4.5 stars Love love love love love. If you're a fan of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy or Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars series, you...more4.5 stars Love love love love love. If you're a fan of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy or Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars series, you need to get your hands on this one ASAP. It has the feel of a historical fantasy without slotting neatly into either category, as well as a pensive mood and very romantic story.
I was doubtful of the early raves, but I ended up loving The Winner's Curse. I know it's only January, but there's no doubt in my mind that this book is going to make my favorites list for the year. (less)
* Riveting beginning with fantastic scenes of horror * An uneven middle that I'd love to do all kinds of unholy surgery to, especially the over-emphas...more* Riveting beginning with fantastic scenes of horror * An uneven middle that I'd love to do all kinds of unholy surgery to, especially the over-emphasis on the uninteresting and rather tedious romance(s) * But saved by a great premise, awesomely freakish moments, solid writing, and a bang-up, untraditional ending.
3.5 stars I liked this one. It has an intriguing premise, it's set in Victorian London (which I love!), and it's overall very well-written. I would li...more3.5 stars I liked this one. It has an intriguing premise, it's set in Victorian London (which I love!), and it's overall very well-written. I would like to have seen a bit more of the supernatural elements as well as character development, however, and for some reason I was never really as drawn in by the romance or the sex as many of my fellow readers have been. Still, I *loved* the part when we finally find out the fascinating thing under Lord Archer's mask--if the story had concentrated more on that, which had so much potential, I would have been much more engaged. I'll be reading the next one to see what happens...fingers crossed for the paranormal stuff to take center stage!
Ah, steampunk libertines! Who'd have thought they'd be so appealing?
Books that are heavily influenced by classic stories are always tricky, particula...moreAh, steampunk libertines! Who'd have thought they'd be so appealing?
Books that are heavily influenced by classic stories are always tricky, particularly when it's as ambitious an undertaking as a story inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe classic. I loved the lavish setting and moodiness of the original story, so I had my doubts that anything could come close to capturing its crazy vibe. But somehow Bethany Griffin has managed to create a very similarly dark, extravagant feeling in her gothic adaptation, which is a surprisingly compelling read.
Seventeen-year-old Araby Worth lives in a world devastated by plague. Haunted by the death of her twin brother Finn, she and her friend April spend their nights attending opulent club parties, trying to lose themselves in pleasure so they can forget the what's going on around them. In this atmosphere of dissipation and discontent, she meets the reckless Elliott, the nephew of the mad Prince Prospero who controls the city, and Will, a boy who works at the Debauchery Club who is desperately trying to take care of his little brother and sister. Through her association with them, she is shaken out of her numb acceptance of the world she lives in, and learns that she just might hold the key to saving countless lives.
I fully admit that my overall liking for the book is fairly reliant upon the extravagant world that the author created, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when it's such an important part of adapting Poe. I was mesmerized by: the visuals of porcelain masks that protect the wealthy from the contamination which were invented by Araby's scientist father; disease-carrying bats; zeppelins in the sky; nights of debauchery; tattered velvet dresses; the threat of death by crocodile. I also liked the central story line involving a plan to steal blueprints for the masks so they might be distributed to the poor, and the romance had enough substance to keep me interested, too.
Things that should have driven me crazy but didn't: first person, present tense; a love triangle, mostly because it keeps you guessing for the most part and doesn't always go the expected route; recreational drug use, because it fits in with the story; modern slang mixed in with a historical-ish style; the vow Araby takes to avoid all pleasures that Finn will never get to experience. I do wish that we'd gotten a little further along in the central plot to undermine Prince Prospero, however, as well as in Araby's relationships with...well, everyone, since it seems as though there is a lot of buildup, and then the book ends just as things are really starting to get interesting. And I wish that the choice Araby makes towards the end was a little more meaningful (view spoiler)[since I was never really all that interested in April (hide spoiler)]. I think she's a girl who is just discovering who she is for the first time, however, so I don't mind that we don't really know her all that well yet. She shows the promise of being a strong, take-action sort of heroine, and I'm hoping that we'll see her character, as well as everyone else's, further developed in the sequel.
I really liked Masque of the Red Death (much more than I enjoyed Nevermore, by the way) and I'm dying to see what happens next. Readers who don't mind a slower, more literary style will like this book, and I think most Poe fans will be happy with it, too. The story pays homage to the original story but doesn't adhere to it too slavishly, instead expanding on the world and imagining what would happen if it were a teenage girl that was caught up in the baroque madness. This strange mix of dystopian-steampunk-gothic-romance works really well here, in no small part because the author does such a beautiful job in creating a decadent, imaginative world for the characters--and us--to lose ourselves in.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Inspiration Behind the Story
If you aren't familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, by the way, it's a masterpiece in drama, tension, and symbolism. Read the story online and compare it to this one--I think it actually makes you appreciate what Bethany Griffin did even more.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I hardly ever read straightforward fantasy, but every once in awhile a book comes along that blows right past all my usual objections to become a new...moreI hardly ever read straightforward fantasy, but every once in awhile a book comes along that blows right past all my usual objections to become a new favorite. As gently but strongly as a wisp of incense, Eon beckoned until I was completely in the thrall of its magic, and I hate to think how sad my life would be if didn't have this vividly imaginative novel in it.
