The writing deserves a 5-stars, but I wasn't that impressed with the plot, or the revelation at the end, especially since I'm reading Red Rising right...moreThe writing deserves a 5-stars, but I wasn't that impressed with the plot, or the revelation at the end, especially since I'm reading Red Rising right after it. Since this is the first of a trilogy. I'll reserve my final review of this book until after I finished the series, to see if this volume carried its weight in the whole story. At the mean time...I'll give it a four.(less)
The plot: Was there one, or the author just followed her flow as she wrote with no clear direction? Nothing is logical...moreI waited 7 years for this book.
The plot: Was there one, or the author just followed her flow as she wrote with no clear direction? Nothing is logical except for the business aspects of the shops.
The pace: Slow with lots of repetitive scenes and actions.
The characters: Dicken-ish, an unlovable man and some revengeful rooks (large black raven-like birds).
The setting: Great, if you like business and old time London in a bleak and dark way with lots of deaths.
The writing: Only thing that kept me reading till the end; wonderful use of words, lyrical prose…not without struggle, though.
The story was quite simple. Bellman, as a boy, killed a rook with a catapult while his three friends watched. Bellman later became a very successful businessman, a family-owned mill and a stranger inspired funeral business called Bellman and Black. On the personal side he suffered through lots of deaths of family and friends. The deaths may or may not have something to do with his killing of the rook. He became a bit detached from his human side, ignoring friends and family. Then he died, which, similarly, may or may not has anything to do with the killing of the rook.
I could tell Diane Setterfield spent a great deal of time doing research for this book. Her descriptions and facts of rooks, mills and the funeral business were all spectacular and informative. Although most readers enjoy more plot-driven books, I truly love reading books that also implemented real facts of certain subjects, especially places, customs and history, as long as the facts contribute to the understanding of the story. Case in point: Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and Diane Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. Although Setterfield wrote extensively about running the business of a mill and a funeral home, and included lots of facts about rooks, and weak plot and character makes these facts overbearing and a waste of time. Her prose was brilliant, as usual. She’s an expert in using the right phrases and arranging her words for the right effect. Her usage of English is excellent and her descriptions evocative. Sometimes orotund and overly wordy in a lifeless way:
“Far from it. The rook is no theatrical conjuror with his top hat full of tricks, deluding your eye into perceiving what is not. He is quite the opposite: a magician of the real. Ask your eyes, What color is light? They cannot tell you. But a rook can. He captures the light, splits it, absorbs some and radiates the rest in a delightful demonstration of optics, showing you the truth about light that your own poor eyes cannot see.”
After reading the above paragraph, one would wonder: are colors and the rook’s perception of colors important to the story? NO.
“His cry is harsh and grating, made for a more ancient world that existed before the innovation of the pipe, the lute and the viol. Before music was invented he was taught to sing by the planet itself. He mimicked the great rumble of the sea, the fearsome eruption of the volcanoes, the creaking of glaciers, and the geological groaning as the world split apart in its agony and remade itself.”
Lots of passages like the above two, plus pages and pages of words describing Bellman running his day-to-day businesses. Prose did not help the story’s lack of luster in this case.
Unless you intend to buy the book to read how beautiful her words are and you are okay without feeling a bit of resonance in your heart for the characters or their situation; or you are one of those more elite readers, skip this and read her first book, The Thirteenth Tale, instead.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance reading copy.(less)
There will definitely no book 3 or 4 in my future... Sometimes one needs to trust their own instincts, and shouldn't be forced into reading a book jus...moreThere will definitely no book 3 or 4 in my future... Sometimes one needs to trust their own instincts, and shouldn't be forced into reading a book just because an attractive movie trailer!(less)
This book could have been so much more...with such an interesting plot, conflicted yet attractive characters and wonderful world building/setting (Sou...moreThis book could have been so much more...with such an interesting plot, conflicted yet attractive characters and wonderful world building/setting (South, Civil War vs. present day). I could see why a movie was made based on the above factors: forbidden love, characters torn between two worlds, mysterious families and past, unbelievable power that could used to do good, as well as bad...and a haunted mansion with an attractive owner... I loved how the main character was a love-sick boy, not a girl as in most other YA books.
Unfortunately, there are several factors that did not contribute to a good rating for the series:
1. The story drags on too much without smooth transitions from one part to another. The story could be told in less than two books, 4 are just too many.
2. The characters are not consistent in their actions and beliefs. It's hard to really know and cheer for them, except that they love each other, just like Edward and Bella from Twilight. (Did I mention how much the beginning and plot of this series reminded me of Twilight? By the way, I DID like Twilight, so I'm not one of those anti-paranormal fans) The first person thinking of a new twist is a genius, all others are just copycats.
