This read like a dream. Yes, I said it. Now if you are anything like me and your bibliophilic life started with raunchy mills and boons (Australian an...moreThis read like a dream. Yes, I said it. Now if you are anything like me and your bibliophilic life started with raunchy mills and boons (Australian and Kiwi editions) and then widened to include historical romance (which were just as raunchy but did teach me a lot about Bonaparte) you will have some level of familiarity with historical novels boasting of a strong heroine and an intriguing hero. This, I hasten to add, is not to imply that The Agency is a romance novel. Oh no, far from it. Or that there are heaving bosoms involved…well, there might be but they’re certainly not the heroine’s. Anyway, what I’m trying to say, albeit not very well, is that first book in the trilogy asserts its position not just as a YA Historical fiction (rare in its genre) but as, dare I say it, brilliant YA Historical fiction.
Let me count the reasons I say this.
There is a fluidity in Ms. Lee’s writing that, quite frankly, grips you by the collar and jerks you into the novel and holds you captive and enthralled until you are unaware of the time that has passed and the work that you have left undone. Her writing is on par with authors that have several novels under their belt and there is no sense of awkwardness in her prose that is so common with debuting authors. You have to love smooth writing, you guys.
Her characterizations are bloody awesome. Mary Quinn is by no means perfect and it is her imperfections that, ironically, make her perfect. The beginning grips you with the bleakness of her fortune, with the depths of despair that have led her to that point and the ending leaves you bemused by the distance she has traveled within the scope of the book alone. I like the fact that Mary is human enough to be relatable to me. That she can give in to human vanity and despite having had to grow up so fast, still retain that sense of childishness, that intrinsic immaturity that is so common to people of her age. Not that I mean anything negative by that. It’s just that she reads like the teenager she is despite being put in a situation where she could have been written like a woman in her twenties. I like that.
James Easton is delicious as the unwilling hero of the tale. Not that he takes over the tale entirely. No. We see glimpses of the story through his eyes and what this does is deepen our appreciation of Mary and the entire novel. James is not as fleshed out as Mary is but that’s okay. He is defined enough that you can, through his unwilling fascination with Mary Quinn, structure the hierarchy in the story and place the social status of the various characters. He also spices up the narrative because the romantic tension between him and Mary Quinn is enough to make a girl swoon.
The other characters are also interestingly hewed. I love it when the author spends enough time to create original characters no matter how small their part in the narrative is instead of using stereotyped, stock characters. This shows that the author has imagined the world she has created down to the last detail. And furthermore, that she respects the intelligence of her readers.
The narrative brings up some very interesting points. The role of women in the society at the time the novel is set in is one of the things discussed. Their limited freedom and the stereotypes they lived under. And what breaking away from these stereotypes and expectations would mean to a woman. What interested me more than that, however, is Mary’s internal conflict about her mixed heritage. In fact, this is one of the most interesting things about the novel. How she addresses these issues and whether they will influence the manner in which she lives her life and the decisions she makes for the future is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.
So the verdict? Read the book. It has everything a good book needs and is everything a wonderful book should be. I recommend it to everyone who likes good literature.(less)
Okay, this is going to be short because really there are only a few things I want to say about this novel.
1. I loved it. Really, really loved it. Mar...moreOkay, this is going to be short because really there are only a few things I want to say about this novel.
1. I loved it. Really, really loved it. Mary confronts the skeletons in her closet . The book takes a somber look at the people who sire us and how their mortality and morality affect us. This gives Mary new depths and she evolves much more as a character. 2. The kisses are smoking hot. My toes curled multiple times. It’s quite a feat since I wasn’t even the one being kissed. 3. Lee’s portrayal of Victorian (I believe it is Victorian, I could be totally wrong) is so spot on. Her wordsmithery remains impressive and I believe her plotting has actually improved. 4. James is awesomesauce and that’s all I am going to say about it. Actually no, as hot as he is, it is his humanity and his flaws that make him irresistible. His vulnerability where Mary is concerned is also endearing. 5. You need to read this series because if you don’t, you are losing out. I don’t want you to lose out.
Before we begin any sort of review on this novel, let me just say I’m a shameless Erin Bow fangirl. I read and loved Plain Kate which is an amazing bo...moreBefore we begin any sort of review on this novel, let me just say I’m a shameless Erin Bow fangirl. I read and loved Plain Kate which is an amazing book and one you need to read if you haven’t done so already.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to Sorrow’s Knot. And I really don’t know where to start talking about this book. Honestly, I don’t. Okay, I can do this.
