustomed to from Sanderson - the schism between Shu-Dorath and Shu-Korath is painfully close to Islam and Christianity - I still found it to be handled tastefully. Now, I'm not religious myself so someone who is might be annoyed at things that I didn't notice, but I feel it bears noting that I, as an atheist, found the religions to be a believably central part of the world without feeling that I was being preached at, which is often a delicate balance and one that few authors even attempt to address as directly, if they do so at all.
There are a few quotes regarding religion that I really, really loved:
"Keseg taught of unity. But what did he mean? Unity of mind, as my people assume? Unity of love, as your priests claim? Or is it the unity of obedience, as the Derethi believe? In the end, I am left to ponder how mankind managed to complicate such a simple concept."
This one stood out to me because it's something I can really sympathize with. Even as an atheist, there's a lot of things about religions that I like - usually those that have to do with it as a social/moralizing force. It feels like Shuden is speaking for me when he comments sadly on the overcomplication of simple, positive ideas.
"Everything happens according to Domi's will, child," Omin answered. "However, I do not think that 'curse' is the right word. At times, Domi sees fit to send disasters upon the world; other times he gives the most innocent of children a deadly disease. These are no more curses than what happened to Elantris - they are simply the workings of the world. All things must progress, and progression is not always a steady incline. Sometimes we must fall, sometimes we will rise - some must be hurt while others have fortune, for that is the only way we can learn to rely on one another. As one is blessed, it is his privilege to help those whose lives are not as easy. Unity comes from strife, child."
Have you ever noticed how no one, ever, wants to answer one key question? I refer, of course, to the common query of the atheist: if a benevolent god exists, why is there so much evil in the world? To which most people will respond with vagaries about 'free will' and 'mysterious ways' and actually not answer the question in a satisfactory manner. Now, I have my issues with this explanation, but not only is it perfectly in-character, at least Sanderson made the effort. That really counts for something. I may not be rushing out to convert after such blinding and faultless logic, but I'm glad to know there are people out there who have put enough thought into their faith to be able to answer such an essential question.
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Notes are private!
Oct 22, 2011
Nov 02, 2011
Mar 16, 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Dec 18, 2012
Dec 18, 2012
it was amazing
Edit: Re-read in May 2014, but leaving original review standing because it still expresses my feelings perfectly.
Edit x2, January 2016: Having read so Edit: Re-read in May 2014, but leaving original review standing because it still expresses my feelings perfectly.
Edit x2, January 2016: Having read some negative reviews, I'm thinking I might need to reread again and re-write this - not because I have doubts, but because I'm a little pissed off at the way people react to a traumatized teen by calling her whiny. I've had friends say it, I've seen reviews complaining about it, and it infuriates me. Come at me, bros; I'll fight you for Ruby Daly's honor.
ow ow ow
ow ow ow ow ow
know what to do with this book
and all of these feelings ow ow ow
Obviously it's been too long since I last re-read Brightly Woven because I remembered that Alexandra Bracken was a good writer but I seem to have forgotten HOW good until this book punched me in the gut.
How do I talk about this?
I don't even know. I finished it at about 8:30 last night and the ending basically rendered me nonfunctional for an hour. I vacuumed my room because I couldn't get my brain to cooperate on anything else.
Let me count the ways in which this book was stupendous:
1. An absolutely chilling dystopia. Plague diseases are basically my biggest fear, so that aspect had me freaked out from the very beginning, but what was even scarier were the camps. I've seen some reviews mentioning that they didn't think the U.S. government really would have locked kids with freaky powers up in internment camps, and to them I say: obviously you aren't familiar with the shit our government pulls on a regular basis. That is exactly what would happen, and that's what makes it scary.
Honestly, this dystopia struck me as markedly closer to classics of dystopian literature - 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale - than pretty much anything else I've read in this current faddish YA craze. Yes, even more so than The Hunger Games (though I'm sure fans will disagree with me). I've been trying to figure out why, and I think what it is is that the world of The Darkest Minds is incredibly harsh in a way a lot of YA authors seem to shy away from. LOTS of people die (again, something I've seen other reviewers complain about but stridently disagree with them about) and in incredibly brutal ways. There are multiple factions and every single one of them is dangerous and vicious. This world is horrifying and that is what makes it work.
2. Genuinely scary characters. This gets its own category because I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW TERRIFYING THESE KIDS WERE??? Friggin' Martin, holy shit. And the villain - not to spoil anything but AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Again, totally believable - bunch of kids who have been ripped from or thrown out of their homes and treated as less than animals for years and have these potentially horrifying powers - of course they're going to lash out at everything and anything. Of course they turn around and treat anyone who isn't them as worthless. These poor broken terrifying children were just... chilling.
3. Relationships. GIRL FRIENDSHIPS AND SWEET SUPPORTIVE ROMANCE AND RUBY AND CHUBS BEING BUDDIES AND PEOPLE CALLING EACH OTHER ON THEIR SHIT AND WOW THE BLACK BETTY GANG IS EXCELLENT. I love them all, and I love the way they interact. They are a bastion of humanity in a world gone mad. And I honestly think one of my favorite moments was Chubs getting mad at Ruby for not fulfilling a promise, because real friends can and should bring that up and it made their relationship feel so real. I also loved how Ruby and Liam didn't just exist in this romantic bubble - they both had unique friendships and histories and they did things apart from each other and they were INDEPENDENT PEOPLE. (dear almost every other YA writer ever, are you taking notes?)
can we have more love interests like this? Who are flawed, sweet, caring; who fall head over heels as much or more than the girls do, who make mistakes that have consequences and react to them realistically, WHO AREN'T CREEPY AS HELL, who do this: "Liam's only response was to move back a few paces. Giving me space."
He's not perfect. He's not some hormone-triggering sex god. He's not dark and mysterious - he's just a well-meaning guy who is good for Ruby in every way and I enjoyed their relationship so much.
5. The ending. Obviously I can't say much but ow ow ow ow ow ow. I assume this book will have a sequel and I will wait for it as patiently as possible.
(view spoiler)[ also can we talk about what happened to Ruby's parents because OH MY GOD. I got to that bit about midnight and almost started crying and then had to quell the urge to go wake my parents up and hug them. The idea of the people who are closest to you not remembering you is so heartwrenching aaaaaagh. And even though I was pretty sure that's what had happened to them, reading the actual scene hurt so damn much. (hide spoiler)]
A couple of quotes/aspects that stuck out to me under this spoiler cut; pages from the ARC:
(view spoiler)["I would come in after training all day, and I'd look at it and think, how many of those people had families? and how many of those people had people who needed them like we needed Claire? And that's just it - they all did, Ruby, I'm sure of it. People don't live like islands." - Liam, p. 272
'When a girl cries, few things are more worthless than a boy. Having two of them just meant that they stared at each other helplessly instead of at me.' - Ruby, p. 303 (side note: Ruby cries a lot, especially near the end, but considering what she's been through I think it's justified.)
'Oh God, I couldn't even talk about it. I physically could not speak. Not about the hundreds of mind games I watched them play on the PSFs. Nothing about the memory of having to scrub the floors of the Mess Hall after an Orange told a PSF to walk in and open fire on every other soldier he saw there.' - Ruby, p. 309
"Sorry about that." He smiled, extending a hand toward me. "Hey - I don't think we've had the chance to meet. I'm Liam." - P. 392 (I SWEAR MY HEART STOPPED HOLY SHIT NOT COOL LIAM NOT COOL) (hide spoiler)]
(not actually spoilery, really, but hidden anyway just to be sure.)
I wish I could talk about the villain, because he was honestly one of the best aspects of the book - so subtle and scary, and even though I mistrusted him from before he appeared, there were times when I wondered if he was genuine.
Anyhow, hopefully this scatterbrained and emotional review will convince you that you need to read this book, because you probably do. It's extraordinary. ...more
Notes are private!
May 06, 2014
Feb 23, 2011
Mar 23, 2010
Mar 23, 2010
it was amazing
Review as of second reading:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: This book is like chocolate.
But this time, I'll elaborate.
You know that first p Review as of second reading:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: This book is like chocolate.
But this time, I'll elaborate.
You know that first piece of chocolate, the small piece you take because it's a treat and maybe you haven't had it in a while and you want to savor it? And you roll it around in your mouth a little, let it get all melty, experience the taste as fully as possible. You try to eat the rest of it- the bar, the bag of chocolate chips, those little Dove eggs- slowly, and for a while it works. If you're weird like me you drink tea with your chocolate so that your mouth is always warm enough to soften it before you chew and it spreads over your tongue and makes a layer of deliciousness that you wash down with yet more tea. But eventually the lure of the sugar and cocoa is too strong. You eat more, more, more and you eat it faster, faster, faster- tea forgotten, savoring forgotten, seeking only to consume as much of it as possible as fast as possible because somehow you got the idea while you were eating it that the chocolate will go away if you don't eat it now and so it is absolutely imperative that you do so. Even when you realize you're almost out, that the bag is almost empty or the bar mostly devoured, you can only slow down a little bit. And finally, when it's all gone, you sit and blink a bit and try to figure out where it all went. Realization hits, followed shortly by contentment, followed even more closely by a wish that there was more and a knowledge that there is not and so you must enjoy what you had.
That is pretty much exactly what Brightly Woven is like for me- has been twice now. Chocolate. I try to savor it, really, I do. I can't. After a certain scene I just have to keep reading, homework or sleep be damned, until the end. I love the characters. I love the plot. I love the world and its peculiar politics. None of that has dimmed after a year and a re-read. I am still wholly, totally, completely smitten with this book.
My only complaint is that there is not more. This isn't just a fangirl thing, by the way- many other reviewers who don't love it the way I do have commented about a lack of explanation to the worldbuilding, and this time I could see the places where more explanations belonged. The foundation and framework were there. If there is ever, ever a sequel (pretty please? Can there be?) I'd like to see it explore a little more of the peculiar magic and religion of Palmarta and its neighbors.
Full disclosure: The narrator is a 16 year-old redhead with dreams of grandeur. I first read this as a 16 year-old redhead with dreams of grandeur and a peculiar love of TDH wizards. The love interest is a tall, dark, handsome wizard. It's no wonder I get absorbed in this story so quickly, even a second time.
Aside to a particular audience: Rachel, Fate, are we making those trading cards this summer? Because I still have dibs on North. Finders keepers.
Original review and edits:
(view spoiler)[Edit edit: There are great reviewers out there who don't like this book at all. While usually I find myself agreeing with them, on this I disagree. I am smitten, even a second time through. That isn't going to change.
Edit: It's now been months since I read this book, and in the interval I have suggested and given it to several other people, all of whom at least liked it if not loved it. I'm pretty sure we'd all camp out overnight for a movie of this book, and if Wayland North were real... well, let's not get into that. However, looking back over this review and reading a few of the more critical responses, I feel the need to mention a few things.
- First and foremost, I stand by my original response. After all, it was my first reaction and so the most undiluted, utterly unaffected by the opinions of others.
- But... this book isn't perfect. There are flaws, which others have pointed out, and it's important to acknowledge that.
- This doesn't mean it's not a fun read. It is- it's a marvelous read.
- You have to be in the right frame of mind for this book. For me? That happens to be my general state of being: Sleep-deprived school-centric teenage girl who intermittently ignores the guys around her and dismisses them as idiots; at heart a romantic but not able to express it in real life. Introverted, and ready and willing to live vicariously through any decent female character, from Alanna to Signy Mallory to Riza Hawkeye. This book fits me well enough that I can honestly say that I do not care about its flaws.
- No offense to Ms. Bracken, for whom I have a great respect, but this isn't a philosophical book- which is another reason I can ignore its flaws. If I want to ask deep questions I'll go find Arakawa, Cherryh, Sagan, LeGuin. If I want to read a book that leaves me giddy and grinning, I pick up this or Howl's Moving Castle.
I finished this book last night at 11 pm, and immediately sat down to write my reactions down so I wouldn't forget them in my ARC review. So, here they are, verbatim:
-Tops HMC- same kind of story, but better.
-If this doesn't make the Top Ten, I will be shocked/angry/astounded
-Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful romance
-Would like map, though
-Can has North for own?
-I think I shall buy a zillion copies of this book when it comes out- hardcover- and give them for every occaision to everyone I know.
Note: HMC is Howl's Moving Castle, which I adored and read in one sitting. The Top Ten is the Teen's Top Ten; I got this book through a library teen group which is one of the YALSA nominating groups for this year, and you bet your boots I nominated this one.
I was bouncing up and down with sheer glee when I finished this. BOUNCING. PHYSICALLY BOUNCING. This has never happened before that I can remember. Spastic flailings during the Crowning Moments of Awesome of my favorite books- sure. But bouncing is unheard of.
Alexandra Bracken has written the best book I've read all year. And I've read a lot of books, so that's no small compliment. The only problem?
There's no sequel yet.
I declare this to be a tragedy, and one which Ms. Bracken should swiftly rectify. (Please? Insert pleading puppy dog eyes here.)
The back cover says this was written as a birthday gift for a friend. Well, that is one INCREDIBLY LUCKY FRIEND, in my opinion.
I may not actually give this back to the library group. If no one notices...I could hang on to it until March. But then again, that would be depriving others of the PURE JOY that is reading this book. So I guess I'll give it up anyways. (hide spoiler)]
Notes are private!
Apr 06, 2011
Dec 05, 2009
Aug 19, 2010
Mar 20, 2012
Sorry, BB, but OH SHIT NO.
The only good thing about this book is that that placeholder cover confirmed one of my assertions: baseball caps are not hot Sorry, BB, but OH SHIT NO.
The only good thing about this book is that that placeholder cover confirmed one of my assertions: baseball caps are not hot. IN THE LEAST. EVER.
Edit: okay, so I have a sick sense of curiosity, but I Googled this and came up with some more sketches. I have to say, the artist got Patch and Nora down. He looks like an asshole and she looks like an airhead. Well done!
Edit #2: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA FUCK WHAT THE FUCKING HELL IS WITH THIS FUCKING COVER I ASK YOU? That's hilarious. I kind of love it, actually. I mean, his wings are the wrong color. And what the fuck is that expression on his face? Constipation? This book is such a joke. This one, not the original. The original is Serious Business because it is the Lowest of the Low and reminds us of how far the YA genre has fallen. But this is a joke. And apparently all Patch had to fill his time before he met Nora was pump iron, because he's pretty built. Not in the attractive Thor way, either. Imagine if Nora had come along a century later. All that free time, man, I dunno. He might have wound up looking like this fellow:
(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)]
Okay, no, I jest. But seriously. That cover, man. That cover...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]> ...more
Notes are private!
May 12, 2011
Mar 15, 1987
it was amazing
Added at the bottom: the perfect song for this book. Seriously, if it's ever made into a movie, this song should be in the trailer.
The description on Added at the bottom: the perfect song for this book. Seriously, if it's ever made into a movie, this song should be in the trailer.
The description on this book's GR page is not my favorite synopsis. I think my little well-loved paperback says it better:
This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.
And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King's Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle.
And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies...
Because easy as it is to think this book is just about Corlath and Harry, it's really not. The kelar is a driving force, enough that I see it as a third main character. It pulses through this book much as it pulses in the blood of our two protagonists, moving the story to its will, arranging events to suit its needs without much care for mortal feelings or objections.
Therefore, while I understand how some might object to the fact that this story begins with Harry being kidnapped by Corlath, in a way they were both kidnapped. Corlath himself is a prisoner, in a way, of the wild unpredictable magic he carries - there's a reason, after all, that they call it the king's madness. He no more wants to take her than she wants to be taken, but the kelar needs her to be Damarian, so neither of them have a choice.
Now, given that she's compelled and aided by something that powerful, Harry's entry into a new culture is remarkably easy, and this would be a problem if not for the fact that the point of this book is something entirely different. It's a great adventure story, of course, but it's not about the adventure story. It's about Harry finding her place in the world - a classic coming-of-age. From the first line of the first chapter, we know she doesn't fit where she is. She is discontent, restless, hiding it under a mask of polite manners. One might suspect, then, that once she's been accepted by the Hillfolk, she will be content, but that is not the case. One of the things I love about this book is that Harry's critical decision, her defining moment, is when she chooses not to give up the part of her that is 'Outlander'. Because she reconciles two different parts of herself, instead of denying one or the other, she is capable of achieving her goals. It takes courage to do that, and courage is Harry's defining trait. She is, even when taken captive, determined not to show fear; when she understands that the Hillfolk don't mean her harm but still have no intention of returning her to her people, she approaches new experiences with determination and a generally good attitude.
One of the things that keeps me coming back to this book and its companion, The Hero and the Crown, is the land of Damar itself. I think it's even more vivid in this book than in the other, even though THATC showed it in its prime. There, it seemed like a fairly run-of-the-mill fantasy kingdom. Here, seen in decline and through the eyes of a foreigner, it is astonishing and beautiful. This is where the strength of the Damarian people and the richness of their culture really shines, because this is where we see them in duress. They are proud, they are strong, they are noble and good-hearted and graceful. Their beautiful horses appealed to me when I was young and in that horse-crazy phase every girl goes through, but now what calls to me is their sophistication. Even though they don't have 'modern' conveniences and seem like savages to the Homelanders (who are, by the way, wonderfully British), they are not uncivilized in the least. There is a wonderful nuance in how McKinley presents this: instead of going the 'presumed savages are actually more advanced/special/sophisticated than the invaders' route, she makes them cultural equals in different ways. Both civilizations have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and neither is presented as right or wrong. While this book does somewhat deal with imperialism, it doesn't moralize, and the Homelanders are never villains simply because it's recognized that they are people too.