3. There are so many opportunities to make the 2 main characters likable, yet the author(s) failed; probably neither of them is good in writing from her heart to begin with. Not to mention the collaboration, which may also hinder the smooth flow of the story. It also happened to most of the supporting characters, so I feel sad for the extremely great ones, as Macon and Amma, since they would go down, with the series.
4. Terrible and unpolished writing and grammar, weak descriptives and word choices.
“Just as I lay down, she sat up. I sat up, she flopped back down. Awkward. That was my every move, when it came to her.”
"There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave. I never even saw it coming."
"I knew what I was doing. You don't. You think you do, but you don't. She was in my head again, as it she'd always been there."
"Everything around me changed, and it was like I was somewhere else. I was in the garden, but not in the garden..."
I'm a serious note-taking and highlighter (with Kindle) when reading, and the only phrase I highlighted in this book was in the beginning: "There were only two kinds of people in our town. The stupid and the stuck." After reading the first two books of the series (and skimping through the third and the fourth), I seriously think a third person wrote that quote...
5. People can die and be revived as the authors pleased; as well as the characters gaining and losing their power(s). Anything goes. This is the main killer for me. This predicted the forever dragging on of the plot.
I wish some wonderful YA authors, like Roth, Taylor, or Oliver could take this series and rewrite the books so not to waste the characters and the setting. (less)
Every so often, a book comes along. It’s everything you imagine a great fiction to be. It evokes the tremendous joy of just being able to read, to imm...moreEvery so often, a book comes along. It’s everything you imagine a great fiction to be. It evokes the tremendous joy of just being able to read, to immerse yourself in a book so fully, to jump into a journey where every sense in your body is heightened, and your mind stimulated. Then the last page is turned, you sigh with sadness since you know you will not be able to find another book like this for a long, long time.
Shadow of Night is such a book.
I wrote these in my review of the first book of the trilogy:
“The author has in depth knowledge not only about history, but also science, architecture, Europe, culinary delights and wine… The book immediately reminded me of "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova, since both story took me to places in Europe that I've never been and historical periods that were so enlightening…..The story will be a delight for people who actually enjoy accurate scientific, historical, culinary and geographical information. The author has a wealth of knowledge and a unique style of writing and she's willing to share.”
The review still rings true for the second installment, and more so. For readers who disliked the first installment of the series due to the slowness of the beginning, you’ll be delighted to hear that this book started right at the part where the first book dropped off, and is a thrill ride all the way to the end. You can also find satisfactory answers to most, if not all the burning questions that you had after reading A Discovery of Witches. I know it’s a gruesome wait for the second book in the series, but the wait is well worth it…this book surpassed everything I had imagined it to be.
The story begins right where the first book left off, Matthew and Diana landed in Elizabethan England, 1590, hoping to find the enchanted Ashmole 782, as well as someone to help the spellbound Diana to learn her abilities. You’ll be surprised to encounter real historical characters that came alive under Harkness’ pen. Harkness’ take on Christopher Marlowe, Elizabeth I, Walter Raleigh and others were unique and creative, yet totally believable. I wrote in my review of ADoW how I fell in love with all the characters in the first book, yet I’m equally invested in all the new characters in Shadow of Night, both historical and fictional. It’s heartbroken to realize that these characters live in another space and time, and the only way I could reconnect with them is through the re-reading of this book.
If you loved A Discovery of Witches because of Harkness’ extensive and detailed descriptions of everything, you’re in for another treat. Harkness bought Elizabethan England to life using her professional knowledge and her unique writing voice: fashion, writing, architecture, food, music, writing, cooking, art, jewelries, home decors, smell of spices, and even the sound of church bells…. Be prepared to be immersed into 1600 Europe, from England to France and Prague, whether if you’re prepared or not. I recommend you to drop or finish every other book in your list to get ready for the most sensual ride in your life.
I also love how Harkness incorporated a short chapter of the present after each part of the book. It shows how Diana and Matthew’s interference with the past affects the future. Everything that we do or not do has an impact in future, especially in our loved one and family’s life. Hopefully, history is valued and lessons learned. These chapters showed us how important it is to seize the moment and live your life, because there’s no going back. A few tender moments bought tears to my eyes. Compared to ADoW, the second book is much more emotional.
Romance. Matthew and Diana in the 1600s were not without their problems. Matthew in Elizabethan era was a much more complex and dark character. The society was also less friendly for females, especially a witch with a weird accent. However, fans looking forward to more romance between them will not be disappointed. There are lots and lots of tender moments and love. It made up for what was lacking in A Discovery of Witches.