For years, 16-year-old Eon has been training to be a Dragoneye apprentice, a coveted position in which the student serves as the conduit between energy dragons and the human world. Eon's whole way of life is cloaked in secrecy and danger, however, because Eon is actually Eona--a girl forced by necessity to live her life as a boy. If her secret were discovered, her life would be danger, as well as the lives of those around her. To make impossible odds even more impossible, Eona is also crippled, so the deck is very much stacked against her. But on the day the apprentices are chosen, it is revealed that Eona has the unusual ability of seeing all the energy dragons, not just one--and she is chosen by the powerful Mirror Dragon, a being that has not been seen in hundreds of years.
There are gorgeous dragons and epic sword battles, all against the backdrop of an incredible setting that takes its influences from a blend of Japanese and Chinese cultures, but is still a unique world of its own. I really like the idea of stories with girls disguised as boys, and though the concept is certainly nothing new, it's definitely not something we see too much in young adult literature. What makes this an exceptional book is the intricate tapestry of characters and themes that are deftly woven together, as well richly textured and evocative writing. You can practically hear the whisper of heavy silk robes and see the glow of majestic dragons as you read this book, and every night when I closed my eyes, I kept thinking about the creak of wooden wagons and the clang of swords that I'd read about that day.
You are wrong when you say there is no power in being a woman. When I think of my mother and the women in my tribe, and the hidden women in the harem, I know there are many types of power in this world...I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way.
For me, the book's greatest strength is its depiction of gender and the roles that women play in a parochial society. This is definitely a novel for mature young adult fans because of the situations and themes explored with transgendered characters, eunuchs, forced intimacy, and physical assault. I found it fascinating that the author chose to write a book focusing on a world where power is forbidden to women, and my favorite character was the indelible Lady Dela, Eona's "contraire" mentor who is a man living as a woman...who is in love with a noble eunuch. I mean, really! Who could fail to be intrigued by such a scenario? And who could fail to admire the gutsiness of a YA author in exploring such impossible loves?
The book is by no means perfect, however. Eon has a problem connecting with her dragon, and as soon as the problem was presented, I knew immediately--as I suspect most readers will--what the issue was. So it was frustrating to watch her further sabotage herself for several hundred pages before she finally realizes what the solution is near the end. (view spoiler)[Just say no, Eona! (hide spoiler)] I also wasn't crazy about the fact that one of the most interesting things about Eona's character is just...negated, in a very fairy tale sort of way when (view spoiler)[Eona's lameness is suddenly and conveniently cured in the climax of the story. (hide spoiler)] I mourned the loss of that trait, because it unnecessarily removes an obstacle she had already proven she was able to overcome.
As frustrating as the novel occasionally became--and it is admittedly very slow in the middle--I really, really liked this one. It's so uncommon to find a book with such an engaging fantasy story and an intriguing heroine, let alone one that also seamlessly blends magic, a historical feel, and thought-provoking themes. And the fact that this also happens to be a YA novel means that it's a very rare animal indeed. I'd strongly recommend picking up Eon if you find the synopsis even remotely appealing; I think most readers will be just as enthralled as I was.
Believe it or not, as much as I liked Eon, I loved the sequel Eona! And yes, yes, I will attempt to put my thoughts down on paper at some point. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
3.5 stars Recommended, although with some strong reservations. The story gets pretty convoluted as it progresses, and the book would have been much st...more3.5 stars Recommended, although with some strong reservations. The story gets pretty convoluted as it progresses, and the book would have been much stronger if many elements and just about all the characters were further developed. I'm also a bit turned off by the numerous occasions when a young teenager was witness to some pretty squicky adult situations, although they were admittedly non-graphic in nature.
An entertaining gothic tale in the tradition of Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt (for mature YA readers only), but I dearly wish the story had been more cleanly plotted and was more emotionally satisfying.(less)
I never go into historical romances expecting very much, so it's always a pleasant surprise when one is well-written and engaging enough to hold my at...moreI never go into historical romances expecting very much, so it's always a pleasant surprise when one is well-written and engaging enough to hold my attention. I liked the premise of this book, which follows Lady Susannah, a woman makes her living as a professional unmatchmaker for men with unsuitable love interests. She's hampered in her quest to break up the current couple that is her job, however, because one man is standing in her way--James Devlin, her husband.
The beginning of the book is a little typical with angry words on both sides, but eventually the relationship between them became much more interesting. There is undeniable spark between the two which results in some reckless romps in carriages and in dark gardens, and there's the nice backdrop of Regency London to enjoy as well. What made this book a notch above other historical romances, however, is that soon after they meet again, Dev's attraction to the woman he believes to be his ex-wife deepens into sweet tenderness and caring--it's always nice when authors write men who aren't afraid to show their emotions. I grew to like both Dev and Susannah a lot, and I liked them both together as a couple.
There are definitely some things that muddle the plot a bit too much, including the reason they separated to begin with and subplots involving a pair of twins. Still, this is a lighthearted, fun read that is recommended for anyone who enjoys historical romances.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.(less)