And then there's the relationship between Corlath and Harry. Corlath, when we first see him, seems like an intimidating and powerful sort, and he kind of is. But he's just as lost and confused, in different ways, as Harry is - just as unsure how to deal with the situation they find themselves in. He is not an unkind man, just an unsure one.
Some of my favorite moments in this book are his, including this one:
'Long after Harry had cried herself to sleep again, the Hill-king lay awake, facing the grief he had caused and could not comfort.'
'He would help this girl now, as much as he might, stranger and thief as he might be to her. He would do what he could.'
(view spoiler)[Their reunion, of course, tops the list. Poor Corlath seems to have been so lost without her, and she so unsure of her reception - that moment when she slides down from Sungold and hugs him is just gorgeous. And then we get this intricate, gorgeous declaration of love from Harry:
"My king, I would far rather you kept my sash as you have kept it for me in faith while I was gone away from you, and gave me your sash to wear in its place. For my honor, and more than my honor, has been yours for months past, but I saw no more clearly than did you till I had parted from you, and knew then what it would cost me if I could not return. And more, I knew what it would cost me if I returned to be only a king's Rider." (hide spoiler)]
The two of them together are a matched pair of lost souls who aren't lost at all when they're together, and it's beautiful.
Oh, I'm rambling, as I rather knew I would. The bottom line is: if you haven't read this book, you've done yourself a disservice and should rectify the problem immediately.
Now, since Luthe reminded me that I need to, I'm going to go re-read The Hero And The Crown.
Addition: Desert Rose by Sting could have been written about this story. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 16, 2011
Jun 17, 2011
Aug 27, 2008
Aug 21, 2007
Aug 21, 2007
it was amazing
This is That Book.
You know the one.
The one you've daydreamed about.
The one you hope, deep in your little reader heart, you'll finally find.
The one wit This is That Book.
You know the one.
The one you've daydreamed about.
The one you hope, deep in your little reader heart, you'll finally find.
The one with the plot that is both wide-ranging and intensely personal; with the characters who are all nuanced and flawed; with the complicated political intrigues to keep you guessing; with the shocking twists that are, true to form, both surprising and inevitable.
You've slogged through the morass of uninspiring Twilight clones. You've suffered through dystopians trying to be the next Hunger Games. You've struggled to stay awake through overly lengthy fantasy novels written by people who have no idea what made Tolkein so successful, but think they can imitate him anyway.
And here - here is a book that deserves every one of its nearly 600 pages. Here is a book with no superfluous sub-plots. Here is a book with no cardboard characters. Here is a series where people grow, change, and generally act like human beings. Here is the perfect mixing of philosophy, action, creativity, and heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how in awe I am of this book.
From this point on, this review will contain spoilers for the first of the series, Mistborn: The Final Empire.
The story starts grimly. Yes, the Lord Ruler is dead, but that doesn't mean everything is fixed: his empire was a large one, and our heroes are only able to affect small parts of it at a time. Add to that the fact that they've lost their brilliant, charismatic leader and good friend, and it seems the situation is dire. Yet... they've learned something from Kelsier: they laugh in the face of danger. Take, for example, this exchange:
Elend looked over at him. "The Assembly is a mess, a half-dozen warlords with superior armies are breathing down my neck, barely a month passes without someone sending assassins to kill me, and the woman I love is slowly driving me insane."
They are still the witty, intelligent, compelling heroes we've always rooted for.
Or are they?
One of the several reasons I think this book is actually better than The Final Empire is that while that one focused primarily on Vin's character development and personal problems, this one expands upon the psyches of the entire cast. Part of the way it does this is through shifting the focus of the third-person limited point of view, so at some point the reader gets to see the thoughts of almost every character. (This is used really brilliantly; more about it later.) The other part is by showing Vin's understanding of others growing; as she develops more sensitivity, she has more insight into their characters. We see the soft heart beneath Clubs' tough exterior, the insecure young man that Spook has become despite his bravado, Ham's pain at being separated from his family, Breeze's devotion to the crew underneath his mercenary attitude.
Most of all, we see the troubles of Vin, Elend, and Sazed.
Vin has always been a complex girl. The abuse she suffered from her brother, Reen, made it so difficult for her to learn to trust, and even learning that Reen protected her with his last breath hasn't done much for her wary attitude. She still has the potent, niggling fear of abandonment in all of her relationships and so her emotional state is very, very fragile. One of the things I love about her is that she isn't a confident heroine leaking ambition and drive from her very pores. Indeed, her insecurities and doubts are some of what make her so easy to identify with. For a male author, Sanderson does an incredible job portraying what it's like to be a young woman - better, I think, than many female authors do. There is that tenuous balance between wanting to seem self-assured and wanting to be reassured which is highlighted beautifully in Vin's struggles in this book. Her doubts about her relationship with Elend could have seemed superficial, another New Moon-esque created crisis designed to show how much they luuuuuurve each other. Instead, they sprang from very reasonable places, and best of all... they weren't isolated. Like all the characters in this book, Vin interacts with her world, and so her insecurities come not just from the fact that she doesn't know her place in it but also from the fact that others think they do. Zane thinks she's a tool and an unwitting captive. The skaa think she's something close to a goddess, their holy protector. Ironically, Elend is one of the few people who doesn't seem to have any ideas about what Vin should be or is; he accepts her for herself, and that leaves a void in the pressure around her that she shies away from. She doesn't know what he wants from her, and so she projects what she thinks he wants.
He loves me, but he's still a man, Vin thought. How many times have I hurt his pride by being Mistborn while he is simply a normal person? A lesser man would never have fallen in love with me.
Haven't we all done this? Especially those of us who are writers as well as readers - you narrate in your head, and that includes imagining what other people are thinking about you. It feeds back into any lingering self-consciousness you may be feeling, and in Vin's case it makes her doubt herself.
Elend is dealing with the same sort of problems and also with completely different ones. The Elend we knew in the last book was a young, bookish idealist, which was what made him so endearing. The first time he met Vin he complained about her stealing his reading light, for goodness sakes! He was completely adorkable. Readers like me, who have a thing for the nerdy boys, no doubt wanted to believe that his idealism and intelligence would serve him well in creating a utopia after the fall of the Lord Ruler, but that's not the case at all. The same things that were strengths in the first book, which set Elend apart from the rest of the corrupt nobility, are weaknesses here. He lacks social skills, self-confidence, assertiveness. He is not conniving or commanding. He believes so deeply in the innate goodness of people that it makes him blind to deceit and scheming. And while he is a very good legislator, he isn't really a leader.
Elend's evolution from the young man who doesn't really know what to do with his role in life to responsible adult willing to make the hard choices and a few necessary sacrifices is one of the best parts of this book. This is where we really get into his character. When Elend is under pressure, he really shines: with a little help, he transforms into the king he needs to be just in time to have his kingdom pulled out from underneath him by various political forces. As a direct result, he becomes in a way just as insecure as Vin, and he too projects what he thinks she feels about him. These two are so similar at their cores that watching them dance carefully around each other is both beautiful and painful. Their relationship is not the most passionate thing ever penned, but it is sweet and strong, and they're a couple to root for. This is partly because Sanderson doesn't skimp on telling the readers what they admire and love about each other (are you taking notes, YAPNR authors?) and partly because of the irony, that two such intelligent people should be so clueless about themselves. That, too, is another part of being young, I think.
Also, they're sensible about their feelings for one another. One line that made me want to cheer:
And a kiss is supposed to make it all right? she thought sullenly, sitting back on a stack of books.
Oh Vin, you are so fabulous. How many books have I read where a simple kiss can take the heroine's breath away and make her forget her troubles and all sorts of bullshit like that? Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for writing about a couple who love each other but don't think what they have is the Be-All and End-All. (view spoiler)[Thank you also for the wedding scene, which was just short of being ridiculous but really seemed to suit Vin. Even if poor Elend was a little nonplussed. (hide spoiler)]
And that brings me to the last of what I would consider the main characters: Sazed.
Oh, Sazed. Poor, poor Sazed. You know, I honestly think he got put through the grinder worse than anyone else in this book. Like Elend, he is an idealist, though his idealism is centered more around the idea that people thirst for knowledge and less around political situations. And that idealism is brutally shattered as the book goes on. It starts out bad enough, as we join Sazed traveling skaa communities, trying to teach them about lost religions but confronted at every turn by scenes like this:
"When is the Lord Ruler coming back?" asked a woman.
It is through Sazed's eyes that we see how the rest of the former Final Empire is faring, and it's not going so well. Because he is older and wiser than Vin and Elend, he perceives more, and there is a sense of desperation to his narrative that only grows over the course of the book. The final battle absolutely destroys him, but it is the epilogue that stands out most to me, because I cannot imagine seeing that scene - when belief completely collapses and horror and despair set in - through anyone's eyes but the man who wants to be a priest of all religions. It shakes the very foundations of the world, but it shakes the reader because of its effect on Sazed. I'm almost scared to see what happens to him as a result of that revelation.
Remember the quotes from the logbook that headed every chapter of The Final Empire? There are quotes here, too, and they are definitely a highlight of the book. The journey of the Hero of Ages to the Well of Ascension is shrouded in mystery, and they cast a little more light on who he was and what happened in those last days. They also mirror some of the events of the climax in a way that heightens the tension to almost unbelievable levels. The resonance between the events of a thousand years previously and the events of the book is a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled writer, and Sanderson is definitely that. (view spoiler)[There is an incredible moment when I realized that the Lord Ruler was actually far more well-intentioned than he seemed, and I was almost sorry that he died because his character has more depth in retrospect than I had ever imagined. I love that Sanderson managed to humanize him not once but twice - the first time through Alendi's logbook, which seemed like it was his until the very end, and the second time in the moment that it becomes clear that he made his most important choice for the greater good. Sure, it didn't turn out so well, but he was a flawed human being after all, and by the end of this book he's almost cast in a better light than Vin. His flaws might have resulted in a thousand years of oppression for the skaa, but her flaws led her to release a force of evil on the world. (hide spoiler)]
The shifting narration really served the scope of the story well. I particularly liked the sections from Breeze's point of view. Since he's a Soother, he has a good understanding of people and emotions, and the subtle way he manipulates situations to go the way he wants is very interesting. Also compelling is the loyalty he feels to the crew, which I hadn't really expected from him but which makes a lot of sense in hindsight. His viewpoint is the one Sanderson calls on when he needs to show emotions of someone other than the POV character, and it works beautifully. With other authors and other series, this might seem like stepping out of the form of third-person limited narration; here it's perfectly logical.
A few other things I liked:
Tindwyl, the Terriswoman Keeper who instructed Elend in how to behave like a king. She reminded me of a cross between McGonagall and Lord Wyldon (of Harry Potter and The Protector Of The Small, respectively) and I really enjoyed having her around. While her relationship with Elend was interesting, it was her relationship with Sazed that I was really invested in; it was a great insight into Sazed and into the society of the Keepers. (view spoiler)[I knew from the moment they admitted they loved each other that one of them - or both - was going to die. Damn authors. The good ones have that habit, I think, of making sure you adore the characters RIGHT BEFORE THEY KILL THEM OFF. Hiromu Arakawa, I AM LOOKING AT YOU. (hide spoiler)]
Allrianne, who I at first disliked for her attitude and her Valley Girl way of speaking. (No, really. She literally says "Like, I saw my father's camp." FACEPALM.) No spoilers, but there's more to her than what we see on the surface, and I'm interested to see what she gets up to in the next book. Poor Breeze. He has no idea what he's gotten into.
The interplay of numerous sub-plots was very graceful, even though some of them have yet to come to fruition. Also, though this book sort of has a cliffhanger, it also has a denouement. I'm not really sure how that worked, but it did.
OreSeur, the kandra. Once Vin started being nice to him, their interactions were just... pure gold. No spoilers, but there was a Certain Scene that hit like a punch in the gut as a result.
I'm iffy on Zane; he seemed a little forced at times, but in the end his role in the plot was decent. What really interests me was something revealed only near the end, which hopefully will be expanded upon in The Hero Of Ages. (view spoiler)[He mentioned a spike sticking out of his back, like the one placed in Steel Inquisitors. Was that the source of his false insanity? If so, does that explain Marsh's actions? And is it tied to the force from the Well? (hide spoiler)] Suffice it to say that this tidbit sent me off into a bout of theorizing. Whovians, there's about as much material here for pondering as there's been in Series 6 to date. The world of the Mistborn series is pretty damn complicated.
To finish up, a couple good quotes:
Personally, Vin didn't find the library's location nearly as amusing as its contents. Or, rather, lack thereof. Though the room was lined with shelves, nearly all of them showed signs of having been pillaged by Elend. The rows of books lay pocked by forlorn empty spots, their companions taken away one by one, as if Elend were a predator, slowly whittling down a herd.
"Sazed, I've raised some fifteen daughters," Tindwyl said, entering the room. "No teenage girl is stable. Some are just better at hiding it than others."
Sanderson still has one writing habit that annoys me: he puts a comma after every 'but', even when it doesn't seem to suit the sentence. And of course there are places where the same word is used too quickly in succession. I'm not too bothered by that, though, because come on - the book is almost 600 pages long. It's not going to be linguistically flawless. That's fine. As long as it's still an engrossing read (check), one that makes me think a lot (check), full of surprises (check) and identifiable characters (check), I'm happy.
This book, and this series: highly recommended. If you haven't read them yet, you owe it to yourself. Don't worry about the size; once you get into them, they go by fast - sometimes faster than you'd want them to.
And finally... I don't think live-action techniques can do justice to it just yet, but Mistborn would make an absolutely mind-blowing anime. (Maybe it could go live-action in future. CG is getting pretty good, after all. But I think anime could get away with a lot more voice-over internal narration, which would be crucial.) ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 11, 2011
Jul 16, 2011
Jul 11, 2011
Dec 08, 2009
Dec 08, 2009
did not like it
EDIT: Forgot to add original half-started review at the end. Fixed!
Some time back I postulated on Facebook that all YA PNRs were trying to be the Doct EDIT: Forgot to add original half-started review at the end. Fixed!
Some time back I postulated on Facebook that all YA PNRs were trying to be the Doctor and Rose, and that they were all failing miserably. I never meant that idea to make it into a review, and yet... well, here we are, aren't we? So welcome to a review in which I use Doctor Who to explain this burgeoning genre in general, and Fallen in particular. Even if you don't know the show, it should be fairly cogent.
Let's start with the 'why'. Like I said, I never meant this idea to make it into a review, so... why did it?
Because there is nothing else I can bring myself to do for this book. It's not quiiiiite horrible enough for a point-by-point refutation, like I did for Hush, Hush. But it's too eye-gouging for me to do chapter by chapter mini-reviews (though I did get through the first four or five like this; the results will be at the end of this final review.) Heaven knows I can't write a coherent/eloquent 'ordinary' review. If I don't make a complete mockery of this book using my current Fandom of Choice, I won't review it at all, and if I don't review it then why the fuck did I read it?
So here goes... YA PNR in terms of the Doctor. Somewhat pic-heavy.
When the Doctor says to Rose in 'School Reunion' that "You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend the rest of my life with you," he perfectly captures the essential conflict that (I believe, at least) ought to be at the heart of many of these PNRs. It's not the 'I want to kill you but I love you' conflict: it's the 'I'll go on forever and you will inevitably die and there is nothing I can do about it'. That's what makes the romance poignant. There is a time bomb attached to it, even if the reader never has to watch it go off, and every moment we watch the couple together is more poignant because we know they only have a limited number of moments left. If I had my way
Some authors are slightly aware of this, and they try to give us a little more Timelord in our Fallen Angel breakfast cereal.
Most of them got very, very confused and started writing about Daleks as romantic leads.
Sure, it gave you a candy heart, but it still wants to FUCKING KILL YOU. AND ALL OF YOUR GODDAMN RACE.
Daleks are not romantic. When you see a Dalek you either run away screaming and hope it doesn't kill you when your back is turned or you blow it the hell up. Very rarely do you care about its horrible past or its horrible present or how much it claims to love you because underneath all of that it still wants to kill you. There's a reason they've been recurring villains for nearly all of the show's run. What is it, thirty odd seasons now? And these salt-shaker-shaped aliens still inspire fear in small children and cause adults to hide behind couches.
Patch, from Hush, Hush, is a Dalek. Except he's a sneaky one; but he still fulfills the ultimate requirement: namely, wanting to kill people. Actually, he's a Dalek with sex drive.
Daniel is less of a Dalek, but he's still no Doctor. No, he doesn't want to kill Luce. Um, wait, actually? That's not so sure. He does kiss her at one point expecting her to explode into bitty pieces and die. Which is, you know, not a good thing if you actually are in love with the girl.
Anyhow, that's the one point. I expected that. If that had been all that was horrible about this book, I might have finished my chapter-by-chapter review. But there was a breaking point...
From there, it was all downhill.
It's the jump rope scene. After that, I just couldn't take this book seriously. I read this one aloud to my friends at lunch once and couldn't even finish; we were laughing too hard for me to read. Since you out there can't benefit from my dramatic reading, I'll just give you the passage to which I refer...
But Luce's body got the better of her mind when she caught another glimpse of Daniel. His back was to her and he was standing in a corner picking out a jump rope from a tangled pile. She watched as he selected a thin navy rope with wooden handles, then moved to an open space in the center of the room. His golden skin was almost radiant, and every move he made, whether he was rolling out his long neck in a stretch or bending over to scratch his sculpted knee, had Luce completely rapt. She stood pressed against the doorway, unaware that her teeth were chattering and her towel was soaked.