If I write anymore here, this review will become a book! I do have a few recommendations before you jump in for the journey of your life: 1) Read A Discovery of Witches first. There’s no way you could understand the plot and all the complexity of this book if you don’t know the history of the characters. 2) Many new characters are introduced in this book. Use the appendix/Guide at the end of the book to familiar yourself with them. They are divided by location, quite clever. 3) If you are going to look for a simple, easy read for entertainment, this book is not for you; but if you love history, science, Europe, art, literature, geography, religion, philosophy, (food and wine for ADoW)…then, get this book (and the first).
(Thanks for Penguin Group for allowing me to access an advance ebook for review through NetGalley. This book will be published on July 10, 2012)(less)
My teen daughter recommended this book to me, knowing that I do not read every single popular YA book, especially ones that are being portrayed as "ju...moreMy teen daughter recommended this book to me, knowing that I do not read every single popular YA book, especially ones that are being portrayed as "just like The Hunger Games" or "If you like Twilight, you would like this..." I find most YA fantasies lack originality and am sick of love triangles among vampires, wolves, witches and humans... The plain looking book cover did not help convincing me, either. I can't help wondering, after reading the book, how the blue on the cover should have been Karou's hair, not her mask. However, daughter said this book is comparable to Delirium, with equally poignant and lyrical writing. She knows I'm a sucker for those beautiful narratives and couldn't resist. I couldn't.
This book is a breath of fresh air among all the other fantasy and paranormal YAs. Yes, there's an angel and a demon, but the story idea is fresh, original and creative. The conversations and writings are thought-provoking and worth pondering long after reading.
The story begins when we encounter Karou, an art student in the midst of breaking up with her worthless boyfriend. We soon realize that she leads a double life, collecting all kinds of teeth for her adoptive Father, Brimstone, in his magical shop in the middle of nowhere. We also realize that Karou speaks many different languages, is trained in martial arts and weapons. The door of Brimstone shop could lead her to anywhere in the world, and that's how she travels for her trade. A bit later, we also learn that teeth are for granting wishes. However, Brimstone made it a point not to tell Karou anything about his trade and what he uses the teeth for.
"Well, what do you use them for?" "Nothing, I do not wish." "Never? But you could have anything you wanted--" "Not anything. There are things bigger than any wish." "Like what?" "Most things that matter."
Karou has no idea who she is and always has a feeling that she's not whole. She looks 100% human, while Brimstone and his other helpers have animal parts and they are the only family she has...then, entered Akiva. Akiva is an angel,physically perfect and attractive, who came to destroy all the portals to Brimstone's shop, since Angels and Demons have always been at war...Akiva notices familiarity in Karou and Karou is immediately attracted to him. But why?? This book is about love and hope...and did I mention the story takes place in Prague?
"I hope, child, but I don't wish. There's a difference. Because hope comes from in you, and wishes are just magic. Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes it's own magic."
Another dystopian YA novel recommended by daughter, after Delirium, The Hunger Games, Matched and Divergent...
Like all other YA dystopian novels writt...moreAnother dystopian YA novel recommended by daughter, after Delirium, The Hunger Games, Matched and Divergent...
Like all other YA dystopian novels written by the young and hip set, the story is told in the present sense. The chapters alternate between the voices of June (an elite, top-of-the-line military officer of the Republic) and Day (the most notorious criminal from the poor district). The story takes place in the near future in LA, where US has become a communist-like "Republic", and plague outbreaks are everywhere. The Republic is also fighting its neighboring states, "The Colonies", although very little is said about the colonies in this book. All children are giving a physical, oral and written trial/exam at 10. The passing ones will be sent to high school, college, then work in the government. The failed ones are supposedly sent to labor camp, but...
It's hard to write reviews for YA dystopias, since there are so many similar stories out with the same formula and format, but I think this one has one of the well-developed plots of all. I was captivated from the very beginning, and had to stay up late to finish it. The author was quite good in building suspense and grabbing attention with twists, turns, actions and revelations. The story is very well-constructed.
Now...the weaknesses: I think the romance is quite predictable and it also progresses a bit too quickly in the story, which lessens the intenseness that we see between lovers in other similar YA dystopias. June and Day are also a bit alike in a way - smart, tough, lonely, fast, strong, observant and quick in decision-making. I sometimes had a hard time telling them apart reading each new chapter, since they also narrated alike. Luckily the books used different fonts for each of them, maybe for a reason?
All in all, I think this book is worth reading, especially for fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games. It's a wonderful thrill-ride. I'll be waiting for the second book. (less)