This is such an odd, lovely little book. The usual magic and mystery at a boarding school, a most unfortunately named heroine,I like cat-smiles. <3
This is such an odd, lovely little book. The usual magic and mystery at a boarding school, a most unfortunately named heroine, a romance that creeps steadily up on you, and incredibly strange, touching bird/cat POVs! None of it should work, and yet it does. The pacing was a bit uneven, and at times I wished for a bit more from certain scenes, but overall, a really wonderful debut. You might like this if you enjoyed Blythewood.
Kim's review is the one that persuaded me to read this: http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2014... with her promises of wish-granting feral space cats, and being that she's the one who got me to the only two books that have made me cry this year, I was right to trust her with this one.
Creepy, complex, genuinely frightening, thrilling, sad, and unbelievably tender and hushed and beautiful all at once. This is a dark, violent fairy taCreepy, complex, genuinely frightening, thrilling, sad, and unbelievably tender and hushed and beautiful all at once. This is a dark, violent fairy tale, it's a mystery, it's a fantasy, it's horror, it's historical, it's gothic, and it's also the story of a girl trying to find a place for herself among a grieving family torn apart by war. The family dynamics and sister relationship are so well done, as are the way the book handles loss and longing. And on top of that? Feminism and jazz and tea shops and plates and plates of cake! (view spoiler)[Not to mention shrieking dolls, shudder-inducing but poignant consumption of various things, and a fantastic play on the fears of parents re: changelings. (hide spoiler)]
I haven't read a middle grade book with this much nuance and wild imagination and feeling since The Golden Compass--and I'm betting those who liked Coraline or the original Grimm's fairy tales will like this. I was thrilled by the intense creepiness and dread of the mystery behind Triss' illness, I was outraged by what she has to endure, and I teared up over what was to become of her. Best read knowing as little about the plot as possible--just enjoy the wonderfully descriptive writing, the perfectly paced plot, and the experience of not knowing where the story will go next.
Love love love love love. And now I have to read everything else Frances Hardinge has ever written.
4.5 stars This gorgeous, poignant retelling of The Phantom of the Opera has shudder-inducing moments, wistful romance, and protagonists who care deepl4.5 stars This gorgeous, poignant retelling of The Phantom of the Opera has shudder-inducing moments, wistful romance, and protagonists who care deeply about things other than themselves. AND diverse characters and class division and the most beautiful cover I've seen yet this year.
Recommended for fans of Cruel Beauty, The Winner's Curse, and other such dreamy but serious stories featuring forbidden love and atypical YA heroines.
I was fully prepared to love this book, but alas, I ended up with more of a mild liking instead. The idea of the Bluebeard fairy tale retold tugged atI was fully prepared to love this book, but alas, I ended up with more of a mild liking instead. The idea of the Bluebeard fairy tale retold tugged at my imagination, and it's true that the writing is quite lovely in parts, as well as a bit startling in others once the story finally got going in the second half.
But overall, I was disappointed to find that this ended up being a more gentle fairy tale than I would have liked. The dark story of Bluebeard is full of seductive promise, danger, and horror, and this particular iteration only glanced on more serious, weighty themes before quickly shying away from them. The author's guest post for us makes it clear that she seems to prefer happy endings, and in the end it just comes down to what you enjoy as a reader--and I personally prefer my tales of seduction to be a bit more toothsome. If you'd like to try out a more ravishing and sinister Bluebeard retelling, I'd recommend The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter.
Note: While I like the southern gothic setting, I was a bit troubled by a strange subplot involving the Underground Railroad. The Book Smugglers address that in depth here.
2.5 stars The fantastic premise behind this book sadly does not deliver on its promise.
16-year-old Sarah Trevalyn, a young girl in Victorian England,2.5 stars The fantastic premise behind this book sadly does not deliver on its promise.
16-year-old Sarah Trevalyn, a young girl in Victorian England, strikes an unthinkable bargain with a mysterious stranger named Azrael: one hundred years of wealth and property in exchange for her everlasting soul. Years later, she gets involved when a boy named Tom begins a journey down the same path.
What I liked:
-- The basic outline for this story is fascinating.
I adore Victorian England, gothics, and stories that touch on class or identity, so I was naturally inclined to like this book. But reading it soon became a rather frustrating experience.
What I Didn't Like:
-- Far too many shortcuts are taken with the writing, without enough care given to setting up a scenario or a character's frame of mind. At first, I tried to reason this away in considering whether the author meant to tell more of a fairy tale/bedtime story, but it quickly became very clear that this was simply a lack of logic, cohesion, and good storytelling. In one particularly memorable instance, a chapter ends normally, and the next one confusingly begins with "it's dark, my leg hurts," only for us to discover a few paragraphs in that Tom has been at the bottom of a pit for 3 days.
-- An extremely unlikeable heroine who doesn't really develop over the course of the book. I was willing to give Sarah a pass at first (even in the opening chapters when she briefly thinks about how powerful she might feel in administering physical punishment to one of her peers), but she never really changes. Her selfishness and lack of emotional connection to anyone or thing other than herself made it very difficult to care about what happened to her.
-- I fundamentally disagree with the conclusion of the story. (view spoiler)[If she's already had 116 years on this earth, why does she deserve any more? (hide spoiler)] I wasn't happy with the direction this went in, and I would have much preferred more noble actions on Sarah's part.
I don't mind so much that we don't get the answers to everything--and believe me, there are a hundred unanswered questions I could ask--but I do mind that the story we're given is so sketchily presented and that so many promising ideas are left unexplored. I am somewhat prone to complaining about the unnecessary length of many YA novels, but in this case, I felt as though half this story was missing!
I admit that I had middling feelings about the author's two previous fantasy novels, so I doubt I'll be trying out any more of her work; I always seem to love the ideas much more than the execution. But those who enjoyed Incarceron may well like this one far more than I did.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this 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"]>...more