Falling Kingdoms is a high fantasy about Mytica, a continent on the verge of a war, drawing with it the fates of four young people into chaos and trag...moreFalling Kingdoms is a high fantasy about Mytica, a continent on the verge of a war, drawing with it the fates of four young people into chaos and tragedy. The synopsis, while not entirely unique, is intriguing. It seems to promise all the staples of a good fantasy novel: heroes, princesses, politics, magic, romance, death. And all of this it delivers...on a young adult level.
Morgan Rhodes' tale tells of Cleo, Jonas, Magnus, and Lucia and the destinies they are called forth to fulfill as their land teeters on the bloody edge of conflict and grapples with menacing want-to-be-kings, sly sorcerers, and an ancient magic long lost. The world building is convincing enough. The map, the descriptions, the names, they all work to compel a reader to believe. Rhodes provides history, folklore, climate, culture, and civil struggle to make each country solid. That is laying the groundwork after all. A badly built fantastical universe risks too many questions to make the rest of the story digestible. But Rhodes succeeds in that each place stands individual.
As do the characters. Cleo, the privileged, rashly fierce yet genuine young princess; Jonas, the grief-stricken, angry, damnedly determined rebel; Magnus, the dark, unloved, misunderstood and dangerous prince; and his sister Lucia, the beautiful, the soft, the innocent. They are written to be as distinct from each other as the colors of the rainbow.
Some, however, shine just a little brighter...though that might have something to do with page time. Cleo and Jonas come off as central characters, while Magnus and Lucia as secondary central characters, if there is any sense in that. Perhaps it is that Cleo and Jonas' personal fight has much more at stake; their own doom much darker. The path of these two characters' growth is tangible. Cleo reins in her childish boldness and softens her impulsivity, shaping these qualities into a resolute, unwavering courage. Jonas, acting upon fresh grief and a relentless hunger for justice, is able to open his eyes when needed. He grows to see beyond his sorrow to understand the trouble at hand. They mature. And we see it.
Oh, this praise. Yes, Falling Kingdoms is surprising and satisfying. But it has its limits. The story, so concentrated on the goings-on in the lives of these four young protagonists, does not expand much. While they do battle with sorcery and war, while they do undertake grand ambitions such as searching for ancient magic and forming revolutionary groups to overthrow a tyrant king, the storylines still feel very...narrow.
Which is why I think younger readers will be even more impressed. The more experienced reader you are, the more likely you'll feel the limitations. The plot is simple and straightforward. It isn't very introspective. But it is perhaps the language that needs the most development. In fantasy, there needs to be a certain sophistication in diction. But from the set up of scenes to dialogue, I could almost feel Rhodes trying to write high fantasy. The language didn't yet feel natural. Organic. This is still an attempt. Which is totally fine! This is her first high fantasy novel after all, and she found herself on the New York Times Bestsellers List.
Overall, Falling Kingdoms is success enough that I am most certainly interested in the futures of Cleo, Jonas, Magnus, and Lucia. And Mytica. I keep harping on about how it was so good...on a ya level. Then I hit myself in the head, reminding my little brain that this is, in fact, a ya novel. Grieve. Game of Thrones has ruined me.
There are books, however short or long, that take forever to get through; books that make you twist and dig and plunder for meaning behind painfully s...moreThere are books, however short or long, that take forever to get through; books that make you twist and dig and plunder for meaning behind painfully skillful, cruelly dense language. Gaetan Soucy's The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is that.
This isn't a bizarre story, its just bizarrely written. And bizarre is good. Its about two siblings, ages estimated around late teens, who one morning discover their father dead by hanging. One of them decides to venture out to town to purchase a coffin into which they will bury their father in a ditch they will later dig in an as of yet undetermined spot in their vast estate. Except neither sibling has ever been to town, or spoken to "neighbors", or even set foot outside of their grounds. They've lived their whole lives under the suffocating tutelage of their father, their only source of knowledge on life, death, religion, this earth. They speak a language they've adopted from their "dictionaries" of medieval fairy tales and philosophy. Their perspective of the world is primitive and skewed. They are feral and selectively informed.