I'm absolutely not shitting you. That is word-for-word what was in this book. Could you take it seriously after reading that? Really. Either Lauren Kate is trolling and getting paid (in which case good for her) or she has no idea about pacing and scene choice and how to use language properly AT. ALL. This passage is ridiculously purple-prose'd, aside from being unnecessary (did it advance the plot? Nope...) and completely inane. I didn't need to know about Daniel's 'sculpted knee'. I also didn't need to know about his 'graceful, narrow feet'. Frankly, I could care less how much Luce wants to jump his bones when she sees him. What's next? "She felt her heart beating faster with desire as he bounced lightly from one hopscotch square to the next"?
Jumping rope is not sexy. It never will be. End of story. This should have been cut at some point in the editing process and it explains a LOT about the final product that it was not.
The good news is that now I can see the book as just silly. Like Christopher Eccleston dancing in a souped-up phone booth.
Nah, this has nothing to do with the content of the review. I just like the gif.
Let's talk about Daniel and Luce a little more... just briefly. Most of what needs to be said about this 'romance' has already been said, none of it good. About the only thing I can come up with to mention that's positive is that Daniel's not nearly as bad as Patch the Dalek. He's still not good, though. There's one scene worth addressing... and like the jump rope sequence above, I have it here in its entirety.
"You think you're so smart? I spent three years on a full academic scholarship at the best college-prep school in the country. And when they kicked me out, I had to petition- petition!- to keep them from wiping my four-point-oh transcript."
I'm going to set aside the fact that none of that is how a teenager would talk. Two things, one brief: SHOW, DON'T FUCKING TELL. If Luce is so smart, why haven't we seen this before? Even something like her sense of direction should have come up in a narrative that's written in third person limited. Because none of it did this is just a massive, pointless infodump.
Number two: It's not romantic to be told to shut up in any circumstances, but particularly in these... first, because Daniel was telling Luce to stop talking about being smart- way to try and quash any expression of intelligence she might be inclined to- and second, because she'd already stopped talking. He had no reason to say it other than to assert dominance over her. "HE MAN IN COMMAND OF PUNY WOMAN, STIFLE STREAM OF STUPID PUNY WOMAN WORDS" is not romantic, and yet that's what Daniel just did.
Basically, when he's around Luce, he's like this:
Except, you know, nowhere near as hot.
Despite the fact that it's Luce who dies once every 17 years, Daniel manages to make it about him. And it's all about him. He's like Rand Al'Thor from the Wheel of Time- what's the word that means someone the Wheel bends its weaving around? That kind of thing. Even Luce 'bends' around him- to the point of character derailment, actually, or it would be if she had established a character from which to derail.
But. Luce was proving day after day that- especially when it came to Daniel- she was incapable of doing anything that fell under the category of "normal" or "smart".
For once, I have to agree with the book.
However, I should take this time to point out that this is a horrible trick. Defining your character by telling the reader how she's changed, not by showing how she was before? EPIC FAIL. Writer cop-out. STOP. DOING. THIS. EVERYONE. Really. It was old the first time I encountered it; that's how bad of an idea this is. Maybe it's harder to actually develop a character and then have it make sense for them to deviate from their personality, but you know what?
There's one more thing which I unfortunately do not have a Doctor Who picture for. Oh yes, and spoilers. Do you care? Thought not.
Somehow, if Luce is killed once and for all (and would someone, please?) it will bring about the End of Days. I think. The plot wasn't really clear. But this couldn't happen before because she was raised in religion. This life, though, she was born to a pair of agnostics and never baptized and... do you see where this is going?
Agnostics will cause Armageddon.
According to Lauren Kate, that is.
I can't get past the first stage of my reaction: WHAT THE FUCK?
I welcome debate, if anyone would like to defend this book. However, if your entire defense comes down to 'DANIEL IS HAWT AND THEIR LOVE IS SO PUUUUURE', well... there's just one thing to say and I'm going to say it now:
And now, to end the review on a positive note, have some cute:
Really, there are better things you can do with your time than read this book. Go watch Doctor Who, for one!
The chapter-by-chapter, before I gave up, spoilertagged so it doesn't screw with my formatting:
(view spoiler)[0. Prologue: “In The Beginning”
Ah, the dramatic entry. Some authors started without a prologue, do you remember? Used to be quite a la mode.
Anyhow, this one introduces us to our doomed lovers; given what I already know, I’m betting this is Daniel and Luce. (Say, why do these reincarnated people never switch genders between lives?) There is tension, and apparently it’s not safe for her to know about their love. He remembers, of course.
There was a moment where he says that ‘there are things more important than love’ and I almost liked him then, but then the Fateful Kissing began and I was disgusted again.
This will be an extra-long torture.
Oh, and that title. ‘In The Beginning’? Really? Because if she’s been reincarnated even once before, NEWS FLASH, it’s not the beginning. The beginning would be the first first first time. Not the umpteenth.
1. Perfect Strangers
And here we meet Luce, Cam, and Daniel. As I understand it, these are the three points of our love triangle. We are also introduced to the Sword and Cross boarding school, which is preposterously dingy and unpleasant. (Why, exactly, would a court mandate minors be sent to a place that sounds as if it can’t pass any health inspection, EVER? Oh right, plot convenience. Durr.)
Luce has some angst in her past, joy oh joy, but I’m willing to bet that she’s innocent of the crime that got her sent here. Because a criminal heroine would be boring. Nothing interesting about murderers and arsonists at all.
Oh yes, and the infamous flipping-off scene has occurred. Daniel looks appropriately angelic, but doesn’t act it. This must be him trying to keep Luce away. Won’t work, idiot. You just made yourself more interesting. It’s not ‘oh, hostile dude, will stay away now’; it’s ‘why the fuck is he flipping me the bird? I need to learn more about this’. You would think if the guy was eleventy billion years old he’d know that about human nature.
Also, we now know that the much-vaunted cover is in accurate, at least if it’s supposed to show Luce as she is now. Her hair is actually short- cue difficulty in picturing character. Eh. I never liked that cover anyhow.
2. Fit To Be Tied
Really, what’s with this title? It has nothing to do with the chapter. No one gets tied. It’s just pages of mindless exposition, establishing Cam as a bit of a flirt and Luce as that stereotypical bullied heroine. Are we supposed to be seeing how bad the students at Sword and Cross are? Because someone mashes food into the quote-unquote heroine’s hair?
There’s the longing for Daniel, too. Oh that bugs me. She. Just. Met. Him. Why the hell is he taking over her brain? Riiight, because he’s Mr. Alpha Male of Instant Pheromones and she’ll never be able to resist him.
And the shock collar. Change of subject, but let me digress this way for a moment. How did they ever managed to design a shock collar that responded to Arriane’s motion? That’s kind of impressive… or no, wait, kind of stupid. Sciencefail.
3. Drawing Dark
Creepy shadows, librarian, an attempt to establish Luce as the bookish sort- let’s see how that goes- and the first ‘spark’ between her and Daniel. Daniel who is still being an asshole to chase her off. It’s still not working.
Here is something I’m thinking about: why are the reincarnated lovers always teenagers these days? Isn’t there a great story to be told about two people who’ve reached middle age, maybe even married and settled down, realizing that they were destined to be together and drawn apart by something as simple as chance? Yes, these books are targeted at teens. But this has been done and done and done again for teens. Where are the novels that handle this in a logical, adult manner and refuse to get side-tracked by hormones? I guess that’s a large part of what bugs me about YA PNR: the plot gets hijacked by chemical imbalances in the heroine’s brain, essentially, and veers off into Angstyhornyland and never comes back.
4. Graveyard Shift
Oh goodness, did she really use the word ‘spherical’ to describe a teacher? She did, she totally did. And then there’s some repetitive sentences that I was re-writing in my head. Writingfail and Editorfail.
...and that's as far as I got. Which is probably good for my sanity. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]> ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 02, 2011
Mar 07, 2011
Dec 14, 2009
Aug 03, 2010
Aug 03, 2010
did not like it
Full review still in progress, but here's approximately the first half... pre-reading comments at the end.
EDIT: Okay, I'm never going to finish this t Full review still in progress, but here's approximately the first half... pre-reading comments at the end.
EDIT: Okay, I'm never going to finish this thing. Frankly, I don't care. But I added a list of things I was planning to put into it at the end.
EDIT 2: Everyone who is even THINKING about reading this book should read this article: http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/... and find out exactly what you're dealing with and what you're supporting.
Introduction: I Am The Fourth Matrix
There is a theater in my city that shows movies after they’ve left the other theaters, for two or three dollars a ticket. It’s a pretty good deal. On Friday night they showed The Matrix- which I’d never seen- and I went with a couple of friends. It was decent. A little bit predictable, a little bit too violent at times, but overall pretty good. The problem was, I’d been reading I Am Number Four that same day, trying to finish it and put it behind me, and I watched one of the released movie clips of Six to reassure myself (before I encountered her in the book) that someone actually cool would show up eventually.
This tainted my viewing of The Matrix.
You see, I Am Number Four is what you get if you took the coolest sequences of The Matrix and the premise of Superman, tossed them in a blender, and added a sprinkling of generic Love Interest Powder to the top. But, ah, be sure not to blend it too smooth- it has to be choppy and jolting to experience, and you can’t have that if things meld together seamlessly.
I’m frustrated with ‘Pittacus Lore’ for making me think of his characters when I was watching Keanu Reeves stop bullets in midair. But on the other hand, there’s a wonderful irony to going to see the original on the opening night of the cheap, poorly-concealed knock-off.
I’m not going to see the movie, obviously. It’s not worth my time. But I did spend time on the book, so let’s talk about that for a while…
Bad Researcher, No Cookie
It is painfully obvious that ‘Pittacus Lore’ doesn’t know jack about science. I’m not sure if he’s trying to bill this as science fiction or not, but if so someone should go hit him over the head with the entire collected Dune series or something, because this is pretty much the worst science fiction I’ve ever read. Why do I say this? Oh, where to begin… well, actually, that’s obvious.
Lorien is a cheap imitation of Earth, and its inhabitants are equally cheap imitations of humans. Think about it. The fact that they look enough like us to pass as us without extra technology or spells or whatever should have given it away. If that wasn’t enough, maybe someone else noticed the color scheme of the planet? Really, Mr. ‘Lore’, do you think that all plants are automatically green everywhere in the universe? Or for that matter that all water is blue? It’s a matter of chemicals and elements, and since you take great pains to point out that Lorien has a different concentration of mineral resources than Planet Earth, we know that the ratios of elements in the soil have to be different. And even if the readers were inclined to let that slide, did you really think you get away with giving the Loric people all of these human structures? They drive cars and park them in driveways, for heaven’s sake! They have grass! Air shows! Fireworks! They even have the same kind of names! In essence, they are exactly like humans except for the ones with sparkly Sue powers.
Ah, and those powers. Did you think I’d miss that, too? Treat it as science fantasy, whatever, but let’s talk a little hard evolutionary science for a moment. When explaining the origins of the Legacies, Henri tells John that they were ‘like a gift from the planet’ or some crap like that.
That is not how evolution works.
It goes like this: New traits come to be through random mutations. Some of them will be beneficial, some simply not detrimental; some will be fatal or sterilizing. Events in the environment lead to one trait being favored over others, but it must already exist within the population. Evolution doesn’t spontaneously create beneficial traits; it amplifies them in the population at large. So there would have to have been Legacies already present among the Loric for them to become prevalent.
Okay, change gears here.
Planets and stars.
Lorien is one tenth the size of Earth, and its star is twice the size of our Sun. It’s fourth away from this star. All of these should have shaped the kind of life that evolved there. For this I have the manga Planetes to thank, because without it I might not have noticed; but gravity affects the way body shapes develop. Growing up in lower gravity, hypothetically, should result in a taller individual, because there’s less strain on the body. Now, unless you’re going to tell me that Lorien is superdense, that wasn’t accounted for in this book.
And as for that planet. Smaller than Earth? It can’t hold as much atmosphere. Still relatively close to the Sun? It should be BAKED before it can ever support life outside of Kingdom Archaea. (Granted I may be incorrect on this point; biology is more my strong point than astronomy.)
Culture, physiology, solar system… OH WAIT.
If you’re not familiar with the term, this is what happens when sci-fi writers get lazy and decide that every sentient race in the universe looks almost exactly like humans, except maybe with pointy ears and funny eyebrows, or some crazy forehead makeup. TV shows can get away with it, or they could until technology caught up with them. Books just can’t. You don’t have to worry about how to simulate this alien; you’re just describing it, anyhow! That’s how we get things like the gaseous race that shows up in one of Anne McCaffrey’s ‘The Ship Who’ books.
It’s possible to explain parallel evolution to reader satisfaction. (The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty did this well.) ‘Pittacus’ didn’t do so. And what’s worse, it’s not just one race that looks suspiciously humanoid… there are two alien races that are nonetheless capable as passing as native Terrans with a minimum of work. Even given that the book was optioned for a movie before it was published, this is unacceptable. Parallel evolution is the cheap trick that, as far as I’m concerned, should never be used.
And on that note, let’s talk about humans and the Loric.
Humans Lame, Aliens Awesome: Your Accomplishments Mean Nothing
This is a theme of I Am Number Four that particularly stood out to me, and here is why: One of the roleplays I’m doing on Gaia right now is about human settlers reaching the first planet they intend to colonize and finding an existing alien civilization. As I’m in control of the aliens, I’ve been doing all the worldbuilding for this place, and that included figuring out why they resembled a cross between humans and Terran birds. My solution was a little like McKinty’s: I tossed in an ancient race that meddled with both the younger species and made them in their own image. When I first proposed this, though, I hadn’t really figured out how it would go yet, and so my partner raised a point: isn’t this cheapening human achievements as a species, if you credit their whole existence and all their achievements to other aliens?
And he was right, you know? So I backed off and made it work a different way.
I wish Pittacus Lore had had to run his ideas by a similar audience. Because he didn’t, we get things like this: “We helped the humans, taught them to make fire, gave them the tools to develop speech and language, which is why our language is so similar to the languages of Earth.”
Okay, really? No one language can be similar to all the languages of Earth. It’s simply not possible. Apparently Pittacus hasn’t seen a language family tree… well, ever. Grammar alone, even if every language had the same sort of pronunciation, would make it impossible; add in the fact that letters are pronounced differently, or that you have tonal languages and languages that use percussive sounds as well- not to mention myriad dialects- and this whole sentence is shown to be complete bullshit. But it’s not the worst. This is:
“What happens if we try to have children with humans?”
“It’s happened many times before. Usually it results in an exceptional and gifted human. Some of the greatest figures in Earth’s history were actually the product of humans and the Loric, including Buddha, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
I’m going to ignore the suggestion that the Greek gods were also just half-Loric humans, because this is more than preposterous enough. According to Pittacus Lore, you see, not only would humans not have developed fire or language on their own, they wouldn’t have come up with things like the Four Noble Truths or the theory of Relativity if the speshul aliens hadn’t been involved. Frankly, seeing this list, I’m kind of surprised that Lore stopped here: why not claim responsibility for Muhammad, or Jesus, or Confucius, for example, while we’re undermining world religions? Why not assert that Michelangelo or Van Gogh were half-Loric? Hell, what about George Washington… or, since Genghis Kahn made the roster, Adolf Hitler? Because clearly noooooothing important can go on without alien involvement. (Oh, and how did the two species crossbreed? This goes back to the evolution thing, I guess- if there’s an explanation there, it might solve this problem too, but I doubt there is.)
Formerly planned sections:
The Hero Is Exempt From Morals…
In which I would have discussed John's flagrant abuse of his power, including some incidents of untempered (and unregretted) harm caused to others who were barely more than bystanders, and that one time he attacked Henri. Also the fact that he never cared about Henri enough to remember his name until he was dead.
…And All Characters Are Exempt From Brains
In which I would have discussed Henri's abominably stupid decision to investigate a Mogadorian threat on his own, and John's decision that staying in the town where his girlfriend lived was more important than his own life or the future of his planet.
We Should Have Expected This From James Frey
In which I would have discussed the way Frey wrote his own pen name into the story and glorified himself by making 'Pittacus' one of the most famous Lorics of all time.
Of Course, He Wasn’t Being Paid That Well
In which I would have discussed Frey's book factory business plan and the truly horrible writing in this book.
In which I would have discussed the anvilicious (and obvious attempt at trend-riding) environmental 'message' presented in the contrast between the Lorics and the Mogadorians, the absurd plot convenience of Sam just happening to mention the Mogadorians, and the fact that it is impossible to see vegetation moving under wind if the globe you're looking at is the size of a raquetball.
Long story short: Don't waste your time or your money. If you want sci-fi, go read some C.J. Cherryh or Frank Herbert or watch Firefly or Doctor Who.
Forget Alex Pettyfer. Let's see Tom Baker in this part!
I've got a galley of this sitting on my bookshelf, and I was quite looking forward to it... until I saw an add for the movie trailer on Facebook.
No book should be made into a movie for release the year after publication. I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. And now I 'm kinda not looking forward to reading this. I still will, but I'll take my time getting to it. ...more
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Feb 16, 2011
Feb 19, 2011
May 13, 2010
Oct 14, 2014
Oct 14, 2014
First of all, let me get this out of the way: everyone calling Clariel - the character - names can shut the hell up. I'm pissed as hell at the number First of all, let me get this out of the way: everyone calling Clariel - the character - names can shut the hell up. I'm pissed as hell at the number of people writing her off as a bitch, whiny, self-centered, etc., especially when that's the extent of their critique of the book. It smells of misogyny and it needs to stop.
