Sometimes one is stressed and a book about a princess and her bond with a flying horse is the perfect find on the YA shelf. McKinley's take on this is...moreSometimes one is stressed and a book about a princess and her bond with a flying horse is the perfect find on the YA shelf. McKinley's take on this is, of course, more sophisticated than that, and this was an extremely enjoyable read. As with Dragonhaven, McKinley's explorations of bonds and communication between humans and fantastical creatures are refreshingly complex. Communication between peoples who perceive the world very differently shouldn't, realistically, be straightforward, nor are peoples' reactions to things they perceive as alien or unnatural (e.g. the protagonist's easy speech with her pegasus). The court and interspecies politics here are also pretty interesting. And hey, the protagonist may be a princess, but she's short (and learns dirty fighting tricks for short people!), not concerned with appearances, and geeky (I like that the king assigns her civil engineering projects). Looking forward to the sequel-- alas, the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger! (less)
Grossman continues to play with fantasy tropes in interesting ways, and there's a lot of things to like about this book. There are adventures in Fillo...moreGrossman continues to play with fantasy tropes in interesting ways, and there's a lot of things to like about this book. There are adventures in Fillory, there's talk about how ridiculous many things in Fillory are, and Quentin, while I still have mixed feelings about him as a character, begins to grow up. There's also a lot of interesting Julia backstory about how she learned magic. There's even a Talking Sloth as our major Talking Beast character, and this entertains me.
There is, however, a point at which Grossman completely loses awareness of what he's doing and uses one of the most objectionable (if not the most objectionable) fantasy novel cliches out there for no apparent reason. Begin spoilers, because I need to be more specific, whether or not you've already figured out what the plot device is at this point. Also, TRIGGER WARNING.
Okay, we just spent most of the book wondering about the price Julia paid for the magic she has, and exactly what she learned. She suffered a lot. She lost/gave up her biological family. She lived a pretty crappy live wandering alone (in every way that counts) between safe houses, learning magic without the safety and luxury Quentin and the others had at Brakebills. Then she lost her chosen family, the home she'd finally found. Apparently that's not enough, though. No, we get plot device rape for no good goddamned reason. I don't care if Reynard the Fox is a trickster. "SURPRISE! I'M AN ASSHOLE TRICKSTER FOX AND NOT THE GODDESS YOU WERE LOOKING FOR AND I'M IN UR HOUSE KILLIN UR LOVED ONES" is a more than sufficient trick. No, for some unfathomable reason, Julia needs to be raped (and the description of this goes on for the better part of two pages) in order to lose her humanity and be impregnated with demi-goddesshood, or something. Honestly, a far more interesting trick would have been for Reynard to agree that they'd paid the price and give Julia what she wanted, not telling her what it would cost her (her humanity, which Julia says she'd never have willingly given up). Grossman subverts cliche elsewhere, but for some reason felt fine including this one unexamined. I'm seriously disappointed. (less)
I can't actually recommend this because there are so many problematic things going on here. That being said, it's entertaining and the crack value is...moreI can't actually recommend this because there are so many problematic things going on here. That being said, it's entertaining and the crack value is quite high. I do like that it deals pretty frankly with issues teens face, and the premise is entertaining-- vampire finishing school! I'm actually somewhat interested to see how the various mysteries develop. That being said, the slut shaming is really grating (though in character for many teens, and it's possible the characters will learn as they grow up a bit). And most of all, this is not a book I can recommend in terms of the depiction of people of color. I don't think that the depiction of the protagonist as part Cherokee was handled with knowledge and respect (see http://americanindiansinchildrenslite... for a detailed discussion of that, as well as some possible plagiarism). And pretty much every physical description of a person of color involves coffee drinks. Argh.(less)
Rather gorgeous. Simultaneously a lovely, thoughtful look at growing up reading SF, and at growing up with terrible, frightening secrets and being ver...moreRather gorgeous. Simultaneously a lovely, thoughtful look at growing up reading SF, and at growing up with terrible, frightening secrets and being very much alone. And, of course, the protagonist can actually do magic, and has to learn to understand it and develop ethics for it, at the same time she's dealing with all the ordinary discoveries and ethical quandaries of growing up (and with things no one should have to deal with). The experience of feeling isolated and finding solace and hope in SF probably resonates with a lot of us, even if some of our childhoods were safer.
Note: Trigger warning applies-- ask me if you want spoilers.(less)
**spoiler alert** An enjoyable addition to the series! I found the darkness of the last one difficult, and while this still dealt with the aftermath o...more**spoiler alert** An enjoyable addition to the series! I found the darkness of the last one difficult, and while this still dealt with the aftermath of Alec and Seregil's enslavement in the last book, it was a bit less bleak. I'm curious as to what will happen with the Hazadrielfae now that we've met them and know more about them. Alec and Seregil may have returned to their old lives, but they've changed, and so has the world. I'm interested to see how Phoria's reign will go, and the war. (less)