Gifted to me for Christmas 1994 by the Sunday School I temporarily attended - according to the bookplate - af*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
Gifted to me for Christmas 1994 by the Sunday School I temporarily attended - according to the bookplate - after I'd watched the 80s film adaptation at school, I remember the ungrateful disdain I felt for the novel; feeling I'd already read the book having watched the film. How ignorant I was. Granted, I only 8 years old, but we all know that adaptions are usually inferior to the original.
Unsure if I'd ever read this in my childhood during a desperately bored moment, I decided to seize upon the opportunity when this C.S. Lewis classic was selected for The Dead Writers Society's 2014 Series Project.
Immediately I was struck by the quaint simplicity of the language used 60 years ago and the innate kindness and naïveté expressed by the children of that era. Tedium and disjointed fantasist logic, though, soon irritated like mosquito bites; every few pages something caused an eye-twitch.
But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that's going to be human and isn't yet, or used to be human once and isn't now, or ought to be human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet. - Mr. Beaver
Anyone spot the irony? That's right, Mr. Beaver isn't human. There are no humans in Narnia, that's the reason for the children's importance. He's just warned them that every creature they encounter in his world is a physical danger to them, including himself. Ugh.
Edmund's betrayal abruptly dismissed and forgiven was one of the worst irritants as his implicit pride, arrogance and greed left him open to the White Witch's charms, and although it's hinted he punishes himself, no one berates him for betraying his siblings for the archetypal stranger offering chocolate in the windowless van.
Sheldon: Hold on. Just because the nice man is offering you candy, doesn’t mean you should jump into his windowless van. What’s the occasion? Seibert: Just a little fund-raiser for the university. Sheldon: Aha! The tear-stained air mattress in the back of the van. ~ The Big Bang Theory
While it's true that shame and self-punishment can sting more than anything anyone else could say, it still grates. Edmund's apparent hurried redemption off-stage - rewarded with a battlefield knighthood - and later becoming a 'graver and quieter man' earning the name 'Edmund the Just' feels like a cop out. However, he's the only character to be generally cautious, skeptical and untrusting as we witness him pointing out the unwise act of instantly trusting the word of a stranger, which is contradictory to his earlier aforementioned behaviour evident before he eats the tainted Turkish Delight. I suppose his complexity makes him the most interesting and well-developed character of the novel.
Edmund and the White Witch in her sleigh a.k.a. her windowless van
Crowning these sons of Adam and daughters of Eve for just showing up one day, also appalls me. Hardly meritocratic, and yet the 2005 movie changes this aspect. All four children earn their crowns by bravely fighting the good fight using the weapons bestowed upon them. Due to the time period in which this was written, Lewis only allows the Sons to wage war as Father Christmas claims "...battles are ugly when women fight" when gifting the girls with a bow and arrows (for Susan) and a dagger (for Lucy). Despite this, the boys do very little in the way of violence or strategy. Again, I can put this down to the age-appropriate and historical tolerance for violence in the media during the late 1940s.
Susan actually uses her bow
And now I'm reminded why I shouldn't read pre-teen fiction; it's never quite realistic enough for me to enjoy. However, I do wonder if this classic would make it past editors in this condition in the present day. Instinct tells me the manuscript's syntax would be tinkered with and more contractions added for a smoother reading experience, at the very least. Its current form left me eager to abandon it to the never-to-be-read-again shelves, if it hadn't been for the DWS Series Project, I would have, although I won't be reading the rest of the series....more
I wasn't really feeling this one. It was okay, and sort of fun. Well, spunky supporting character Carla, made it fun. Her lust for life, and her husbaI wasn't really feeling this one. It was okay, and sort of fun. Well, spunky supporting character Carla, made it fun. Her lust for life, and her husband and his food, were certainly smile-inducing. The story's a little bit different, simple. I guess I wanted more out of it than what I got....more
A unique book showcasing multicultural London as the main character featuring much of her history, geography, associated Britishisms, pop. culture refA unique book showcasing multicultural London as the main character featuring much of her history, geography, associated Britishisms, pop. culture references and slang. I'm surprised non-Brits (or even non-Londoners) didn't give this a lower rating for all that they didn't understand because I'm a Brit and there were a couple I didn't get. A basic map and a glossary would've been helpful, I think.
Having a mixed race protagonist instantly put this book in my good graces being mixed race myself, although I was a little disappointed Peter's mother wasn't Afro-Caribbean, like mine. Thankfully, he's not mixed race in name only as his race was referred to consistently throughout without becoming unnecessarily repetitive. Another thing broadcasting loud and clear was Peter's manliness. Refreshingly, he's most definitely male with urges, sexual thoughts and erections just like the next man. No shying away from, or sanitisation of, his sexuality here.