Some books allow the reader to become part of the story but Soucy makes you flit between spectator and puzzle solver. The protagonist's view of the world is so minimal and so shifted, that it makes it impossible to be one with the character. You can't participate because you're still figuring out what's being said. The word-plays are endless. Its like looking through a foggy window, through which a shadowy outline is barely visible and each re-read of a phrase is the wipe of a hand on the misty glass, each an attempt to make out the image. And then you do and oh, my.
The protagonist is so unaware that I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. And that sentiment lasts throughout the entire novel. The language that delivers the story is dense but the voice is...light? Airy? The voice lacks understanding, you see, understanding of what's happening, of the gravity of the situation (because I'm sure you've since figured out that there's some dark, disturbing secret that lies deep within the ambiguity of this book). Soucy, unbeknownst to us, is relating a very serious story about child abuse, extreme (and perhaps, distorted) religious devotion, guilt, gender and human nature/human psyche in its untamed and rawest form (and trust me when I say et cetera) but conceals it behind a humorous and naive voice. He unveils a somber truth in one paragraph, then subverts the weight of this revelation with such unacquainted admissions from the protagonist that you're continually caught between gasps of shock and bursts of laughter. Only until the end, when all is revealed and that foggy glass is at last clear, that we see the picture for what it is and its powerful enough to waken those sleeping eyes and raise the hair on your neck.
This is a great book. It takes time getting used to but in due time you'll be flowing right along the rhythm that is all too distinct and rewarding. I wouldn't say its refreshing because I save those for books that are actually refreshing. This little novel is macabre and unnerving. If this review seems useless, its because saying any more would be doing the work for you...and what would be the fun in that?
Also, this must have been a bitch to translate. (less)
Maria Chapdelaine is the story of Maria, a girl living in rural Quebec in the early days of the twentieth century, and the hardships that come with li...moreMaria Chapdelaine is the story of Maria, a girl living in rural Quebec in the early days of the twentieth century, and the hardships that come with living at this time in this place. It addresses themes prevalent in Canadian Literature; that of climate, isolation and hard work in overcoming both. In true Canadian literary fashion, the story is harrowing but satisfying. It can be boring and tedious - though it is never through the fault of authors; it is simply the fact that those days offered little fun as people were too busy surviving harsh Canadian weather and harvesting food, what else can the authors do? But it is never void of touching moments. I remember a very lovely, innocent, romantic scene with Maria and a love interest out in the woods....
The tragedies that mark Maria's life and the important choices she's given as well as the even more crucial decision she has to make, makes her a sympathetic and wonderful character. Everything you did at the time was meant to ensure the survival of the family, of the community. And Maria's ultimate selflessness is both heartbreaking and admirable.
I read this a few years ago for my Canadian Lit course. Bernice Morgan's Random Passage is the brutal and depressing depiction of the lives of the ear...moreI read this a few years ago for my Canadian Lit course. Bernice Morgan's Random Passage is the brutal and depressing depiction of the lives of the early settlers of colonial Newfoundland, when families lived in isolation and whose survival depended on a bleak and sometimes unforgiving climate.
Reading this is a journey. Many times I felt like I was dragging myself along the very barren land the characters themselves tried to make livable. And truth be told, I don't think I enjoyed reading it, I don't know if you're supposed to. It is a sharp and jolting display of the harsh realities of the past. It allows us nothing but admiration for what these characters had to go through, laying the foundation on which we now live. It is not a fun read but it is definitely the kind of experience you'll be thankful for having gone through.
I read this book back in high school for my Independent Study Unit and the only reason I picked t was because I thought it looked really nice. I have...moreI read this book back in high school for my Independent Study Unit and the only reason I picked t was because I thought it looked really nice. I have never been so glad for judging a book by its cover. This was a moving story, difficult at times but ultimately rewarding. Its about family and the power to persevere and the love you have for each other.
I recommend it to anyone who wants to read a great book. Here's one.