Now, as for the book...
I've been waiting for this book for a long time - pretty much since I read the original trilogy and first came across rumors that this was in the works. It had a high standard to meet, as the Abhorsen books are some of the best YA I've ever read. The thing is, from the time the first few chapters came out as a sampler, I've had an inkling that this wasn't going to match its predecessors. And, sadly, I was right.
I came out of this book with the strong impression that I'd read an early draft, not a finished product. It has a lot of the hallmarks of an under-revised work: too many characters who wind up too under-used, uneven pacing, blocky infodumps, awkward and jarring switches out of the third-person-limited POV. Even on a sentence level it felt in need of editing: there were far too many "Clariel felt x because y" type lines, which with another pass could have been smoothed out into something much less amateur. Top that off with the fact that the book ends before the most interesting and novel part of Clariel's story and well, this wasn't at all what I've been waiting for. It felt like Nix had been writing himself back into the Old Kingdom as an exercise (he's not written in it for 10 years, after all) and somehow that freewrite got bound and published.
The thing that makes this all the more frustrating is that there is a lot of potential here. Clariel herself holds most of it: she's a berserker, she's got an aptitude for necromancy, and we all know she's destined to be Chlorr of the Mask in Lirael/Abhorsen - her story could be either a fascinating story of villainous descent or a tragedy of losing a sense of self, or both. (Also, she's canonically asexual and aromantic, which makes her dear to me in particular.) Then there's the world - we've actually never seen a fully functional Old Kingdom; even in Lirael and Abhorsen it's still being rebuilt, and in Sabriel it's the nation-wide equivalent of a ghost town. Nix had a distinct opportunity here to explore what an entire country filled with necromancers, Clayr, and Charter Mages would look like... and he wrote pretty much all three of those groups out of it. The only necromancers we see are the Abhorsens, none of whom actually go into Death (not even ONE antagonistic necromancer? anywhere?); the Clayr don't really show up at all, and Charter Magic is out of fashion in the society, so doesn't play a part. (furthermore, Clariel doesn't have a strong aptitude for the Charter, so even though she's supposedly learning it the reader never really gets to see it used.) Ancelstierre plays no role in this story at all, which is... understandable but regrettable. The land beyond the Rift has the potential to be involved, but isn't. All this leaves the Old Kingdom feeling a great deal more generic than it does in the original trilogy, and instead of the sense of coming back to a fantasy world I loved, I wound up with the sense that a bait-and-switch had been performed.
I wanted to enjoy this book, really I did - but all the things that I enjoyed about the original trilogy were absent. My hopes are still up for the promised post-Abhorsen fifth volume, especially as it's less likely to have the 'writing onesself into the world' feeling that this did by dint of coming soon (hopefully) after Clariel. And hey - maybe Nix will get back into the swing of things and someday we'll get a sequel to this book, or a prequel about some of the fascinating history it mentioned (lady pirates on the Ratterlin? Mistress Ader as Abhorsen? I'd love more on both). I still want more from this world and from Nix as an author; it just happens that this didn't hit the mark at all.
A couple of final notes/quibbles under the cut:
(view spoiler)[- Aunt Lemmin and the princess were both criminally under-used/over-mentioned. Honestly, by the end I expected them to be the same person - since otherwise there wouldn't really be enough time to develop two and I anticipated both being involved in the end. Aaaaaand then they both wound up offscreen.
- The villainous plot? Really didn't have enough stakes to it at all. I mean, this is a prequel by in-world chronology, but in publication it's directly following the book that ended with BINDING ORANNIS. And all we get here is a vague background attempt to break the Charter? Really?
- gotta say though, I still love the complete lack of gender roles in this world. Ladies are everywhere and doing everything and that's great.
- there was a brief mention Clariel almost hugging Belatiel to "let out some feeling that she had long suppressed" which really bothered me; see above re: her being really firmly defined as aro-ace. That line came off as a half-assed retraction of that orientation, and felt a little like a betrayal.
- no seriously I want to know what's beyond the Rift NIX SEQUEL PLEASE (hide spoiler)] ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 06, 2014
Apr 22, 2009
Nov 08, 2011
Nov 08, 2011
it was amazing
Fair warning: I am a massive Sanderson fangirl. This is a fair approximation of my behavior whenever I read one of his books:
I babble at people who ha Fair warning: I am a massive Sanderson fangirl. This is a fair approximation of my behavior whenever I read one of his books:
I babble at people who have no idea what I'm talking about, I trip over my own feet and nearly down the stairs, I fling my arms around as if they are not attached to my body and can actually be thrown; I am loud and exuberant and wholly consumed by excitement and while I'm sure the extremely out-of-character nature of this behavior terrifies some people around me no end, I can't help but think of it as really quite an ideal state.
Thankfully I read most of this book alone (between the hours of 11pm and 1am the night before my noon flight back to college, in a frenetic attempt to finish the library copy I'd checked out which eventually ended in exhausted admission of defeat) or with another fangirl (who I introduced to the Mistborn trilogy this past semester and who is now most of the way finished with Hero of Ages). We spent hours sitting across from each other listening to movie soundtracks and occasionally speaking to quote funny bits of dialogue or to bemoan the choices made by favorite characters. It is an excellent way to pass the time on a Friday night and anyone who says otherwise can FIGHT ME.
Anyhow, the book. Riiiiight. The only honest evaluation of my response to it is really one long squee - from the maps to the Ars Arcanum I was just freaking out the whole time. It's hard to review (ye gods, aren't they all?) because a lot of my FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS are tied up in callbacks to the original trilogy. (view spoiler)[(The Ascendant Warrior and the Last Emperor - I I I kind of almost cried when their tombs were mentioned, agh how can they be dead I AM STILL NOT OVER THE END OF HERO OF AGES GODDAMMIT. And the Lord Mistborn - I see what you did there - and Wax is descended from Breeze - and Harmony aaaaaaaaaaah best deity ever I love him so much I can't even-) (hide spoiler)] I can't pry off that lens even if I wanted to - and I don't because this just felt like a love letter to the characters I adore - and tell you what this book's empirical merits are, not really. I will try. I will probably fail, but I will try.
So first of all, there's Wax. Waxillium Ladrian, I suppose, but I like Wax better.
My thoughts on Wax:
Okay, yeah, but not really, I guess. I totally understand how Marasi was so taken with him, though - he's capable, witty, honest, loyal, noble, courageous, skilled, and I will bet you anything he cuts a fiiiiiine figure in a mistcoat. He also has some lovely internal conflict, courtesy of the tragic loss he suffers in the prologue, and I liked seeing the battle between fear and sense of duty raging in his head. Now, I'll be honest: there is a possibility that Wax is something of a Gary-Stu. Other characters describe him reverentially in a way that made me roll my eyes; most notably, as like "a one-of-a-kind painting, a masterpiece". But I really cannot be arsed to care about his possible Stuishness. The sheer fun of reading about a character like him, combined with the incredibly badass fight scenes (which I want to see on a screen so. badly.) really quite overwhelm any objections I could otherwise be inclined to raise.
And then there's Wayne, Wax's best friend and deputy in the Roughs.
He's no Wax, stealing my heart (Wayne would say 'trading for it', I suppose) but he's a pretty wonderful character in and of himself - his childish enthusiasm, his brilliant insight into people, his humor (albeit occasionally unintentional, as in the case of the 'broad education' pun which I think was my favorite), and most of all for his past and what he's done about it. Not to spoil anything, but he is a poor sweet darling and I just want to give him lots of hugs and tell him he's doing the right thing.
Finally, last but certainly not least, is Marasi.
I read something lately where someone was talking about the fact that the feminist movement asked Hollywood for 'strong female characters' and Hollywood gave them 'STRONG female characters' with lots of swords and general ass-kicking, when actually what they wanted was 'strong characters, female' depicted in the many varieties of imperfect strength that men are shown in. Well, here's one - a woman who is a dab hand with a rifle but would rather enjoy the comforts of a city and pursue justice through legal work than go out and be a hero; a young woman, with the kind of vulnerable sad crush that young women get on someone they admire, who nonetheless gets shit done before she worries about romance. She's awesome and I really, really, really enjoyed her.
On a broader note, the worldbuilding. There is, I am sad to say, insufficient Vin worship for my tastes. If you ask me, that woman should be the grand high goddess of Scadrial - yes, the entire planet, even the people on the other side of the world who haven't heard of her - forever and ever. Buuut they didn't ask me, so I have to be content with a town, a month, and a really epic gun named after her. (The gun is called 'Vindication' and is super awesome.)
Instead of omnipresent Vin worship, there are three main religions - Survivorism, Pathism, and Splinterism. If you've read the first three books, identifying their major figures should be a piece of cake; if not, just enjoy them as backdrop. Unlike a lot of Sanderson's books, religion does not actually play a huge role here; it's more casually nodded to than anything else.
Scadrial's advancements in 300 years are really fun, though there are some things I find disappointing. Due to dilution of the gene pool, there are no more Mistborn, which is tragic; there are, however, Twinborn instead - people with both allomantic and feruchemical powers. And there are a lot of new metals with cool new uses. (Temporal metals. TEMPORAL METALS.) Technology has also changed and while this book is not quiiiiite as steampunk as its cover makes it look, it is still loads of fun to see all of this marvelous magic interacting with growing skyscrapers and trains.
Aaaand that's really all I feel about saying about that. Wild blatherings and possible theorizing below in the spoilers; tread with care.
(view spoiler)[Before he dies, Miles says "One day, the men of gold and red, bearers of the final metal, will come to you. And you will be ruled by them." I am really inclined to plant a flag in this and declare it OBVIOUS COSMERE STUFF but maybe I'm wrong? Maybe it has to do with the people on the other side of the planet, whose existence Sanderson has previously confirmed - though I think he also said that they didn't have any of the Metallic Arts so maybe not. The mention of red kind of makes me wonder if they're the Voidbrngers from The Way of Kings, but their color scheme was red and black, wasn't it? And what is this 'final metal' business? Could it be another God Metal, like atium and larasium, made presumably by another Shard? Could it, in fact, be the substance that the shards are shards OF?
I kind of want the bad guys to get away with their breeding program so that maybe there will be Mistborn in the next trilogy. I am well aware of how horrible I am for wanting this. It does not change the fact that I will be very sad to read another Mistborn book without any actual Mistborn.
Marsh describes Wax as "doing my brother's work" near the end - which makes me wonder how much Kel can communicate with Sazed and thus Marsh. I think there are dimensions or planes involved or something like that and they confuse me. I like the idea of Kelsier and Sazed being co-gods, though. That would be neat.
The mention of Hemalurgy being the art of greatest interest to the Cosmere has me really really worried.
ALLOYS OF THE GOD METALS. Sixteen new alloys per metal. Oh my goodness. I want to see it, I really really do.
Some of the Ferring abilities - storing determination or storing Investiture itself - simply incredible. I cannot wait to see this all explored more.
What is a Spiritweb? (hide spoiler)]
In conclusion: SANDERSON WRITE MORE BOOKS MORE FASTER.
Notes are private!
Jan 12, 2012
Jan 20, 2012
May 15, 2011
Aug 02, 2012
Aug 07, 2012
did not like it
Welp, this Popular YA Series sure isn't for me. And when I say 'isn't for me' I mean 'sometimes I was reading this and it was so painfully, agonizingl Welp, this Popular YA Series sure isn't for me. And when I say 'isn't for me' I mean 'sometimes I was reading this and it was so painfully, agonizingly mediocre that I forgot why I expend the effort to read anything'. At least bad books are identifiable as outliers; this was just... bland. It was like taking a big bite of cardboard and chewing and chewing until you felt like you were going to be eating cardboard forever and what was the POINT anyway.
The thing that drives me craziest, though, is that there's a good story here.
It's just not Celaena's.
Celaena Sardothien (not her real name) is our protagonist and principal viewpoint character. She's eighteen years old, of which the last one was spent in a hard labor camp, and somehow at the age of seventeen became the most renowned assassin in the land. This is an assertion that makes me leery of her as a character, because quite frankly that's not how expertise works, especially with regards to something that requires a great variety of skills. Early on in the book I was optimistic that she would demonstrate these skills and/or reveal more about her training, and that her status as 'Adarlan's Assassin' would make sense. This was not to be. More on the lack of Celaena being proficient later.
There was one other quality that was established quickly and made me care for her far less than I might have: girl hate, with a side of hypocrisy.
"I hate women like that. They're so desperate for the attention of men that they'd willingly betray and harm members of their own sex."
Now, character flaws are a good thing! AND YET. In a book where there are precisely three female characters who get pagetime, and where one of them is largely cast as a shallow social climber (and hosts of other court ladies get written off as such), this stops being Celaena's character flaw and starts being a book flaw. It's not Celaena who treats women as untrustworthy and shallow, it's the text. Moreover, she doesn't show signs of growing out of it: she comes to trust Nehemia, but that doesn't change her mind regarding other women. Making an exception for one person isn't character growth.
Also, the specific dislike directed towards girls with power of their own just makes me gag.
But surely Celaena has other character traits beyond internalized misogyny and an unfounded reputation! She... likes books! This does literally nothing for her character and frankly, I'm sick and tired of authors just shoehorning 'bookishness' in without depth. She has conversations with Dorian and Chaol about books, which to my eternal frustration are skipped over. We barely even get titles! Do they discuss philosophy - the morality of killing in different circumstances, perhaps? What about history, or scholarly debates on the fall of different empires? Hell, even a conversation about bawdy romance novels would have fleshed out all the characters involved more than 'he named a few title and the conversation stretched on for hours'. It's all window dressing. This is page time which could have been spent on the book's plot.
And speaking of things that are told rather than shown: Celaena's motivations. What are they, anyway? Initially her thoughts are all about escape, generally through violent means. Freedom is the goal that she's willing to kill for, either in the actual escape attempt or as the King's Champion... but when it's offered to her practically on a silver platter, she refuses it. This despite the fact that other competitors for the title of Champion are being systematically disemboweled. AND SPEAKING OF THAT.
"Just know that there's not a moment that goes by when I don't wonder what it will be like to kill for him - the man who destroyed everything that I loved!"
She's the main POV character. Before this line, she thinks about this in passing maybe two or three times. If this is supposed to be her internal conflict, why did the audience never get to actually see it?
The two male points of the love triangle - because of course there's a love triangle - are the Crown Prince, Dorian, and the Captain of the Guard, Chaol. Of the two, I have less to say about Chaol: he was bland and didn't really develop (except developing feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings for Celaena), but he wasn't
the utter mess that Dorian was.
Both dudes are clearly here to fall in love with Celaena more than anything else, so that's a problem from the start, but dang, Dorian, what the hell. How is this guy alive, actually; I'm genuinely curious. He's the son and heir of a hated tyrant, which makes him a very logical target for assassins and rebels, and yet he brushes off a man being killed and disemboweled as 'probably just a drunken brawl'. Twice. He says this twice. This is someone who is literally too stupid to survive in his position. Unfortunately he doesn't realize this, because we get this gem:
"I'm not married because I can't stomach the idea of marrying a woman inferior to me in mind and spirit. It would mean the death of my soul."
See. The thing about this. Is that Dorian never actually interacts voluntarily with any women other than Celaena, Nehemia, and his mother. I'm not surprised he considers the court women 'inferior in mind and spirit', because he doesn't fucking bother to talk to them. (By the way, see above re: this book has a woman problem.) He doesn't try to see them as people at all, though it's strongly implied he may just sleep with them anyway.
And about that. Dorian is apparently incapable of understanding boundaries. There is an absolutely agonizing scene, which I suspect is meant to be cute/funny, when Celaena is dealing with menstrual cramps and he intrudes on her. She repeatedly tells him to go away, in no uncertain terms, and his response? Is to insist that she's not really in pain and is doing it for attention, and that this ploy will end with them sleeping together. This is, at best, the behavior of a selfish child who doesn't understand that other human beings have needs. At worst, it's the behavior of a man who doesn't listen to a woman's 'no'. That the woman in this case could supposedly kill him doesn't matter; if he doesn't listen to her words, he doesn't respect her. And if he doesn't respect her, they're not a healthy couple at all.
There is, however, one SHINING LIGHT in the darkness of this pathetic cast, and that is Princess Nehemia. My kingdom, if I had one, for this to be rewritten as her story. She is demonstrably clever, cunning, acerbic, and brave; she's collaborating with rebels against the very man whose castle she's inside, and she knows far, far more than she's telling. Nehemia has a cause, Nehemia has motivations, and scenes with her in them were by far the best of the book. Her introduction, in which she and Celaena made fun of the glass castle in a language no one else knew, was honestly Celaena's best scene.
Unfortunately, I already know Book 2 spoilers. (view spoiler)[And I am FURIOUS. Kill off the black princess because of a man's grudge? And not even a grudge against her, but against the main character? What is she, Celaena's accessory? She can't be a pet, because the fucking dog gets to live longer.
Bad enough that she dies in the second book, but so much worse that it doesn't actually have anything to do with her. She's championing a goddamn insurgency, for goodness sake; surely there are other people who want her dead for herself! There's such a long tradition of characters of color existing only to serve white characters/white character arcs - a tradition, by the way, into which Nehemia sadly falls in the first book, what with spending her time behind the scenes using forbidden magic to keep the white girl alive - that killing her off to punish Celaena is just the arsenic cherry on top of the frosted shitcake.