'I was fighting the urge to fling myself down to my knees before her and put my face between her breasts and go blubby, blubby, blubby. When she offered me a seat I was so hard it was painful to sit down.'
'I dreamed that I was sharing my bed with Lesley May and Beverley Brook, both lithe and naked on either side of me, but it wasn't nearly as erotic as it should've been because I didn't dare embrace one for fear that I'd mortally offend the other.'
Peter's charmingly colourful London copper voice had me visualising Gerry from New Tricks reading this to me. Immediately Peter Grant drew me into his interesting and fun narration, increasing my excitement and anticipation for what I thought could be a 5-star awesome book.
'Martin gave the body the 'London once-over' - a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling.'
However, with an ultra realistic background, magic seemed incongruous, inconspicuous and surreal in comparison. Ghosts and vampires appeared normal to me, it was the river spirits I couldn't get a handle on. Magic itself, I gradually accepted although to begin with it was an oddly unsubstantiated concept because Nightingale refused to elaborate, purposely keeping Peter in the dark about everything magic-related which was super frustrating. I couldn't believe in something I didn't understand. Apparently, Newton made pioneering breakthroughs in magic at the same time he did science as they're both inextricably linked, which we observe during Peter's rigorous experiments into how magic use damages all technology in its vicinity.
"Well the second, murdering gent, he puts on a cap and a red jacket and he brings out his stick and as quietly and swiftly as a snoozer in a lodging house he comes up behind the first gent and knocks his head clean off." "You're having me on," I said. "No, I'm never," said Nicholas, and crossed himself. "I swear on my own death, and that's as solemn a swear as a poor shade can give. It was a terrible sight. Off came his head and up went the blood."
A nod to Laurell K. Hamilton was made via the intriguing Anita Blake-like horror scenes, a welcome distraction from the magic. I ate them up and wanted more. Aaronovitch had to have been a fan at one stage because his crime scenes are reminiscent of the way LKH wrote hers. I did wonder if the vagina dentata was a surruptitious comment on the way her series devolved over time, though I think I'm reaching with that one since the owner of that vagina seemed to have targeted a rapist.
'Somebody was screaming and I had to check it wasn't me. It could've been me. I certainly wanted to scream, but I remembered that, right then and there, Lesley and I were the only coppers on the scene, and the public doesn't like it when the police start screaming: it contributes to an impression of things not being conducive to the public calm. I got to my feet and found that we'd attracted a crowd of onlookers. "Ladies and gentlemen," I said, "police business. I need you to stand back." The crowd stood back - being covered in blood can have that effect on people.'
Eerily, this was published only 7 months before the 2011 London riots and yet the author got the riot behaviour and media reactions down pat. Yes, the Daily Mail did have field day, the resulting reasons they came up with being basically this:
"Because who is more oppressed? Those that seek nothing but entitlements for themselves, or those that claim for everything: social security, housing benefit, disability, and pay for nothing?" [...] [redacted] must either be using stuff from [redacted]'s memory or else had been reading the Daily Mail for the last two hundred years.
Excellent social commentary, idiosyncrasies of specific groups and observations on current tensions mixed with the studious Newtonian science, history and geography would make Rivers of London a prime candidate for study in schools and universities.
'It's a myth that Londoners are oblivious to one another on the tube: we're hyper-aware of each other and are constantly revising our what-if scenarios and counter strategies. What if that suavely handsome yet ethnic young man asks me for money? Do I give or refuse? If he makes a joke do I respond, and if so will it be a shy smile or a guffaw? [...] If he opens his jacket and yells 'God is great', will I make it down the other end of the carriage in time?'
'People are conditioned by the media to think that black women are all shouting and head-shaking and girlfriending and 'oh, no you didn't', and if they;re not sassy then they're dignified and downtrodden and soldiering on and 'I don't understand why folks just can't get along'. But if you see a black woman go quiet the way Tyburn did, the eyes bright, the lips straight and the face still as a death mask, you have made an enemy for life: do not pass go, do not collect two hundred quid.' [LOL. My mother does this.]
"I just wanted to talk to someone who could speak English properly. I went on holiday to Bavaria last summer and everyone spoke English really well. I bring my kids down to the West End and everyone's foreign. I don't understand a word they're saying." [A common complaint]
Aaronovitch mentions Waterstone's book shops, his ex-employer (and mine, high-five!) but the punctuation actually dates the book as pre-2012 because it's now 'Watersones', no apostrophe. (This dumbing down, eh? Tut, tut). Speaking of dated, two women owned Nokia phones. The likelihood of that is pretty low, even now with the Lumia. Nokias were popular in the early noughties when pretty much everyone owned one, including myself. Now, it's all about smartphones: the iPhone, Samsung and HTC, and yet nobody owned one? The slang and pop. culture references also date this work. You could certainly call this book a dedication to it's era, circa early 2000s.
