I cannot believe in all these years of reading this book, I completely overlooked the queer subtext. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? The things I learn from ouI cannot believe in all these years of reading this book, I completely overlooked the queer subtext. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? The things I learn from our classics readalongs! Also, one of our blog friends mentioned it's possible Harriet may be on the autism spectrum. One of those cases where discussing a book makes you look at something you love in a whole new light.
Not many books start out with the heroine getting shot in the chest with a flying arrow. Fortunately, Tevra is wearing chain mail and astride her horsNot many books start out with the heroine getting shot in the chest with a flying arrow. Fortunately, Tevra is wearing chain mail and astride her horse, however, so she doesn't even bat an eye. She merely pulls out her sword, narrowly avoids the keening magical orb pursuing her, and rendezvous with the men under her command. The king himself has charged her with ending the corruption in the Forest Province, and as the youngest Colonel in the Light Cavalry, she takes her extraordinarily powerful role as the king's viceroy quite seriously.
I rarely traditional fantasies because I often don't have the patience to learn all the new customs and names--and so many fantasy books seem so focused on the world building that an engaging story sometimes falls by the wayside. Not so in this book, however! We are thrown into the action as soon as the story begins, and we are quickly caught up on the issues at stake. For a short book in which sword battles, politics, romance, and magic play nearly equal roles, it is exceptionally well-paced, entertaining, and accessible, whilst pleasing most fans of high fantasy, adventure, and romance.
Tevra is an unforgettable heroine, one who imperiously commands war-scarred men and dispatches corruption with ease, but who is also capable of expressing herself subtly with a cool lift of her brow or a gracious tilt of her head. The author has created in Tevra a sympathetic protagonist who is believably authoritative, but whose inner dialogue also shows a more vulnerable, emotional side that is immensely appealing. In the middle of the sensitive political issues she must deal with, Tevra is also struggling with an unwanted attraction to the Forest King, and her tingly encounters with this man made me clutch the book a little more tightly more than once. Complicating matters is the headstrong young Hetwith, who has been at her side for more than a decade and whose strengths and weaknesses somehow seem a perfect match to complement her own.
Written with brisk economy that still manages to convey a great deal of expressiveness and emotion, Tevra's story excited me and moved me in ways that I didn't expect. It is thrilling to witness her decisiveness and determination in the heat of battle (the woman takes a harpoon through her side at one point!), it is unbearably sad to hear about her past as an Unchosen maid, and it is scandalously pleasing to see her discover her feminine side for the first time. It's always tricky with first person narrative to make the reader cognizant of clues that the main character herself may not necessarily be aware of, but somehow the author managed to do that here. I also loved the cheerful humor and witty language with which nearly every scene was met--I don't think I've ever chuckled so much in a fantasy adventure.
While it's true that you might predict some of the plot lines or you may guess some of the secrets that Tevra keeps hidden even from herself, it really doesn't matter. This book fulfills every demand you would want from a story like this--and it does so with style, playfulness, and latent emotion. I couldn't have loved it more.
Spread the Love
If you ever wonder about whether word of mouth is influential, by the way, this book is another great example of how readers discover and share hidden gems. Gail Carriger chose a moment from this book as her favorite romantic scene on my blog for her guest post. Since I started reading it, more than 100 people have shelved this book and I know a number of friends have purchased it (along with a few of the author's other titles) as well. Taming the Forest King is sadly out of print, but you can easily obtain a copy through secondhand bookstores or online through Amazon, Half.com, Alibris, etc. Good luck! It's well worth the $5 or so you'll spend....more
I am very fond of extraordinarily handsome rats. <3 Even better than I remembered, and now I have to read the sequel to find out what happened to eI am very fond of extraordinarily handsome rats. <3 Even better than I remembered, and now I have to read the sequel to find out what happened to everybody.
Reread for our monthly classics readalong--discussion on the blog this Friday!...more
Currently free for Kindle in the U.S. and Andrea says it's also free on B&N, Smashie, Amazon UK, etc., too. Grab before it's gone.
3.5 stars Love lCurrently free for Kindle in the U.S. and Andrea says it's also free on B&N, Smashie, Amazon UK, etc., too. Grab before it's gone.
3.5 stars Love love loved the beginning survivalist part! And the worldbuilding was incredible, though I think some of the humor I liked so much, as well as the characterization, got a bit lost in the last half.
And I highly recommend it for all little girls, and for reading with little girls. Or reading with anyone who might've yearned to be a fairy princess. (view spoiler)[BUT NOT IN THAT ICKY PEPTO BISMOL-PINK TUTU + CHEAP SILVER PLASTIC CROWN KIND OF WAY. (hide spoiler)]
We did a classic readalong every month on the blog for two years, but I've moved it here to GoodReads to make things easier. You can start your own readalongs if you like, and we'll also do occasional bookish swaps and such, too! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
2.5 stars My feelings on Under the Never Sky are fair to middling. Overall, it had a lot of potential, but unfortunately, I had a hard time staying in2.5 stars My feelings on Under the Never Sky are fair to middling. Overall, it had a lot of potential, but unfortunately, I had a hard time staying interested in the story and invested in the characters. The book is one of many recent dystopian-lite novels that have been cropping up in the YA market recently, and while I don't always mind books that are less focused on the world-building as long as something else is done well, neither the characters nor the plot were so outstanding here that they could keep me fully engaged. My partner also bailed about halfway through our readalong, if that counts for anything.