Especially because she should have carried the story in the first place. (hide spoiler)]
And then there's Kaltain. Who... despite the way she was initially cast, as a shallow social climber, actually wound up my second favorite character. Again, we see a person with goals, but also with a pretty serious weakness (view spoiler)[in the form of opiate addiction, which I was not expecting (hide spoiler)]. She's a girl with simple, self-interested goals - she wants the protection of rank, which I actually found pretty sympathetic. She's also getting played by much scarier people, which is why I could never actually hate her. Kaltain wants safety, and doesn't understand the risk surrounding her because she pursues her goal too single-mindedly. That's interesting to me.
Other characters include the EEEEEVIL King, his unpleasant and sexually forward hench-duke, and the hench-duke's champion who is creatively named... Cain. That one was real subtle. But honestly, while there was a moment which might have hinted at depth in Cain, none of them moved beyond shallow characterization. As well rubber-stamp their foreheads with 'BAD' and go on.
What plot. No, I'm serious: the actual plot didn't show its face until 47% of the way through the Kindle book (and given that that includes a preview of the sequel, it's even further through the actual book). Before that we get a Hunger Games-esque Champion competition which is glossed over more often than not. This is all there is to string narrative tension on for half the book (okay, except for the murders, but Chaol is the only one who gets worked up about that). Moreover, Celaena has been instructed to pretend to be mediocre, so even the few tests we do see rarely have any tension. They're just endless "she could have kicked everyone's asses, but didn't" which, hoo boy, doesn't do anything for that whole problem where Celaena's skills are all talk, no action.
The lack of tension around the competition is linked to something else that I found frustrating, which was the way that Celaena's time at the prison camp was handled. Or rather... not. Not handled. At all. Aside from one cliche nightmare sequence and a bit of glancing at slaves and feeling sympathy, Celaena shows no signs of having being forced to work hard labor for a year. Given that this is a place where people apparently don't tend to survive a few months, is it unreasonable to expect that she show some evidence of the trauma she's been in? Again: the reader is inside her head for most of the book, but we never see how Endovier changed her. She is, apparently, as cocksure and confident as she was before her arrest. Now, I understand the desire to have a protagonist who can dish out some smack-talk, but there's an easy way to solve this: have that confidence be a projection, and let Celaena's inner perspective show the impacts of what she's gone through. It'd make her a lot more complex as a character, and really color her interactions with the other members of the cast. And since her consolation prize if she loses the competition is to go back to the labor camp, it'd give the tests a lot more weight, especially early on when she's in poorer physical shape and therefore at more risk of losing.
The actual plot is... interesting. Unsurprisingly, it would have benefited from being introduced earlier, in no small part because it completely reshapes the worldbuilding as the reader understands it. This makes some things more forgivable ((view spoiler)[for instance, the clear Mary/Jesus parallels at the Christmas-analogue, and the fact that the goddess of the hunt is called, I SHIT YOU NOT, DEANNA. (hide spoiler)]), but is also an abrupt change to drop that far into the story and difficult to reconcile.
When everything comes to a head, it's an avalanche, and unfortunately one which actually back-seats Celaena herself. Without spoilers: she would not have survived the end of this book without the direct and powerful intervention of several other people. This could be a statement about the power of friendship, except that Celaena hasn't done jack shit for the rest of the book, so it ends up just being another instance of her not accomplishing things everyone in the book has insisted she's capable of.
I'm running out of characters here so let's wrap this up with some bullet points:
- The fixation on Celaena's physical appearance is painful to read. There's an entire paragraph at the beginning about what color her eyes are. I'm only grateful they're not described as 'shining orbs'.
- I haven't studied that much fencing, but even I know that the fencing in this book is bad. You don't hold blades against one another, you retreat and disengage, especially if you're physically smaller. And the phrase 'deflected the blow and parried' may be an editing error, but it made me cringe. Parrying is deflecting the blow.
- I don't believe for a second that Nehemia needed to be shown basic fencing footwork by Dorian, and I'm surprised Celaena did.
- Yeah, yeah, magic has been 'gone from the land' for a while. But Celaena believes in it enough to respect the magic forest they ride through from Endovier, so why doesn't she ever even consider that the murders in the palace are also supernatural until it smacks her in the face?
- Everyone remarks on this but: Celaena adjusts her door hinges so they creak loudly. AND THEN DORIAN AND CHAOL SNEAK UP ON HER REPEATEDLY. The first time is right after we're told no one would be able to sneak up on her. Dorian pulls this off drunk at another instance. Chaol once winces at the creaking noise, but manages to approach Celaena with her still asleep - she wakes up at his footsteps, but not at her own noise trap. Honestly. What kind of assassin is this girl? Because the picture I'm getting is not of a competent one.
- Some gross, awkwardly thrown in fetishization of virginity:
He was fairly certain she was a virgin, but did Dorian know it? It probably made him more interested.
That sound you're hearing is me gagging in the background. Add to this that she has a ~tragic lost lover and her talking about him is made into bonding between her and Dorian and. ugh. The romance in this book is so painful to me.
- Professional assassin never once considers that a bag of candy left in her rooms might be poisoned. Professional assassin stuffs her face without knowing where the food came from. Professional assassin is lucky she got betrayed to the king instead of just flat-out killed before this book started.
(view spoiler)[- She goes from 0 to 60 in suspecting Nehemia of murder without even thinking it through. Really, Celaena, they're killing competitors - who stands to gain from the competition? Not Nehemia. (hide spoiler)]
"I name you Elentiya, 'Spirit That Could Not Be Broken'."
4. The Takeaway
This was, to say the least, not my cup of tea. Butttttt a lot of the ways in which it was weak are things I know to be amateur writer problems. Consensus among reviews I've read seems to be that the second book is much better, which is promising. However, because of the spoiler I already know for that book, I have less than zero interest in reading it, or the rest of the series.
I may give Maas another chance in the future. If so, though, it'll only be after she's wrapped up this series and I've read reviews assessing how she did wrapping up the entire narrative. (This means no A Court of Thorns and Roses for me.) If the consensus on the end of this series is good and her next project sounds interesting, it'll be worth my time.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]> ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 10, 2015
Jan 07, 2011
Oct 18, 2011
Oct 18, 2011
Edit: I feel it worth nothing that this is my 250th Goodreads review. Yay milestones!
This is the first time I've felt even a little guilty about not l Edit: I feel it worth nothing that this is my 250th Goodreads review. Yay milestones!
This is the first time I've felt even a little guilty about not liking a galley. I didn't really enjoy this book, but I didn't hate it enough not to care, and so here I am stuck in limbo, not really sure what to do with it.
The idea is absolutely fabulous. A race run on killer water horses? Yes, please. And there's the element of romance between two competitors, both with a reason they need to win, which just amps up the tension. It's like a less violent, more equine sort of Hunger Games, though no one is forced to participate. It should have been awesome.
So, why wasn't it?
Well, for a start, the plot rested on a couple of too-neat coincidences. Things appear to have shifted on Thisby all at once for no good reason. Why is this the year when everything comes together? There was an opportunity for it all to be explained, and then it would have been fine, but since it wasn't addressed it bothered me all the way through. (view spoiler)[If, for instance, Gabe had been offered a job on the mainland and that was his impetus for leaving now; and if Sean had asked Mr. Malvern about Corr every year and this year, for motivations of his own, Malvern gave in and made a deal; and if something had been the straw that broke the camel's back for Mutt, since he doesn't appear to have acted out like this before. (hide spoiler)] I'll suspend my disbelief for the killer water horses, but not for such a series of coincidences
There's also the fact that, even now, I'm not sure where Thisby is or what time period this was set in. It was never made clear on either count, though I have theories. Thisby might well be off the coast of Ireland, but it could as easily be Canadian for all I know. And while it's important for books to steer clear of dating themselves too neatly, it would be nice to get a sense of time. I went back and forth from thinking this story was supposed to take place in modern times to wondering if maybe it was happening in the twenties or earlier. After all, wouldn't there be television cameras there for the races if it happened now, instead of newspaper reporters with big flashbulbs?
Maybe it's supposed to feel timeless and universal, but what it came off as was loose and ungrounded.
As for the plot, well, it's really nothing to speak of. No, honestly. You'd think a book titled The Scorpio Races would take place mostly during said races, right? And you'd be wrong. The race gets one chapter - ten pages - and that's it. The rest of the book is about getting ready for the races and training and Puck and Sean getting to know each other courtesy of some more coincidences and all sorts of extraneous things that weren't the least bit necessary. I was bored and frustrated with more than half of this book. Things happen for silly reasons, or for no good reason at all, and often they have nothing to do with the plot whatsoever. (view spoiler)[What purpose did the capall coming to the Connolly house serve? It wasn't even atmospheric because it was just that isolated incident. (hide spoiler)]
Wherever authors are learning that it's okay to spend 75% of their books without a real plot or any real tension, they need to stop. This is not okay. And if you absolutely must shy around the real plot, make sure you have enough subplots to keep things interesting until you get to the main event, okay?
If you've read a Stiefvater book before, you know that she has a very distinctive, elaborate writing style, and frankly the pacing might not have been a problem without that. Yes, her words are pretty, sometimes, though it is difficult to discern the two protagonists' narrations because they sound so similar. But her style is slow going, at least for this reader. It needs a strong plot and lots of tension to carry it, and that's not here. Because nothing is happening for the longest time, phrases that might seem lovely in another context feel overwrought and bloated, and that's a real shame.
The protagonists, Puck and Sean, grew on me even as they grew on each other, and that's probably what saved this book from getting two stars. There's a lovely little 'training montage' type chapter that I really enjoyed, even if it was brief, because the relationship between them is a sweet and beautiful thing and founded on mutual respect and understanding. I'm glad that they improved over the course of the book, too, because there was a point when I cared more about the barn cat than I did about Puck.
By the end of the book, I was really quite happy with Puck. Near the beginning, though, she was the primary source of frustration. You see, in a race of killer horses, she's riding an ordinary mare. Words cannot express how much this bothered me. First off, it's cruel to her mare, who spends a lot of her time being terrified and trembling. Second, it saps some of the tension from the race. As a reader, I need to believe that the conclusion is going to be close and dramatic, in particular between the two main characters. Even after training, there was no doubt in my mind that Sean and his water horse, Corr, could have beat Puck and her mount, Dove, without really trying. The ending was a bit more satisfying than I expected given that, but the anticipation still bothered me through most of the book.
The best thing about this book, after the basic idea of it, is that there will probably not be a sequel. It's complete in and of itself, and thank goodness; that idea, while compelling and awesome, is not good enough to carry more than one novel.
Oh, and one last thing: far, far too many of the supporting cast felt two-dimensional and rigid. I almost forgot to mention that. ...more
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Aug 09, 2011
Aug 11, 2011
Aug 09, 2011
Feb 08, 2016
Feb 08, 2016
it was amazing
Update: oops. It's been a while since I've done a NetGalley review. Anyway -
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in e Update: oops. It's been a while since I've done a NetGalley review. Anyway -
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this review.
This book is everything, everything that I wanted it to be - and more.
I've been excited about it since the cover was first released, and I actually overhauled my entire NetGalley profile specifically to request it. Being that invested in the potential of a book is risky, and as I started reading I was anxious that it might disappoint, that all of that buildup would have been for nothing.
I had nothing to fear.
What weaknesses this book has are clearly first-novel weaknesses, the kind that are worked out by more practice. There's an awkward infodump at the beginning of the book, and some fairly blatant foreshadowing which could have been more subtle. Once the plot really gets going, though, all of that fades to the background.
One of the most delightful elements of this book, for me, is the worldbuilding. I'm a biologist by training, a marine biologist by aspiration, so a sci-fi setting featuring genetically engineered chimeras of marine animals is right up my alley. Skrutskie's science is solid and, moreover, interesting to read about - I was particularly delighted that she addressed the impact of enormous predators on the NeoPacific's food web. The descriptions of the Reckoners, too, were excellent and engaging. The book has a kind of Pacific Rim vibe to it, but not in a way that makes it feel derivative, just similarly awe-inspiring. (This contrasts beautifully with the way Cas, the protagonist, talks about the beasts like they're ordinary household pets - one is a "big dumb turtle"; another is "little shit" and it's all so casually affectionate that it's incredibly charming.)
My one worldbuilding quibble is that there's no clear explanation for why the ocean has been renamed the NeoPacific. At first I assumed that catastrophic sea level rise had reshaped the coastline, but some of the locations mentioned belie that explanation. My next guess is that the institution of 'Reckoner justice' led to the renaming, but there's no firm answer.
The biggest crucial element of any book is, of course, plot... and with this book, that's not something I can talk about much in and of itself. I won't even put spoiler tags in this review, because it's too long until the book comes out and I don't want anyone to succumb to temptation. So instead of talking about plot in-depth, I'll say this: in other books, this premise would have meant the author writing themselves into a hole. Emily Skrutskie blew her way out of that hole with high-grade explosives and took the resolution a direction I had never expected, and which I can't wait to (hopefully?) see play out in a sequel or three.
That leaves one more component: characters. Saving the best for last, here, because the cast of this book is exactly the kind of thing I've wanted to see in SF/F for years. It's full of women, for one thing - think less 'Bechdel Test pass' and more 'Bechdel Test touchdown'. It's racially diverse, for another: Cas is of Chinese ancestry; there are several Hindu supporting characters; Santa Elena is clearly nonwhite; and perhaps most importantly in a book set on the Pacific Ocean, there are native Pacific Islander characters. I want to emphasize, especially with that last point, that this is important not just in creating a presence for different kinds of people in fiction, but also because it is in no way realistic for the cast not to be diverse. Skrutskie is representing the real world, and how that would manifest itself in a pan-Pacific pirate crew, and she does a magnificent job.
And of course: Cas and Swift. There's already one review out there complaining that they were 'tricked' into reading about lesbians, so let me be clear: this book is about lesbians . (or at least two girls who are attracted to each other - one or both might be bi/pansexual; we don't know.)
On a personal note: One of my favorite tiny details about this book was that neither girl's sexuality was made an issue or an obstacle. Cas mentions, offhandedly, girls she'd dated in high school - and that's it; there's no anxiety from either her or Swift about the other not being attracted to girls. The process of them falling in love is treated as exactly as natural and normal as a heterosexual romance, and that was beautiful to read.
The thing is, though, that this is a romance and a relationship which stacks up favorably next to most that I've read. Cas and Swift's interactions are complicated and nuanced, and they grow as individuals even as they grow together. There's a blurry line between alliance and friendship, and then friendship and romance, and the way they make these slow, unsure transitions is wholly realistic and charming. The relationship also offers a lens into the complexities of their different moral viewpoints - almost like literary foils, they push each other out of their comfort zones and into a grey area of self-examination. It's fascinating to read.
The morality of the book as a whole is, as other reviewers have commented, grey. Obviously this verges into plot spoiler territory, but I will say that by the end I wasn't sure who was right or wrong, only that survival for these characters necessitated many of their actions and that, in and of itself, was as close as they'd get to rightness. I'm still not sure how I feel about some decisions made/revealed at the end - except that I want desperately to see what comes next.
The biggest problem with this book is that it's so short - not that it feels incomplete, but that there is so much more that I want to see unfold in this world that doesn't fall within the scope of this narrative. I can only hope Skrutskie has a sequel in the works. In the meantime, I'm going to pre-order this one in hard copy for myself, and maybe for a few friends. (They've already been getting the sales pitch for the last six days anyway.) Here's hoping for great success in February, and in the future! ...more
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Oct 12, 2015
Oct 14, 2015
Jul 06, 2015
Dec 01, 1992
Jun 01, 2005
it was amazing
I literally don't remember when I read my first Tamora Pierce book. All I can tell you is that it was Alanna: The First Adventure and it was probably I literally don't remember when I read my first Tamora Pierce book. All I can tell you is that it was Alanna: The First Adventure and it was probably an audiobook that my parents checked out for one of our infinite family road trips. I can't have been much older than, say, third grade at a stretch. After that first one, needless to say, I was addicted. (Yes, I read Lioness Rampant in elementary school. It was... educational. Then again, I was already into Pern by then, so...)
I also don't remember the first time I read this book. I do, however, have the vague inkling that it was the third Tortall quartet I picked up. No, actually, that's for sure, because I read the Protector of the Small books early enough that I asked for a Kel haircut the first time I went from long locks to short... and I would have been ten-ish at the time, I think? I literally brought in my copy of Squire and said "I want my hair that length".
Anyhow. Needless to say, I've read this one a lot. Actually, that's an understatement. The only book on my shelves that I bought new that looks this old is another perennial favorite, Mariel of Redwall. Many, if not quite most, of my books are in good condition. I have read the hell out of this series, poor beloved things.
This book is a classic of growing up, to me. You see, if you take out all the magical elements, it's about a girl deciding to be an adult, to make the hard choices and accept responsibility for her actions. The whole quartet is Daine's coming of age. This book is her choosing to take the first step. As such, it never gets old. When I was Daine's age, thirteen and feeling odd finally being a 'teenager', I identified with her. Now I'm seventeen, practically holding my breath as I prepare too take the next step towards adulthood. Daine and I don't have magic in common, but we have something else: we both have wonderful friends that make the transition easier. I don't think I'll ever grow out of identifying with Daine.
Okay, so that's the personal bit. Now you know why I love to read these books. Let's talk about why you should read them.