Perhaps I'm nitpicking and taking this book too seriously, and yet I’m about to take it to a new level.
*Puts feminist hat on.*
Disproportionate gender treatment isn't something I usually notice in fiction. Here, it was abundantly clear women are to be feared, lusted after or victimised and used whereas Nightingale and Peter are painted as the 'good guys' who can do no wrong but, where are the strong, positive female characters?
Let's go through some examples:
✺ Molly. Mute throughout the whole book, is a vampire and is feared at one point and a sex object in another (in the nude painting), and also happens to be a housekeeper.
✺ Lesley. Sex object. Victim(view spoiler)[as her body is possessed and used and then she's critically disfigured, then saved and will now be receiving facial reconstructive surgery (hide spoiler)]. Used regularly as a dogsbody by Peter. I say 'dogsbody' because she rarely asks for anything return and it appears Peter is her only friend and vice versa, so she's like a doormat because she never says "no, do it yourself". Where's the give and take in that relationship?
✺ Stephanopolous(sp?). Painted as the much feared butch lesbian senior cop. Stereotype much?
✺ Mama Thames (Nigerian river spirit). Sex object. Her power is to be feared.
✺ Beverley Brook (Nigerian river spirit). Sex object, used as a hostage and means of transportation and communication.
✺ Tyburn (Nigerian river spirit). Feared. Acts like a mob boss, and while Peter never calls her a bitch, that's what is implied/inferred.
✺ Peter's mum. Wife of an addict, 'nuff said.
✺ Cinema woman. She assaulted a cinema employee, and while not her fault this essentially turns her into a victim(view spoiler)[of possession (hide spoiler)].
I enjoyed the references to places I knew well like Euston station, Forbidden Planet and Waterstones; to authors like John William Polidori and Oscar Wilde (although I felt his mention white-washed over his awful criminal conviction for homosexuality by calling it a 'public nuisance' - Grr!), both of which wrote gothic horror in London settings, if I remember correctly.
Mistakes, inconsistencies and continuity errors marred my experience a little, for example:
➛ Nicholas Wallpenny became Thomas Wallpenny at one point.
➛ Dr John Polidari became Dr John Polidori which confused me at first.
➛ Peter's designated department switched to Nightingale's without explanation. Nightingale had no way of knowing Peter had had contact with the Wallpenny ghost because later it's explained this ghost never had contact with Nightingale, and Peter never named the ghost to that police officer (who thought he was crazy) at the beginning so I doubt he passed the info on. So, how and why would Peter be placed in the Folly (magic department) without any basis for it?
Small things, I suppose. It sucks to be observant sometimes. This wasn't one of those books I could allow my brain to switch off with if I wanted to enjoy the educational lessons provided. As I said before, I really enjoyed the beginning, gradually becoming slower paced and less interesting when I skimmed and skipped around a bit. There was much potential there for high ratings but, for me, it didn't quite deliver, though I can still appreciate much of the book for it's uniquely entertaining voice, ethnically diverse characters, spot on cultural observations and educational lessons - ergo 2-2½ stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["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
The Love Triangle Heroine: 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien. She's young, fairly inexperienced in the politics of love. Physically and mentally bouncing back from her time as a slave in the salt mines surprisingly quickly with rapidly diminishing bitterness (view spoiler)[(another reason to be bitter: I'm pretty sure the King is responsible for her parents' deaths because they're fae) (hide spoiler)] as she keeps her feelings for both men on the down low until she can't deny how close she's become to the Prince from their actions. She doesn't appear to pick up on Chaol's gestures of understanding and affection, believing he's yet to trust her not to kill someone or escape at any moment, so she doesn't play the men off against each other.
Suitor #1: 19-year-old Prince Dorian. Seducer of all women and professes he will only ever marry for love. Spoilt but not cruel, he hates his father for his unending crimes against humanity in the name of conquering the entire world. Surrounded by the weak and brainless women of court he's eager to escape he almost forces himself to become besotted by Celaena's strong-willed, feisty and intelligent nature, so very different from what he's used to. His interest is part defiance of his father and his best friend Chaol, Captain Westfall of the Royal Guard, after they warn him away from her. Celaena herself seems dazzled by his handsomeness and wishes to have a little fun by indulging his attentions. In the blink of an eye we have insta-love. Oh, the fawning they did over each other, argh. For him, this would be a great match. Celaena has the power to transform him from a boy to a man, a man fit to be king. But I don't think Celaena would get much from such a union.