Here's what I liked about the book:
--The overall concept --Occasional humor in the writing --Interesting shorthand for words, which makes sense in a futuristic society: "champ," "rancy," "wrathy" are all great examples of the way language might evolve or devolve, depending on how you look at it --cool "Smarteye" technology --a couple of interesting action sequences (view spoiler)[including a decapitation! (hide spoiler)]
Here's what I didn't care for:
--The girl is much too trusting and had to be rescued over and over, to the point that you want to scream at her. She also isn't all that compelling of a protagonist, and is also occasionally very rude and rather ungrateful. --The names. Aria (GUESS WHAT SHE DOES), Paisley, Lumina, Aria, Echo, Peregrine (view spoiler)[I'm rather ashamed to say that I was glad when Paisley bit it, because I was so happy I didn't have to read her name anymore. (hide spoiler)] --Interchangeable secondary characters --Weird things that are mentioned in passing but never really explained. Soren's underwater birthday party, no stains, not getting hurt in the Realms' virtual reality type situation, blood lords, the Tides' superhuman senses, etc. --Rather uninspired "she did this, he did that" type of writing. Everything is explained as an afterthought and random snippets suddenly dropped, there’s no gradual lead in for it in the narrative. --Some writing choices that didn't quite work as well as the examples in the "like" section, such as "“sweaty seaweed" or “his nephew’s temper had grown dark and damp.” Those just don't make sense to me. There were also some awkward sentences, such as "Perry woke sweated to his clothes." --What is with all the birdish names? Peregrine, Talon, Lumina (which is a type of falcon), etc?
I came away from Under the Never Sky feeling rather aggressively indifferent to it. There were moments when the book was fairly entertaining and there were moments when I was extremely bored, so it worked out to be a pretty uneven reading experience. My partner and I really spent most of the time during the two weeks of our readalong asking questions, however. "What the HELL is aether? How is he doing this? I don't get it!" and so on and so forth, because so many things were introduced and then dropped and never explained. And even if we got answers, they didn't really provide lightbulb moments so much as a grudging concession that an attempt was made to explain something.
Overall, this book felt similar to me to Blood Red Road, Divergent, and Legend, in that they are all very much action-oriented stories. But the difference is, those books had much stronger and more memorable characters, who took initiative and made things happen. Those novels were also, for all their admitted flaws, just plain fun. For me, that element was sorely lacking in this story and I was disappointed to find that I wasn't nearly as excited about this book as many of my friends have been--and that's saying something for a book where there are cannibals.
But look! I snapped this Under the Never Sky moment at the beach in January. I do like the title quite a bit, even if I still have no idea what it means.
Random Side Notes:
There is NO WAY that what Perry thinks smells like violets actually smells like violets, no matter how advanced our society becomes. Also, I wish my skin were as velvety as a mushroom.
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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It all starts with a cataclysmic electromagnetic impulse. Dead birds fall from the sky. Deer run off a cliff, maddened for unknown reasons. And peopleIt all starts with a cataclysmic electromagnetic impulse. Dead birds fall from the sky. Deer run off a cliff, maddened for unknown reasons. And people drop dead instantaneously and inexplicably--or they are miraculously, irrevocably changed, some for the better, and some for the worse.
The first half of this book is a phenomenal. 17-year-old Alex is transformed by the big event in ways that she can't understand. She is saddled with an angry 8-year-old and an attractive ex-Army guy who's hiding secrets, and they all must find safety and shelter from the other survivors who are no longer...human. The prologue is well-written and compelling, and I was drawn to the bleak, lonely mood and stark setting right from the very beginning. I liked the strong but fragile Alex, and I was thoroughly engrossed by the incredible suspense and visceral, shudder-inducing scenes that will be forever seared into my memory.
But literally halfway through the book, something really odd happens. During a tense standoff with a band of vicious kidnappers, one of the three people in Alex's group is shot. This cliffhanger ends one chapter and when the next one begins, the story takes up three days later. WHAT? (view spoiler)[TF?? (hide spoiler)] Talk about leaving your readers high and dry! From that point on, things stop making any kind of sense at all. The story changes tone completely, there is a whole new cast of characters, the story is poorly plotted, the writing became disjointed, and every single element I liked about the first half of the book was completely abandoned. Alex herself suddenly seems like she's just stumbling from one random encounter to the next, and by the time it all ended with a somewhat interesting but predictable cliffhanger, I was ready to abandon them all to whatever horrible munchy fate might befall them.
It is such a shock to go from loving a book and then to being completely annoyed with it, so I had no idea what to do about rating this one. The first half of this book is literally a 5 star read for me (and I don't give 5 stars that often), but the second half is maybe a 1.5. It's as if the second portion was written by a completely different person! What a disappointment.
I really wish that these problems had been fixed in the outlining stage, but certainly they should have been sorted out by the time the manuscript made it through several drafts and edits and rewrites. I really regret the wasted potential of the amazing first 240 pages, as well as fantastic premise. I don't know if I'll ever recover from the abrupt downhill hurtle that this book plunged down; I finished this novel 5 days ago and I'm still mad at it.
First 240 pages: 5 stars + Second 240 pages: 1.5 stars ÷ incredible disappointment = lackluster 3 stars.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more