First, there's the world of Tortall. Okay, I admit: It's one of the most improbable medieval-esque worlds you'll ever encounter. It's not gritty. It's not exceedingly realistic. It's still dangerous, but mostly it seems like a really happy place to be. And I promise you, it is a liberal's paradise. (Well, under Jon and Thayet's rule, at least.) There are free schools everywhere. There's an elite female corps in the military. Women can become knights and one of them is the King's Champion. People of all races come and go freely and encounter virtually no discrimination. The king is literally tied to the land, so there's your environmentalism covered. And as we find out in one of the Protector of the Small books, while there may be some homophobia present in Tortall itself, its allies are not so conservative; in the Yamani Islands it's just 'some men prefer men, some women prefer women'. (FYI, the Yamanis totally remind me of the Kyoshi Warriors.)
Forget Hogwarts; if I got to pick a fictional world to live in, I want it to be this one.
Second, there's the character of Daine herself. She dances on the line of Mary-Sueness. I admit it. She's incredibly powerful, fairly good looking, innocent; she has secrets but she also has determination and skill with a weapon. (There's one or two other things that might make her even more Sueish, but that would be spoiling.) Despite all this, she never once gets on my nerves. I have consistently felt like her trust issues were well-portrayed, that even her incredible magical gifts required a logical amount of work to really use, that she never really got out of something without effort or consequences. And she loves learning - my kind of girl. I find her innocence endearing, her enthusiasm honest and charming, and her development as a character convincing and very real.
Third, there's the supporting cast: the Queen's Riders, the Queen, Alanna, George, Onua, Buri, Sarge - every last one of them strongly characterized and genuine good people. I mean, of course Alanna is my favorite of that list, but none of the others are weak. Even the Rider trainees, who don't appear too frequently, are solidly drawn and interesting. (Miri is my favorite of them.) The more I read this book, the more I understand their characterizations, and the more I appreciate it. There is no one who makes me roll my eyes when I see their name on the page.
Fourth, there's the Immortals who give their collective name to this quartet. Some of them (Griffins, dragons, winged horses, undines) are creatures out of traditional mythology. Some of them (spidrens, stormwings) are, as far as I know, made up out of whole cloth. (Aside to BB: Man, you thought the Stormwings were creative in this book, wait till you get to the explanation of their origins in the fourth book.) Can I just say here that spidrens are FREAKING CREEPY AS ALL HELL? Again, this comes in part from reading the Protector of the Small books first, since the first of that series opens with a spidren eating kittens out of a sack like potato chips, but still. DO NOT LIKE. But really appreciate the writing that went into making me not like them. As for the Stormwings... my lips are sealed for fear of spoilers.
Fifth, there's the depiction of Daine's magic and its pitfalls and advantages. I can't say too much, once more for fear of spoilers, but she has some kickass abilities and gets really good at using them as time goes on. What I loved in this book, though, was that getting to the point where she was even functional accessing her power took a lot of work and personal growth. And it was tied intimately to her overcoming her trust issues, meaning that the several plots of the book were actually all linked.
Sixth, there's Numair. Oh yes, I bet you were wondering why he didn't make the list of secondary characters? Because he's a main, but also because he's SO WONDERFUL he gets his own entry here.
Oh goodness, where do I begin?
Numair is a nice guy to the point where it's almost ridiculous, except it stops short of that and is just fabulous instead. Example: at one point Daine wakes him up in the middle of the night and he's not crabby at all. He's just all "Oh, how can I help?" And when she falls asleep after fixing that problem, he wraps her up in blankets and leaves her there. When she wakes up the next morning, his first question is about how she's feeling. There is one time he gets angry in this book and it is anger that springs from fear. (view spoiler)[Because, you know, she almost killed herself on accident. (hide spoiler)] (And he's funny when he's angry. Really, really, really funny. I laugh at that scene every single time.)
Thank goodness for Numair. He's a breath of fresh air. On this side, we have the sadly common love interest of today, who's creepy, homicidal, stalkerish, rude, and sexist. On the other side, we have this gem of a wizard from 1992: kind, charming, earnestly sweet, caring, and determined to help Daine learn and grow as a person. I know which one I would pick in half a heartbeat. Oh, and did I mention he's one of the seven most powerful wizards in the world? Icing on the freaking cake there. As if he needed it.
In the (unlikely) event that I ever have children, or the (more likely) event that I become a godmother, I'm raising those kids, especially the girls, on Tamora Pierce. They will grow up not with Barbie and Ken but with Alanna the Lioness and Kel and Daine and Beka and all Pierce's other strong heroines. They will, as I did, hear not that girls are supposed to cook and sew and care about fashion but that girls can do anything they want to, that they are strong and brave and wonderful. They will learn from Alanna that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. They will learn from Daine that growing up may be scary, but it is worth the trip. They will learn from Kel that no one needs to have a man, and that there is nothing more important than doing what is right. I forget what they'll learn from Beka because it's been a while since I read Terrier, but I do recall that she kicked ass in the usual spectacular Piercian fashion.
That being said, I'd probably start children with this series, unless they're spectacularly mature. This book will appeal to the horse-crazy in most young girls and introduce them to Tortall. From there, I'd let them roam free. I was going to suggest a reading order, but then I realized that would sound silly and stupid.
Final note: Tell me I'm not the only marine biology freak who almost cried when Daine heard forty blue whales. Please tell me I'm not alone. I would give up half my limbs for that kind of opportunity. It's rare enough in this world to see one or two blue whales. A pod of forty would give most marine biologists heart attacks of sheer joy. Yet another reason I would love to live in Tortall... sigh. ...more
Notes are private!
May 08, 2011
May 10, 2011
Oct 01, 2008
Nov 01, 2011
Nov 01, 2011
it was amazing
Yes. Yes indeed, Mr. Spock.
First things first, I cannot believe the ending of this book. The GALL. Oh, the gall. I'll give Ms. Bunce credit: she has b
Yes. Yes indeed, Mr. Spock.
First things first, I cannot believe the ending of this book. The GALL. Oh, the gall. I'll give Ms. Bunce credit: she has balls to pull that off and I can't really be infuriated with her because she did it so damn well. But still. I was counting on her not to end it with a cliffhanger and she did, so that was a disappointment.
Therefore, the five star rating is actually six stars with one deducted. Got it? Good.
Now, how to review this book without spoiling the first...
Let's make an analogy out of it!
Remember this scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark?
The Majority Of YA Today is that horribly stereotypical pseudo-Arab bad guy with the sword and the fancy moves: not really giving you anything new, not packing a punch, just throwing lots of sparkles and flashy stuff at you and hoping you're impressed.
Elizabeth C. Bunce is Indy. She knows what she's doing. She doesn't have time for your flashy fluffy substanceless crap. She's going to take you down and then she's going to go on to kick even more ass.
And if that was too circuitous: Bunce PWNS.
Why, you ask? How about a list?
- Digger is a strong female character and she doesn't have to conform to masculine stereotypes to do it. A lot of people complain about this when it comes to Katsa of Graceling: that she's only 'strong' because she does it The Male Way. Well, if that was your problem, look no further, because here's a thief who'll solve mysteries and fight wars in a skirt. Digger is... practical. Does it make more sense to dress as a man or a woman today? And whichever it is, so she goes. She doesn't feel out of place in dresses, except maybe the really fancy ones, and even in those cases she doesn't show it. Too often heroines who have no trouble fighting in trousers get sheepish in a gown - yes, even Alanna - and it's then used as an opportunity for her love interest to compliment her and build up her self-confidence - with the added bonus that it establishes that he really loves her. Not Digger. There are no such devices here. And while there is a love interest (I won't say who it is, but I'm pretty sure you can guess from the synopsis), he doesn't make a big deal about her 'dressing like a girl' because it's not so out of the way for her.
- The worldbuilding, as always, is fantastic. So many fantasy novelists want to have a Thieves' Guild, but it doesn't really ever make sense... until now. Bunce's solution is simple, elegant, and perfectly fitted to her world: the 'Guild' is actually more of a religion, since pretty much all thieves are followers of Tiboran. They have a priestess/leader (Eske is awesomesauce, by the way) who kind of bosses them around, but mostly they're as free-willed as you would expect. The structure is still present, though, and fairly believable.
Also, can I just mention how much I flipped out when I realized that I hadn't been reading the word 'moonlight' but 'moonslight'? Worldbuilding in every part of the novel is fantastic! Props to Ms. Bunce.
- The mystery is full of red herrings and twists and turns. As anyone who read StarCrossed can rightly expect, there are many many many more elements involved than readers originally thought. They're all tied up in the social, religious, and economic conflicts of a country at war - yet more points in the worldbuilding department - and they raise the stakes enough over the course of the novel that it's never boring. Also, it felt sufficiently different from StarCrossed to be natural - not that disjointed 'murder of the week' form that some series or TV shows take. While that may be entertaining, this is far better storytelling.
- The relationships. There were at least four known gay characters and one very telling hint that suggested many more. While they weren't open about their relationships, it seemed to be a lot more for sociopolitical reasons and the need to stay in certain positions to do what they had to do than from any genuine fear, though there may have been some prejudice. Digger never batted an eye, which was what made me happy- she just acted as if this was not the least out of the ordinary. This is how it should be. Further props to Ms. Bunce.
This is the book in which we find out that Digger and Tegen were definitely lovers in the full sense of the word, and it's handled extremely maturely. No, really. Digger says something to the effect of "We knew we might not have much time", which I thought a suitably practical attitude for her, but she also displayed the type of emotional attachment that goes with such an intimate act. This comes up in conversation with Durrel- I don't think that's a spoiler- and while he's surprised, it doesn't take long for him to realize that of course people not as privileged as he would have different priorities.
(Also, Digger shows herself to be very confident in the relationship area, which was wonderful. I'd say more, but... spoilers!)
Romance does appear in this book, after its very logical absence in StarCrossed. And while Digger's love interest isn't my favorite male character of the series, they have great chemistry and I loved them together. There's also a good set up for conflict in their relationship inherent in a contrast of social and economic status. The way Bunce wrote their actual romance, when it came to that, was very appropriate and almost (but not quite) spare. There are no page-long descriptions of extended kissing and melting in your love interest's arms and how good it felt and blah blah blah blah blah. But it's not "we kissed and it was nice", either. It's a little sensual, but not too much. Very fitting for the couple, and that's all I'll say.
- I'm still loving the religions and the way they're woven into everything.
I think that's it... well, all that I can say without spoiling. There is absolutely no appearance of the 'carver' from the last book, which is saddening, but the way Liar's Moon ended tells me he'll be around in the sequel.
The ending is going to drive me batshit insane. I almost regret getting an ARC, because now I have to wait SEVEN EXTRA MONTHS to find out what happens next. OH THE AGONY.
(This copy was provided by the publisher via my local library for review. I love my library.) ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 17, 2011
Apr 22, 2011
Mar 26, 2011
Jan 26, 2016
Jan 26, 2016
it was amazing
Alright, I'm gonna say it: you really shouldn't read this book unless you've read most, if not all, of the rest of the Cosmere. I know Sanderson's int Alright, I'm gonna say it: you really shouldn't read this book unless you've read most, if not all, of the rest of the Cosmere. I know Sanderson's intentions are that no book be completely dependent on understanding the full universe, but honestly I can't imagine how swamped with new information a reader would be if they came into this only knowing the Mistborn series. At the very least, in addition to Mistborn up through The Bands of Mourning, I recommend having read Elantris, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, and the Stormlight Archive through Words of Radiance. If you're not inclined to dig into fan theories for explanations, you'll want to have The Emperor's Soul under your belt as well to understand some foundational concepts.
So... you can skip Warbreaker and Sixth of the Dusk, but that's basically it.
As you might expect, the rest of this is all spoilers. Sorry, folks. That's just how it goes. If you are not 100% up to date on the Cosmere, or if you consider information revealed at signings/other events to be spoilers for future books, the rest of this review is not for you. The first line under the spoiler tag will ruin things, I swear. Don't click it.
(view spoiler)[SO KELSIER'S BEEN UP TO SOME SHIT.
First things first: feelings on his 'resurrection' in the Cognitive realm. Ehhh? I've seen it said that this is a very Kelsier thing to do, and I agree, but I also kind of wish Sanderson would let a few more characters stay dead. We had three 'oh no they're dead SURPRISE! they're not' moments in Words of Radiance, and while I knew Jasnah wasn't dead from the beginning and had no doubts about Syl, Szeth's return felt a little... rule-breaking. (heh. Because Naln? Anyone else laughing?)
If any character besides the Immortal Indomitable Jasnah Kholin was going to come back from the dead, it would be the Survivor of Hathsin. And yet... I don't know. I see it, but I don't actually like it. The Final Empire surprised a lot of people by killing him off, and while Brandon's been hinting to fans that he was hanging around on the Cognitive through Hero of Ages for literally years, the loss of Kelsier as a focal character seemed like a certainty. And don't get me wrong, I enjoyed him in the first book, but not nearly as much as I liked seeing people's expectations of who the hero would be get completely overturned. In the long run, seeing Vin take people by storm is worth more to me than Kelsier being around.
And that's another thing - one of the most valid complaints about the original trilogy has to do with the end of The Well of Ascension, wherein Vin takes up the power of Preservation, gives it up, and then saves Elend's life by giving him the last bead of Lerasium - and the outcome of this is that she's doomed the world by freeing Ruin and made Elend a more powerful Mistborn than her. Now, Brandon did a good job showing that finesse and technique are as important if not more so than force, but that still had the effect of letting Elend overshadow Vin in the role that was originally hers and hers alone, and it left a sour taste in many people's mouths. Now, Kelsier's done much the same thing to her, and he gets to live through it while she passes on. Kelsier, who died in Book 1, ends up having more long-term influence than the woman who survived to Book 3 and saved the world. That... doesn't sit quite right with me.
The thing about Kel is that he is essentially a selfish character, sometimes to the point of near-villainous acts. (In fact, Sanderson has said that Kelsier and Denth, from Warbreaker, are almost the same - just in different contexts.) Part of why his original 'Plan B' was emotionally resonant was that over the course of the book, we saw him change somewhat - from someone who hated all nobles to the man who saved Elend's life, and from someone whose stated intention was theft to a man who ended up sacrificing himself for the sake of a revolution. In this book, he backtracks.
I don't feel like I should need to say this, but apparently there's been argument in the fandom about the end of the book: Hemalurgy is bad, folks. It's an end-negative magic which depends on death... and Kelsier deliberately reintroduced it to Scadrial so that he could regain a physical body. Spook's book about the subject? Pretty clear now that that came from Kelsier. Which means that Edwarn and Telsin's Hemalurgic spikes - which allowed the Set to gain control of a city-destroying weapon and literally killed Wax - are the result of Kelsier's decision.
"But he helped the southerners!" you say. "He did it for a good reason!" But... no, he didn't. He didn't know the southerners existed when he hatched his plan. Moreover, he chose Spook - the kid who was very, very traumatized by being spiked and manipulated by Ruin - as his partner in crime. Really, Kel? Really?
Vin called him out on this; Vin understood.
"How much of what you've done was about love, and how much was about proving something? That you hadn't been betrayed, bested, beaten? Can you answer that, Kelsier?"
All that aside - this was a bonanza of new Cosmere information. Physical descriptions of Ati and Leras, to start with, including clothing that struck me as very interesting. Whether Leras's attire has been shaped by his time on Scadrial is up for debate, but it's possible we got a tiny glimpse at the pre-Shattering culture he came from:
...a thin wool coat that went down almost to his feet, and beneath it a shirt that laced closed, with a kind of conical skirt. That was tied with a belt that had a bone-handled knife stuck through a loop.
We also got to see Leras's personality and... as it turns out, he's a nerdy historian. A very nerdy historian. Again, it's unclear what here is the original material and what's Shardic influence, especially since we know from the Letter that Ati used to be a good man and he's... very not, here, but it's interesting.
Hoid! is... doing Hoidy things, which is to say mucking around in planets and then leaving. It was interesting to see the 'behind the scenes' of his life, for once, and even more so because the way he treated Kelsier was positively vicious. It's good context to have given his statement to Dalinar that he would willingly watch Roshar "crumble and burn" to achieve his goals - and while his actions in the series have largely been helpful to the protagonists, I would not be at all surprised to see him perform a face/heel turn and act against some of them in the future. Whatever Hoid wants, it's got more to do with the whole of the Cosmere than the parts.
...and one last thing: it's been confirmed that Cephandrius is not, in fact, his real name. So there goes that theory, before it even really got off the ground.
I mentioned my excitement over Khriss in my Bands of Mourning review, but really - getting to see her 'in the flesh', so to speak, and her interactions with Nazh, explained a great deal about what her goals are. For the moment, she seems to be a scholar of Investiture, researching magic systems and Shards across the worlds. Even her brief appearance here yielded more concrete information than we've had before about Adonalsium and the Shardholders:
"Anyway, there was a God. Adonalsium. I don't know if it was a force or a being, though I suspect the latter. Sixteen people, together, killed Adonalsium, ripping it apart and dividing its essence between them, becoming the first who Ascended."
Obviously, this is to be taken with a grain of salt - some of it is Khriss' speculation, and no historical record in a Sanderson book can be read literally. Still, the concept of Adonalsium being a living being is new, to my knowledge, and I can't help but suspect Sanderson deliberately introduced this idea. It may be a red herring, or it may be a grain of truth.
The comment about some of the sixteen seeing killing Adonalsium as the 'only good option' is likely to have more truth to it, and that's rife for speculation.