Suitor #2: 22-year-old Chaol, Captain Westfall of the Royal Guard, and Celaena's trainer. The more natural of the two pairings when you think of the considerable amout of time they've spent together training. Skilled and strong, Chaol secretly grows to like her, against his will, more and more, without letting his feelings be known to anyone. Both he and Dorian experience jealously over her, while Celaena remains practically oblivious of Chaol's interest. It's a deep, slow burn from afar. Celaena was interested in Chaol to begin with but his brusque responses, with only a hint of playfulness, gave her the impression he didn't like her despite him blowing hot and cold throughout the rest of the book. Perhaps he was too subtle. While Dorian stumbles about a bit (odd for a womanizer), Chaol is the brooding, cautious and trusty rock you can always count on.
The Winner: Inconclusive. Celaena drops the Prince like a hot potato once she's finally named Champion in a way that presented her as a cold-hearted, manipulative bitch. I actually felt sorry for the guy despite finding him to be too spoilt, immature and weak to be a worthy partner. Chaol appears to be happy Celaena is on the market again as the book closes but all I could think was, "Run away! Before she breaks your heart too."
An Inconsistent Heroine As the book opens, Celaena is smart, strong-willed, fiesty and bloodthirsty. She used her quick wit and smart-mouth to embarrass and infuriate. Basically, she was badass. Trouble is, that didn't last.
Most of the trials, training and associated fighting were offstage while Celaena turned into a vain Barbie doll going to a ball and seducing the prince. I don't begrudge her femininity or the chance to be pretty again after the ugliness she'd suffered but this is not what I signed up for. It was too much.
Then she turns her hand to investigating the mysterious deaths, sleuthing, unsuccessfully I might add.
Finally, the last hurdle, the duel takes place. And it's action, action, action. (Honestly, I was so fed up by now I didn't pay much attention.) Followed by, "You're dumped!" with no thought to the Prince's feelings. For all her agonzing over the fate of slaves and the harsh treatment she'd received I thought she'd know what "tact" was. She came off as the bad guy, the assassin without a heart, exactly what they'd all thought of her in the beginning. It made me wonder if she really is playing a game of politics, calculating every move.
Predictable The mystery behind the deaths of the would-be champions was insanely obvious. We knew early on who's responsible, who's pulling the strings (view spoiler)[(The King, such a hypocrite, and we know how he rolls now don't we? Worse than Cain and the Duke sacrificing his entourage like that) (hide spoiler)], and I had a vague idea of the how. Not so mysterious. Perhaps because the reader gets the advantage of seeing things from multiple points of view I'm being too harsh on Celaena's ability to figure this all out (view spoiler)[ but using the Princess as a red herring failed miserably. Celaena should've known the Princess would never risk so much for short-term gain, that would be stupid, something she definitely is not. (hide spoiler)]
Conclusion I itched to DNF this, and to award 1 star, for the absurd (and painful to read about) love triangle, but I recognised the potential of the beginning and that of the world-building, as under-developed as it was. I wanted more action, politics and mystery, and much, much less romance. No romance at all would be fine. It's not a requirement for every single book.
*Thank you to Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.*["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["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
Charismatic and funny characters with a mixed race, part Japanese protagonist, made this an engaging and joyful read. I loved the show-stoppingly beauCharismatic and funny characters with a mixed race, part Japanese protagonist, made this an engaging and joyful read. I loved the show-stoppingly beautiful Angela's lazy, sleepaholic and anti-social character. Kami's self-respect, self-awareness, common sense and individuality were appreciated. Brennan was obviously determined to set her heroine apart from the clueless, unhealthy role models from other books.
The love triangle didn't bother me until the end because it was weighted in Jared's favour so there wasn't much angst. Jared's apparent but unexplained dislike of touching Kami was distinctly unusual, because what teenage boy doesn't want to touch a girl (or another boy)? This led to a distancing of the two characters which was a bit angsty.
I'm not happy with the way things ended (although it was a healthy decision Kami made) because it's not just a normal cliffhanger, it completely opened the door to unoriginal love triangle angst characteristic of many other YA novels. This does Unspoken a disservice because the rest of the book was highly enjoyable.
The mystery is a little thin on the ground but as the focus was on establishing the personalities of the characters I didn't mind so much since the culprit(s) wasn't obvious and events weren't predictable.
The mention of a political science class confused me since we don't study that in the UK (or at least that's not what we call it) and Unspoken is set here. I'm also aware there were some Britishisms others may not understand though I don't think it's prohibitive to enjoyment.
I'll most likely wait for reviews for the sequel from those I trust before I decide to invest in something I could quite easily hate....more