Sorrow’s Knot is brilliantly Canadian without being explicit about it. The novel tells a story; by that I mean I felt as though I was sitting around a fire, hearing about Otter, Cricket and Kestrel. There is something hypnotic about the narrative tone – the short and pithy sentences manage to be evocative despite their length. The cadence of the prose. There is a quiet intensity in the small, soft moments. The friendship is so beautifully expressed between Cricket and Otter, and Otter and Kestrel. While Cricket and Otter are good friends, I think I most empathized with the friendship between Kestrel and Otter. Theirs is an honest friend, not sugar-coated and falsely sunny. They trust each other to do the things they would not be able to do and there’s beauty in that.
Though the characters and their lifestyles and portrayals are suggestive of First Nations people, Bow avoids mention of any specific tradition or otherwise identifiable to a certain tribe or people and thus avoids any instances of cultural appropriation. A lot of time is devoted in making the Westmost people feel authentic in their rituals and traditions and I appreciate the research that must have been done to make it so. The fictional Westmost people are ruled by matriarchy and I love how this affects gender constructions. The novel explores themes of death and letting go in such a poignant and beautiful manner that even though your heart is breaking, you cannot help but read on.
Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed very much is the distinction between the two girls. Kestrel is the character a YA novel would usually follow. She is the epitome of the strong heroine; the Katniss, of sorts. Otter, on the other hand, though not physically strong has strength of a different kind. It is interesting to have a nonconventional heroine for once. The romances in this novel are sweet and sad and I liked how cleverly the girls discuss physical relationships without shying away from it.
Sorrow’s Knot does not deal with the destruction of the world on a grand scale. It concerns itself with the lives of one particular group of people and goes deep into their mythology, their prejudices and their resistance to change. Readers who are more familiar with scenarios where the fate of the world rests upon the protagonists’ overly burdened shoulders may find themselves discomfited for a while. However, the realization that Otter’s world, though not very big, is just as important comes quick and with that realization, the reader will be swept away by the story of the binders and their knots.
The tension in the novel is exquisitely managed and readers’ emotions will react as though they are the strings in a finely strung violin. The tension continues to rise until you are almost despairing and then eases only to rise again. In other words, Erin Bow plays with your emotions. A lot. And you willingly read on, almost breathless with the anticipation, because you have to see Otter’s story to the end.
And what an end it is. You guys, I didn’t think I could love Sorrow’s Knot more than Plain Kate but I do. Definitely, strongly, recommended.(less)
This was intense. This was good. This was fantastic. And I don’t say this often. Let’s be honest here. In a series, the books can’t all hold your inte...moreThis was intense. This was good. This was fantastic. And I don’t say this often. Let’s be honest here. In a series, the books can’t all hold your interest. Sometimes they are better, sometimes they are worst but truly, after three books, I still love Flora as much as I loved her in the first book. It’s rare for me. The world Wilce has created is so vibrant, so alive and populated with such interesting characters that it rivals the Potter universe in terms of amazingness. We see a lot more of the world Flora lives in in this book and it is all (and more) than I expected it to be.
We are also introduced to new intriguing characters, the most intriguing of them being a bear who brings in romantic entanglements into the playing field. We see Flora raging, making decisions in split seconds, looking for answers in places she thought she wouldn’t have to and meeting the mother she thought she never would. The tension and danger in the novel is exacerbated in this novel as the stakes are much higher. The politics is rife and taut with an impending war that no one will deny is going to happen.
Flora’s relationship with the mother she grew up with goes through a series of metamorphoses and I really like where it ends up. I also liked the decisions Flora makes even though they are not always the smartest. The Bear is an intriguing love interest and though Flora’s vacillations where Udo is concerned is rather vexing, I can’t deny that some of it he brings on to himself. While it is sad how their relationship unravels, it makes me wonder who Flora will end up with considering the whole thing that happens between Udo and her. Maybe her sacrifice will make their relationship better in the end – I don’t know. But I am willing to find out.
This brings me to my other point. The series is being marketed as a trilogy. However, after the last book, I cannot see it as one as there are way too many threads left open, there are too many what-ifs and what-nows for it to have ended. So fingers crossed that the series continues. As for whether I recommend this series, do you really need to ask?(less)