Kelsier's experiences with what is essentially soulcasting emphasized something important about the Cosmere: that the history of an object affects its ability to be soulcast. This is why the famous Stick in Words of Radiance resisted Shallan - having been in the wilderness for its entire existence, there was nothing in its cognitive aspect that could be turned towards combustion. Had the forest around it experienced a wildfire, I would guess Shallan would have been successful. We also saw that cognitive 'units' look different on different planets: mist on Scadrial, spheres on Roshar, both of which are mirrors of Invested substances in the Physical Realm of that planet. This raises some questions about Sel and Nalthis, which don't have consistent physical vessels for power.
One of the fascinating things about Ruin is that he's always made a terrible sort of sense. He does here, too:
"You realize that if he were in control, nobody would age? Nobody would think or live? If he had his way you'd all be frozen in time, unable to act lest you harm one another."
This casts some of Sazed's decisions in an interesting light, since he holds both Ruin and Preservation. He's made the argument to Wax that if he started interfering to preserve life, there's no good place to draw the line - and that the consequences of Preservation can be Ruin. ("Spare a man, live with the ruin he creates.")
Threnody is far more important than I'd expected, judging by the fact that the Ire assume that Threnodites are the most likely to attack them. Possibly this means Threnody is close to Scadrial, but even then that suggests that shades can travel away from their home planet via the Cognitive, which is interesting.
The Ire themselves intrigue me the most. They're obviously Elantrians; that much was clear from the physical description alone, and the names just made it more clear. However, Elantrians aren't supposed to age, and these ones have and what's more, are known for it, since their organization's name means 'age'. The obvious explanation is that distance from Sel's Investiture weakens the Reod's life-preserving effects, since all Selish magic that we've seen is highly location-dependent (and most Cosmere magics degrade with distance from their Shards anyhow). But what are they up to, trying to take control of a Shard? Is this perhaps an attempt to heal Devotion and/or Dominion and restore Sel's Cognitive Realm? All we know about it is that it's dangerous; it could be that there is no way for the Ire to return home. Or they could have more nefarious purposes. I'm curious about this whole affair, but even more so about Raoden and Galladon's perspectives on it, if they're still around.
Names mentioned: Senna, Vax, Fortune. Senna and Vax seem to be people known to Ati and Leras, and likely are relationships that predate their Ascension. They don't have to be Shards, but I wouldn't be too surprised: we don't know Cultivation's name, and there are still 7 unknown Shards out there, any of whom could be Senna or Vax. Fortune sounds more like a Shard power to me; in fact, that's what a Chromium ferring stores. Given that we've seen Connection, lightweaving, and soulcasting across the Cosmere, this could be another universal power type.
As with most things which delve heavily into Realmatics and the entire Cosmere universe, this book left me with more questions than answers... but thankfully, Sanderson'll be on tour again in February, so maybe I'll get to change that balance somewhat. (hide spoiler)] ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 30, 2016
Jan 30, 2016
Jan 26, 2016
Jan 26, 2016
it was amazing
This review will be split into several parts, organized by spoiler level. If you do not meet at least a given level of spoilers, do not read that sect This review will be split into several parts, organized by spoiler level. If you do not meet at least a given level of spoilers, do not read that section. I'm really very serious about this.
For the Sanderson-uninitiated:
If you read fantasy, or talk to people about fantasy, or have followed me for a while, you've heard of this guy. Bands of Mourning does all the things Sanderson is famous for: it has fast-paced action, carefully applied rules of magic, expansive worldbuilding, and engaging characters. It also, as his latest work, shows clear improvement on many fronts from earlier books: there are more female characters, both in the cast and filling a variety of background roles; the society is clearly multi-ethnic and -racial; and the almost overwhelming ending style known as a 'Sanderlanche' has been significantly smoothed out. (The end is still nigh-impossible to put down, but it's spread out over a longer section of the book, and with a more gradual transition between the rest of the book and the climax.) Also, the main romance is the cutest dang thing.
For obvious reasons, this is not a book you can start with. It is at bare minimum the sixth book set on the world of Scadrial, and there are benefits to having read other books in the Cosmere as well. However, if you do pick up one of Sanderson's earlier books and find it weak in some areas - as with the very legitimate criticism of The Final Empire having only one major female character - know that those flaws are corrected over time, and that each book is better than the last.
If you've read all of the original Mistborn Trilogy but haven't made the jump:
(view spoiler)[I know, I know, it's jarring to move forward 300 years, but trust me, it's worth it. Not only do we get to see Scadrial rebuilt and rejuvenated, but there are new uses for the Metallic Arts which were impossible in the era of the Final Empire. The original trilogy had a much tighter focus than this series, focused on the overthrow of the Lord Ruler and the aftermath of that conflict. Here, we see a whole society growing and struggling to determine itself, even as outside influences begin to pose a threat. Some original characters are still around - Sazed, of course - and the rest are remembered in interesting, if not always accurate, ways.
Wax, Wayne, Marasi, and Steris are a compelling new cast, with a new dynamic, but the same sort of wisecracking and competence that Kelsier's crew had. And even if Alloy of Law isn't your cup of tea, I suggest you read it anyway, because Shadows of Self and The Bands of Mourning both explore different scales of conflict, and it's almost guaranteed that you'll find something here that catches you the way the first books did. (hide spoiler)]
If you're caught up to Shadows of Self, but haven't read this one:
(view spoiler)[This is a very, very different book. SoS was essentially focused on Wax's personal internal conflict, with hints of broader implications; while Bands of Mourning does address his continuing grief/recovery process (and does it beautifully), the focus is mostly on much, much bigger things. Where the first two books stayed focused on the city of Elendel, Bands of Mourning shows the wider Basin and some of the conflicts in it, which Elendel ignores. Everything is tied together: Wax's uncle, his sister's abduction, the resistance of the outer cities to Elendel's control, and the continuing push forward of technology. (Well, almost everything: if you're waiting for an explanation of Trell, keep waiting.)
Somewhat unfortunately, as we'll be waiting a while longer for The Lost Metal, this book leaves off at a point of greatest change for the characters and world. I don't think Scadrial's been this shaken up since the Catacendre, and whatever comes next will be fascinating. (hide spoiler)]
If you're all caught up, but still figuring out this Cosmere thing:
(view spoiler)[I'm sure not everyone's on the Wax/Steris train even now, but I sure am. Bonding over studying accounts ledgers? Kissing in midair over the mists? Steris finally getting the honeymoon she wanted? It was pretty much perfect. I also love the way they build each other up, as any good couple should - Steris supporting Wax through his grief, being ready to help with whatever's next; Wax trying his best to contradict her self-deprecation and show her that he thinks she's valuable and worthwhile.
Steris started sniffling. She pulled her hand free of his and wiped her eyes.
(sounds of me sobbing in the background.)
I can't wait for them to be happily married forever.
Marasi was a champ in this book, from the very beginning. I love that she told Wayne off for his treatment of Ranette - it's about time someone did that - and seeing the way she's learned to handle a crisis is fascinating. She's still a little unsteady, which is understandable, but she's so courageous. I'm also particularly interested in her relationship with Vin, or rather the mythology of Vin - Marasi at the outset of this series seemed to be a straightforward Action Girl, but in the last two books we've seen her actively questioning that role and whether it's right for her. This is both excellent characterization and an exploration of how history affects societal expectations. Vin was just one woman, but her example has become an ideal, even in the face of Alrianne and Tindwyl's examples. Moreover, Vin's human failings have been erased by time and popular belief:
"Were you ever insecure?" Marasi asked. "Or did you always know what to do? Did you get jealous? Frightened? Angry?"
The culmination of all of this, of course, is when she takes up the power of the Bands of Mourning. I'll freely admit that I was about in tears in this scene, and that I was kind of disappointed when she gave the power over to Wax (though I saw it coming), but thinking over it I'm okay with this, because:
She hovered in the sky, flush with power. In that moment, she was the Ascendant Warrior.
Marasi has been struggling with a society that demands she follows Vin's example, and holding the Bands would be the culmination of that - of all of these pressures she's been pushing against. In that light, letting it go was definitely the right decision for her. I'm not a fan of how it echoed the end of Well of Ascension - female lead takes up godly power, but gives it up to save the life of a man who then becomes more powerful than her - but since Wax gave up the Bands in turn, I can live with it.
Wayne and MeLaan getting together was something I'd kind of seen coming, though I didn't expect it as soon as it happened. They fit, but I'm not as invested in it as I am in Wax and Steris - there just hasn't been enough development. There's potential, but I still wouldn't be surprised if Wayne and Marasi became an item. (I'd be perfectly happy to see Marasi stay solo, or for all three of them to form a triad, but there's some foreshadowing there.)
Wayne in general was much better this book than last book. For one thing, he got called out twice - once by Marasi, and once by Wax - for his treatment of Ranette and Steris. He seems to have made a... generally good-faith attempt to apologize to Ranette, crassness aside, and I'm hopeful that for Wax he'll learn to treat Steris with actual kindness. After all, as we saw clearly, his relationship with Wax is his lodestone:
"Wax," he said, shaking his head. "No. No. I can't do this without you."
Wayne has PTSD, among other things he's dealing with, and this books' climax gave us a crystal clear view of what Wax means to him: Wax is quite literally Wayne's redemption. Without that - without the one man who believed he was worth saving more than he ever did - Wayne doesn't know how to keep going. That's... really deeply heartbreaking.
MeLaan's complete lack of understanding human conversational mores remains hilarious. The entire hotel arrival conversation was hilarious. For a book which threatened civil war and city-destroying weapons, this was a damn funny read.
Steris continues to be fantastic, in so many ways. It was confirmed during the Shadows of Self tour that she's on the autism spectrum, and this keeps showing up in little, subtle moments:
"Sometimes it amazes me that people like Wayne, or even those kandra, can be so startlingly human when I feel so alien."
I got into a discussion regarding The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as a representation of autism recently, and in light of that it's striking to me how well and how sensitively Sanderson builds his ASD characters. They're not caricatures or sensationalizations, but individuals with desires and stumbling blocks like any other characters - and they get to stand in the spotlight like anyone else, too. It's telling to me that the people who have picked up on Sanderson's ASD characters are on the spectrum themselves, and seeing representations of their own experiences in fiction for, sometimes, the first time ever. If you're looking for stereotypes, you won't find them, but if you're looking for people - here they are.
Also: Steris getting more accustomed to the bizarre events of Wax's life.
The carriage lurched into motion, and Steris leaned out the window, waving farewell to the poor innkeeper.
For the record, I expected Telsin's betrayal - though I thought she was being impersonated by a Kandra and long-since dead. I have a little labelled sticky note over her first appearance to this effect. Half credit for predictions?
AND NOW: The southerners. I didn't even guess until I got to the line about 'burned maps' in Chapter 18, but as soon as I read that I knew. Brandon's been teasing this contact for years, but I honestly didn't expect it until the 1980s trilogy, and I certainly didn't expect it to happen in a series which started off as a lighthearted side-project.
I am thrilled. Allomantic/feruchemical technology! Societies that are doing exactly what Harmony said the Basin isn't - adapting to the pressure of immediate needs by using what they have in new ways. (Someone on Tumblr recently made a post complaining that they couldn't see new uses for Mistborn's magic system and found it boring for that reason - I'd love to tell that person about this book's revelations.)
I'm also super excited about their social system. The way Allik treats Wax (while awkward to read) speaks to the rarity of Allomancers/Feruchemists in their culture. (It's still unclear to me how that happened. We know Kelsier was involved in saving their society after the Catacendre, but that doesn't answer two big questions - one, why didn't Harmony help them; and two, how did the Metallic Arts get to their population in the first place?) As I mentioned in my pre-review, that social system is going to be completely upended by the trade deal Wax and Steris struck at the end of this book. All of a sudden they'll have access to a relative wealth of magic, provided by people who won't (all) demand obeisance the way their native Metalborn seem to. They're going to have to question a fundamental element of their hierarchy, and I can't imagine the southern Metalborn will be too happy about that.
By the time this series is done, we're going to see a completely different Scadrial. I still wouldn't rule out civil war in the Basin, particularly as the Set seems invested in creating strife. (Does it strike anyone else as strange that Edwarn Ladrian, advocate of predatory loans on impoverished workers, was advocating against Elendel and in favor of the outer cities?) And of course, there's the threat of weapons which... seem like nothing less than magical nukes.
I'd say I hope it doesn't come to that, but this is Sanderson. The safe bet is that it will. (hide spoiler)]
For the Cosmere-literate and the unspoilable:
(view spoiler)[HMMMM GODDAMN DID WE LEARN SOME STUFF HERE.
Some of it was little and subtle - this isn't really spoilers, but the word for the gold symbol is 'mah', which I thought was neat; I'm not sure if it's the word for gold or the letter name, but either way, cool. The confusion in the account books told us that the numerals for 3 and 4 are visually similar, in a way they aren't in our Roman script, which was a neat detail.
Worldhoppers! Hoid was obvious - he's generally not subtle, though I'm surprised Wax didn't recognize him as his former coachman from Shadows of Self. More interesting to me was the woman who was asking Wax about his abilities during the party. Minor spoilers for Secret History but: it's Khriss! At long last, we meet the person the Ars Arcanums are written for! And she's a black female scholar of Investiture! Apparently she figures prominently in the upcoming White Sand graphic novel, and I'm really excited for that. Sanderson also used this scene to deal with a question which I imagine he's gotten a lot of versions of from fans - what does storing weight actually do? (Actually, I think I might have asked a variation of this myself at one point.) I'm not very good at physics, but if I understand her questions and answer well enough, we just learned that storing weight is actually reducing mass in some way. (It's entirely possible I've got this backwards, but the scene seems to point to physics rather than magic, and that is the physics explanation... I think.)
We finally know what Connection is good for, and it works exactly like Selish magic systems. Previously I'd assumed the place-dependence of Sel's magic was due to Dominion's influence on the planet, but I was wrong: it's much more related to the Cognitive Realm, apparently. This hints a bit at how worldhoppers can move from planet to planet and still communicate with the local poppulation, though I'm sure they're all using different methods to access it. It may also suggest that some properties of Investiture are innate across all systems - Connection would be one, Lightweaving maybe another (we've seen it on both Roshar and Nalthis), and there's a potential third mentioned in Secret History. More on that when I get to my review of that novella.
And last but far from least: Trell.
"But you need us!" Suit said. "To rule, to manage civilization on-"
Fan theories about Trell, to my knowledge, have mostly been focused on Paalm's unknown metal spike from Shadows of Self. Personally I'd advocated for it being Endowment, but that got jossed; the prevailing theory was then that it was Autonomy's godmetal. However, after reading this, I don't think Autonomy could be Trell. Aside from the fact that we know Autonomy's Shardholder's name (Bavadin), this statement focuses on control and service to a larger goal, which is the opposite of autonomy. There's a marginal argument to be made that Autonomy preserves its own independence by regulating others, but I'm skeptical of that. Right now, my bet is that Trell is a currently-unknown Shard, since there are nine unaccounted for.
HOWEVER. Brandon has been up front about the relevance of color in his works, particularly the significance of red. We've seen it in the Stormlight Archive associated with Odium and the Voidbringers, in "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell" associated with the spirits flying into a killing rage, and in space as Taln's Scar/the Red Rip, which may be the same formation of stars. Given that, we can assume that Trell is either associated with through larger motivation or directly related to these other factors. I doubt it's Odium, but wouldn't rule it out; if it's a Shard whose influence we've seen, though, it seems that Threnody might be the place. Their 'Fallen World' could be another society who became 'too dangerous' for Trell's liking - and the strict control of people's actions by the Simple Rules would be in line with this emphasis on service and regulation.
If you'd like to discuss Cosmere speculation in the comments, please put it under a spoiler tag: < spoiler > like so. (hide spoiler)] ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 27, 2016
Jan 28, 2016
Jan 27, 2016
Feb 07, 2017
Feb 07, 2017
did not like it
I’ve struggled for a while to review this book because, on the one hand, I detested it and I don’t want to spend extra time thinking about it - but on I’ve struggled for a while to review this book because, on the one hand, I detested it and I don’t want to spend extra time thinking about it - but on the other hand, it has a baffling number of high-star reviews, and honestly that annoys me. There’s nothing good going on here; the plot quickly strays from its promised time-travel based moral quandary into shallow romance, a slapdash secondary conflict, and a saccharine ending. And the writing? The writing is miserably pretentious.
The thing is, the blurb promises a much more complex, interesting book. A character who is forced to choose between timelines must also decide how to value human lives - does someone living in paradise have more right to exist than someone who suffers? How does one person handle the weight of that situation, where even inaction is choice?
I’d still like to read that book, by the way. If someone out there who’s actually versed in sci-fi writes it, give me a heads up. Because that’s one of the things about All Our Wrong Todays that got under my skin first - it reads like Mastai is using the science fiction elements as window dressing for the story he actually wants to tell, which is basically about a less-than-ordinary guy achieving his dream life with very little actual effort. Which… alright, whatever. You want to write your boring fantasies down, fine - but why even bother to try and present that as more interesting than it is? Why introduce time travel into the equation if you don’t intend to really use it?
(I’ll save the soapbox on speculative fiction as a tool for exploration of humanity for later. Just let it be known that I hate the idea that SF/F concepts are nothing more than shiny toys, because that’s literally never been true.)
On top of that, Mastai’s attempt at SF worldbuilding is… bad. Abysmal. Short-sighted, shallow, flashy without any thought or depth, and obnoxiously preening. This… this part might get long.
