This book, with its unexpected combination of Victorian historical fiction and something near magical realism, reads rather like A Secret Garden or A...moreThis book, with its unexpected combination of Victorian historical fiction and something near magical realism, reads rather like A Secret Garden or A Little Princess for modern young adult girls, with the vague romanticism of those two books given a fresh coat of paint. A lovely book for readers of either historical fiction or YA fantasy, it never quite comes together and always seems to hold a touch of anachronism, but that's forgivable in what I believe was a debut novel.(less)
A mediocre and uncreative YA historical fiction book. The same goes for the rest of the Young Royals series, none of which distinguish themselves in a...moreA mediocre and uncreative YA historical fiction book. The same goes for the rest of the Young Royals series, none of which distinguish themselves in any way, either positive or negative, except perhaps for their terrible titles. Do yourself a favor - if you want to read mediocre Tudor historical fiction, at least read Philppa Gregory or Jean Plaidy, who'll at least have nice descriptions of clothes or banquets or something.(less)
In the hands of anyone but Jane Yolen this book would be a cliche-ridden atrocity. Yolen's deft hand makes it at least interesting, and causes the twi...moreIn the hands of anyone but Jane Yolen this book would be a cliche-ridden atrocity. Yolen's deft hand makes it at least interesting, and causes the twist ending not to seem like a foregone conclusion, but even she can not rid the plot of some of its tiresome expectations. A lesson to all - Arthurian legend must be dealt with cautiously.(less)
I frankly have no idea why Alisa Libby thought that Ezrebet Bathory, the Hungarian Countess notorious for bathing in the blood of her servant girls, w...moreI frankly have no idea why Alisa Libby thought that Ezrebet Bathory, the Hungarian Countess notorious for bathing in the blood of her servant girls, was a good subject for a young adult novel. To me, the idea seems slightly counterintuitive. But whether or not it succeeds as a book for that age group, it did succeed for me as a book in general. The sense of historical accuracy is a bit thin at times (it seems to fit more into the horror/gothic or even fantasy genres than it does into historical fiction, despite the lack of actual magical activity of any textually verified sort), and some of the character arcs don't ring quite true for me, but the book does examine the psychological ramifications of Ezrebet's actions quite interestingly, as well as including a fascinating, slightly homoerotic relationship between Ezrebet and her closest friend (this is even leaving aside the homoeroticism in Ezrebet's wish to absorb other women's beauty through their blood), and some of the best descriptions of blood that I, a frequent reader of vampire stories, have read. A breathtaking graphic design scheme doesn't hurt.(less)
While the rest of the world was reading the sparkling vampire angst of the Twilight series, I, I must say, have steered clear of the entire phenomenon...moreWhile the rest of the world was reading the sparkling vampire angst of the Twilight series, I, I must say, have steered clear of the entire phenomenon and instead focused my young adult vampire reading on Vladimir Tod, the eighth grade half-vampire living in a gimmick of a fictional town called Stokerton.
Young Vladimir Tod, like nearly every other male protaganist of a genre fiction young adult novel, is an orphan. His vampire father and human mother died some years before the start of the book in a rather suspicious accident, leaving him to be raised by his human aunt Nellie, a nurse who gets him blood from the hospital at which she works.
All right - a bit clichéd, particularly the half vampire trope, but nothing in that premise is impossible to make a passable book out of. The problem comes when it becomes clear the Heather Brewer has not yet thought through the emotional realities of the life of her protaganist. For example, although I have no personal experience in the subject, I find it highly doubtful that the childhood friend of a half vampire would, when they are both thirteen and have known one another for eight years, still make the clichéd vampire jokes that anyone could come up with immediately, and act as if they are new inventions of his. I also suspect that Henry (for that is the irritating friend's name) would treat Vladimir's vampirism as a frequent surprise. Ms. Brewer, perhaps you cannot imagine a thirteen boy taking his friend's status as a half vampire in stride, but people can get used to nearly anything.
In addition, the thoughts going on in Vladimir's head do not have the ring of reality to them, sounding more like stereotypes of a teeange boy combined with generic moments, either comic or agonized, which have to do with his vampirism and seem gratuitous and not particularly thought through. I felt, throughout, that I had no real reason to like or care about Vladimir, and, without that, the book rather fell apart.
Leaving characterization aside, Brewer's world building struck me as inept, messy, and frequently quite stupid. The vampire city which Vladimir visits toward the end of the book? Oh, dear, dear, dear. I don't know where that came from.
Also? Blood would taste terrible with french fries.(less)
Welcome back to Stokerton, and Bathory High, home of Vladimir Tod! If you're here looking at this installment, then you likely either enjoyed the firs...moreWelcome back to Stokerton, and Bathory High, home of Vladimir Tod! If you're here looking at this installment, then you likely either enjoyed the first book or are searching for more illogical things to poke gentle fun at.
Be warned, searchers with either objective - Heather Brewer has higher ambitions in this book. We get a vampire slayer, lurking ominously in the odd, incongruous 'villain perspective' interludes that readers may recall from the first book. We get tiresome high school politics, a school outcast with a morbid interest in the macabre called what else but 'Eddie Poe', Vladimir Tod's crush on a classmate growing (possibly) more serious. We get an illogically isolated Russian vampire community, where our daring author tries her hardest to insert some moral ambiguity.
The concepts all sorts of sway dizzily for a little while, like a child's too-high tower of building blocks, but they soon topple over, leaving us with exactly the same things as the first book. It's a very laudable effort, though.(less)
Laurie Halse Anderson is very good at what she does, which is write careful, dark, realistic and strikingly funny looks into the minds of slightly (or...moreLaurie Halse Anderson is very good at what she does, which is write careful, dark, realistic and strikingly funny looks into the minds of slightly (or not so slightly) messed up teenager girls. Her mark in this surprisingly small genre was made with Speak, which burst onto the field of young adult realistic fiction like a lightning beam. Here she moves up a few years from Speak's freshman heroine to write about a dedicated chemistry student seeking to get into MIT. Along with the considerable pressures of college applications, our protaganist and narrator must deal with her Bible quoting single father, her asthmatic younger brother, and an unpleasant classmate who becomes an unexpected part of her life when the classmate's family's house is burned down. This last character ends up being one of the more central figures in the novel, and it is her story which saves the book from falling into inanity, for she feels more real than all the other characters put together - possibly intentional on the author's part. It's an interesting book, and parts of it ring very true, but its dependence upon startling reveals does not hold up well under rereading.(less)