Retrofuturism, in and of itself, I find completely fascinating - in no small part because of the gaps between where people thought we’d be by the 2000s, and where we are. Those gaps often reflect unpredictable social change or scientific discoveries, the stochasticity of life that demands we constantly change our world-views. Mastai’s utopia lacks this complexity and richness. Instead, he slaps a bunch of retrofuturism stereotypes down and calls it good, never addressing all the changes in the world that happened in the intervening decades. The concepts he uses originate in the 1950s, and there are just a few little things that happened between then and 2016…
- The U.S. Civil Rights Movement
- The Vietnam War
- Most of the Cold War
- The spread of AIDS
- The fall of the Berlin Wall
- China’s Cultural Revolution
- Nuclear proliferation
- The Iranian Revolution
As any student of history can tell you, none of these events happened in a vacuum. All of them were the result of processes that started long before Mastai’s fictional ‘Goettreider Engine’ is said to have been invented in 1965. And… none of them are addressed. Did the USSR collapse in the utopian timeline? Did unlimited energy somehow undermine Mao Zedong? Did it solve problems of race relations around the world? (Even if Mastai didn’t want to address civil rights in the States, his book is set in Canada, where a variety of injustices against First Nations peoples led to the Idle No More movement as recently as 2012. That didn’t come out of nowhere.)
It gets a little more ridiculous when you look specifically at the technology to which he attributes this utopia. The Goettreider Engine produces unlimited free energy - even if we accept the vague science behind this, which Mastai tries to handwave, how does this lead to broad social changes and fix the world’s problems? How does it lead to teleportation and flying cars when energy isn’t the limiting factor in developing those technologies now? (One of the core questions of teleportation now is ‘would a teleported person actually be the same person?’ which gets at both philosophical concepts of the soul and the root mechanisms behind memory/personality. Regular cars that are driverless are a regulatory/safety issue - flying cars have to overcome that and physics.)
And then there’s this:
“Imagine that the last five decades happened with no restrictions on energy. No need to dig deeper and deeper into the ground and make the skies dirtier and dirtier. Nuclear became unnecessarily tempestuous. Coal and oil pointlessly murky. Solar and wind and even hydropower became quaint low-fidelity alternatives that nobody bothered with unless they were peculiarly determined to live off the main grid.”
This is a prime example of short-sighted worldbuilding. Putting coal and oil out of business also means destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people around the world, not to mention disrupting the economies of every nation in OPEC for a start. Nuclear weapons would still be around, because that’s what nuclear energy was developed for and no amount of free electricity detracts from their destructive power. And there isn’t really a way to store or transmit energy cleanly - batteries and e-waste would still be a source of pollution. This change wouldn’t happen fast or easily - it would be a political mess, both domestically and internationally, and there would be a tremendous social upheaval and restructuring as a result.
...Not to mention the fact that while unlimited energy solves one of the world’s problems, it is by no means a panacea. Water and food are both key, limited resources and sources of conflict. Religion and history will both always be flash points. Diseases can’t be electrocuted out of existence.
My point is this: if Mastai were actually interested in exploring the science fiction concepts he invoked in this book, the utopian world of Tom Barren’s original timeline would be vastly different in a variety of ways and would, in fact, probably not be utopian at all as a result - and that in and of itself would have strengthened the book by adding more moral ambiguity to the histories of the respective worlds. Instead, Mastai chose a flat, boring alternate future, and informs the reader that Tom has never cut into an overripe avocado as if that’s a more pressing question than whether one in nine people, largely in developing countries, still face food insecurity.
So, say you get past the worldbuilding issues. What awaits you on the other side?
Well… mostly faux-deep hipster garbage from the point of view of a grating, obnoxious character. And yes, Tom is supposed to be grating and obnoxious, but that doesn’t make reading his viewpoint any more enjoyable. We hear a lot about his sexual exploits, none of which are relevant to the plot and a lot of which reduce the women involved to little more than cardboard cutouts - literally, four in a row are described as “funny and smart and mischievous and sweet” in a sentence which, while poetic, is staggeringly reductive.
There’s also a lot of generic ~artsy depression~ complaining, and - look, I’m not averse to reflecting on the struggles of being human, but I do take issue with a supposedly utopian society which has a startling dearth of therapists and adequate mental health systems. There are several instances when characters verge on discussing therapy as an option, but they never quiiiite make it. At one point Tom even says that “mental illness and substance abuse existed, but they were managed as health care issues,” which sounds good, except for the fact that it’s all tell and no show. Tom, his parents, Penelope - all of them clearly would benefit from psychological treatment of some kind, but none of them even try to get it.
And oh, let’s talk about Penelope.
Penelope (or ‘Penny’ in the non-utopian timeline) is part of a pattern this book has, where every single significant female character seems to exist mostly to have their lives destroyed by a man. Tom’s mother’s entire career and life is subsumed to her husband’s needs, and yet she never leaves or stands up to herself. Penelope is brilliant, talented, and gorgeous - and prone to sex as a self-destructive behavior, leading her to a one-night stand with Tom. (More on this later. I’m still furious.) Penny, her alt-timeline counterpart, is sweet and innocent and dorky and almost instantly falls into bed with Tom, which doesn’t go well for her. Ursula Francoeur, the love of Lionel Goettreider’s life, gets brain cancer because he abuses his technology to perpetuate their affair. For those keeping score, two out of four women die as a direct result of their relationships with male characters; Tom’s mother makes an arguable third. Only Penny survives, and she gets brutally raped.
Penelope’s death was, for me, the first sign that this book wouldn’t even manage mediocrity. When a one-night stand with Tom results in pregnancy, she can no longer fill her role as a cosmonaut because there’s a variation in her cellular makeup so… she commits suicide by time travel tech. There’s enough wrong here with the basic premise of ‘competent female character kills herself after having sex with Main Dude’, especially in that her death is the catalyst for the rest of the plot, but that’s not even the final nail in the coffin. No, that comes from comments like this:
We could’ve brought a life into this world of wonders and that life could’ve changed us both, made us better, fixed the broken clocks inside our brains that wouldn’t let us be happy when happiness was within reach.
She touched her stomach. I like to think that’s the moment she changed her mind and decided to have our baby and become a family.
There’s a whoooole side rant here about the idea that a baby can fix its parents’ psychological and relationship issues and how dangerous and destructive it is to parents and child alike, and if I had the space in this review I’d go into it but… yuck. I feel like it should be self-explanatory that a child is a person first, not a magical cure-all, but apparently, that’s a difficult concept for some people.
Fundamentally it gets at another persistent problem of this book: Tom doesn’t really consider people other than himself. His brief relationship with Penelope is about his desires and insecurities, and he doesn’t consider hers. His later pursuit of Penny in the alternate timeline is also about him, not her - he’s convinced that because she’s another version of Penelope, they’re meant to be together. Conveniently, the climax arranges itself so that he never has to actually choose between his utopian world and our ‘alternate’ 2016, so he doesn’t really have to struggle with his own happiness vs. the greater good - the central question the book’s synopsis seemed to promise.
This comes into sharp relief after Tom rapes Penny. And yes, ‘technically’ it’s not him, but another alternate-world version of his consciousness inhabiting his body and blah blah blah, but from her perspective? It’s him. It’s this possibly crazy stranger she let into her life and trusted and started to feel something for - that’s the guy who assaults her in her own bed before she’s even awake.
The book doesn’t call it rape. Nor does it call what Tom does to one of his assistants in the same chapter - getting her drunk and coercing her back to his apartment to sleep with him - anything as strong as sexual assault. “I know I went along with all of it. I just wanted it to be over,” she says later, and those words made me nauseous.
When Tom returns to his own body, though, the aftermath is entirely centered around him and his feelings - validating the idea that it wasn’t ‘really him’ even though, to both women, it was. Their reactions are important inasmuch as they change his relationships with them (particularly Penny). As individuals who have been through a traumatic experience - they barely exist. This chapter is a horrific and jarring reading experience, and all of that seems to serve only to motivate Tom into progressing the plot. It’s callous, cheap, and sickening.
If you strip this story down to its bare bones, it’s… literally just about a mediocre, uninteresting middle-aged man who gets wealth, career success, and a woman handed to him. Oh, sure, there’s lip service to the idea that John has grown and reflected on his actions, but that’s only told and never shown. The later revelation that this entire story is recounted in retrospect makes it worse, because we should be able to see evidence of his growth in the narration, but it’s just not there. The Tom who tells the story is no more mature than the past self he describes.
To finish this up, a tasting menu of my absolute faaaavorite quotes.
5. The metaphor clusterfuck
“I’m not much of a Freudian, but something about fame makes the id and the superego devour the ego like anacondas in a cage, right before they cannibalize each other. Fame warps your identity, metastasizes your anxieties, and hollows you out like a jack-o’-lantern. It’s sparkly pixie dust that burns whatever it touches like acid.”
4. The 101-word sentence of word vomit
But around the dinner table - while I sup up the remains of the ratatouille with crusty spelt bread and my mom takes the dessert she baked out of the oven and my sister opens another bottle of sauvignon blanc and Penny listens to my dad with guileless interest while her foot occasionally presses down on mine under the table - he can speak openly without fear of any ridicule more acrid than the exasperated sighs Greta doesn’t bother to conceal as she accidentally splits half the cork into the bottle because her fine motor skills decrease exponentially with each glass of wine.
3. In the Ideal Future, people don’t smile anymore
My fifteen employees started applauding and flexing their zygomaticus muscles to bare their teeth and gums, which makes me recoil until I realize they’re smiling at me.
2. Give your ex your genetic material so they can fuck your clone
Like, okay, in my world, when you break up with someone, it’s considered gracious to offer the person you dumped a lock of hair so that, if they want, they can get a genetically identical surrogate grown for whatever purposes they need to get over you. It has no consciousness, but it looks exactly like you and can be used for rudimentary physiological functions. Like, you know, sex.
1. Optimism is totally the same thing as manifest destiny
The belief that the world is here for humans to control is the philosophical bedrock of our civilization, but it’s a mistaken belief. Optimism is the pyre on which we’ve been setting ourselves aflame.
The conclusion of All Our Wrong Todays suggests that Mastai was aiming to communicate the idea that there’s no one right way to live your life, and I have to say that I agree and think that’s an important message. But this delivery of it has no redeeming features whatsoever. Don’t waste your time. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 04, 2016
Jan 02, 2017
Nov 04, 2016
Jan 01, 2010
Mar 23, 2010
it was ok
Yeah, so I'm going to spoil the hell out of this book; but for good reason, and you should read the spoilers even if you haven't read the book because Yeah, so I'm going to spoil the hell out of this book; but for good reason, and you should read the spoilers even if you haven't read the book because it might save you a few hours.
This was supposed to be my counterpoint to The Handmaid's Tale for a big project on gender in dystopian science fiction. Unfortunately it is only today, four days after turning in said project, that I found via a review of this book the one I should have read instead: The Gate To Women's Country by Sherri S. Tepper. (I'll definitely track it down and read it later.)
Anyhow, here's the thing. Ya got your dystopias divided by gender. I'm totally cool with that. Atwood writes about a world in which females are completely repressed- fine and dandy.
When it comes to female-dominated societies.
Men. Cannot. Write. Them.
(With the possible exception of Orson Scott Card, though it's been a long time since I've read the first books of the Homecoming series.)
So maybe it's Patneaude who can't write them... but anyhow, here's why.
Women can write about male-dominated societies because, news flash, we live in one. No, no, don't argue with me on this because you will not win. (To be clear, I will discuss the U.S. only in the following; other countries have been more progressive but I'm most familliar with the U.S.) We have had no female presidents, no female vice presidents, and one female Speaker of the House. Our Congress is mostly male (in 2009 the Senate had a record 17 female members in the full hundred, and the House 74 out of three hundred plus), and while our Judiciary is making strides it's still not at the 5:4 male:female ration I would consider 'equal enough'. (Close, though! Maybe it will happen in my lifetime.) Women are, in their lifespan, paid less on the dollar than men for equal work. They are less likely to be CEOs or otherwise prominently placed in business. In many religions they are outright forbidden from being pastors/ministers/what have you.
In short, women are less involved in the critical decision-making at the top of most power structures.
Most of these decisions have historically been and continue to be made by men.
Thus, we live in a male-dominated society; a world run by a male mindset and characterized in meetings of power by interactions between men. It's relatively simple, then, to take the world we're familliar with and exaggerate it into a dystopia, or draw existing ideas to their logical (or sometimes, illogical) conclusions.
Patneaude is writing about a world which he has no way to predict. So he takes the easy way out. Basically, he substitutes feminine pronouns where necessary, mentions that nations now stretch over whole continents and that war has been eradicated, and calls it good.
And I, feminist, woman, read it and call it bull.
It's been thirty years since the event that killed off all the men but damn, everything looks much the same! Granted we hardly explore this world at all (for shame, Patneaude, for shame; there's so much potential) but what we see of it looks familliar- more eco-friendly, perhaps, but this is Seattle. I'd expect that with time alone. We still have rush hour traffic, police, secretive government meetings, mandatory education. The changes- abandoned houses, lack of crime, poverty, hunger, etc; accessibility of education- seem to be due more to the population decline than anything else.
And then there are the things that don't sound like something a female-controlled society would do at all. For instance, the Trials- the tests you take at age 14 that permit you to be a full member of society... and that if you fail, you cannot retake for three years. Seem a little off for this supposed utopia? Yeah. If they served a narrative purpose they might just get by, but they don't, really- just something for Kellan to forget about so we see how consuming his adventure was.
The fixation on boys, that's another thing. For heaven's sake, I'm not expecting this to be the Planet of the Lesbians, but there should be at least a few girls who get their sexual experimentation thing on with other girls- IE, not all of them should see Kellan as some kind of trophy. A curiosity, sure, but we know he's not that rare- there's even another guy in his class- so it doesn't warrant his treatment.
Here are a few things that I would have expected in a society that became female-dominated so quickly:
- Political turmoil as women formerly far underneath the top jobs had to pick up the reins (which I'll admit, Patneaude hinted at).
- Scientific turmoil as women, who do not comprise a majority of researchers, found themselves trying to interpret now-dead colleagues' working notes. (IE, unless the electric cars were around before the disaster, I don't expect to see them so well developed and widespread.)
- Difficulty in dispersion of news of the new era, and difficulty in solidifying those megacountries. You've just lost most of your airplane pilots, remember.
- Collapse of international infrastructure and economic confusion, if not outright panic- because there go all those CEOs and a lot of the traders- and the ones that are left now have quite a few dead investors.
- An immediate shift in focus to the most practical aspects of life: namely, farming, which means most people should have left the city and started farming.
Those are just a few changes that should have been accounted for and weren't. Some of them could have been negated had Patneaude mentioned a greater equality between men and women in the time before the disaster, but in fact it seemed from the snippets of the past we are shown that the opposite was true. (There is a possibility that said snippets are incorrect and were planted by the female gov't to make themselves look good; but as this book takes place only thirty years after the disaster it's unlikely they could get away with it.)
So there's that. But what about the plot?
Simplistic. Of course, the 'big secret' is that the disease was engineered by women. Was this a surprise to anyone, really? It was extremely virulent, spread through the most available medium around (air), and targeted only one group of people. The virulence alone just SCREAMS engineered disease. It helps that when Patneaude was trying to get his characters to come to the same realization I'd had pages and pages earlier, he didn't just plant clues- he gave them enormous goddamn BILLBOARDS lit up with FLOODLIGHTS. It couldn't have been any clearer. And of course the instigator of this whole plan was a woman who was sexually abused- again, called it- and of course the government has been using the disease to target enclaves of men who get too powerful and of course they'll take anyone in as a political prisoner if they try to reveal the truth, big fat DUH.
And of course none of the adult women save for one teacher (who actually seems pretty cool) really tries to question this, because hey, maybe it is better now! And maybe at least it's better than being in prison!
I believe lack of protests in Atwood's Gilead because protestors were SHOT ON SIGHT. I don't believe them here, where they're just locked up in pretty nice apartments.
So, lessee... what else was predictable? Kellan ended up with the girl he was after, surprise surprise, despite me rooting for her to be queer the whole damn way; he discovered that the gov't was planning to release the disease and kill his dad omg!!!; like the idiot he is he rode straight into the center of the area under threat; he discovered the reason they're being killed is because they're developing a cure- the cure team is all women, so releasing the disease will do exactly nothing, by the way, and couldn't the gov't mole have told them that?- but WAIT! NEFARIOUS! Another team is developing a female version of the virus - CALLED IT - and they're about to release it and kill Kellen's would-be girlfriend like they killed her cousin oh no! But then they blow stuff up and run away, and it turns out that the cure Kellen and his dad were injected with works. Token other male character dies, everyone is sad, and they go home and stick it to the (wo)Man in classic 'You Can't Stop The Signal' style.
And yeah. I'm bored. Because you know, other people did it already and this society is unrealistic and the writing is unfantastic.
That's not to say this book didn't have some redeeming qualities. It gets the second star for being a dystopia with some interesting, if improbable, future history- and for the image of the titular Epitaph Road itself, with methane gas from thousands of decomposing corpses shooting out the top of a giant pipe and getting set on fire. That was eerie in a beautiful sort of way.
Conclusion: Read it if you're really into dystopia and will just devour everything on the subject; or conversely, if you're not used to dystopia and don't know what to look for in a properly constructed one and will thus miss the flaws here.
It's not a bad book, really. It just didn't meet my expectations. ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 10, 2010