A Wounded Name is a debut novel by Dot Hutchison releasing this September. The book is a contemporary retelling of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. I'm g...more
A Wounded Name is a debut novel by Dot Hutchison releasing this September. The book is a contemporary retelling of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. I'm going to presume that many of you know the original story so I will not completely rehash it. I prefer instead to talk about Hutchison's brilliant take on it. The book is told in first person from Ophelia's point of view as she shares the events leading up to the tragic end of the Prince of Denmark. It is a title that I expect to hear more about, particularly since the early responses have been so favorable. I'm not even going to tease on this one - I loved it... every word. I thought it was fantastic.
This book... wow... this book.
Ophelia Castellan has always feared that she would succumb to her dead Mother's legacy, a grim future of madness and promiscuity. The fears are not isolated to her alone. Her Father, Polonius, and older brother, Laertes, maintain an ever-watchful vigilance over both Ophelia's virtue and sanity. But they never factored Hamlet Danemark VI, known as Dane to his friends, into the equation.
Dane's father, the head of the illustrious Elsinore Academy, has died suddenly. This sends Elsinore into an uproar, but none are as shattered as Dane. Dane is stricken by this and in his grief he turns to Ophelia for comfort. This single act sets off a series of events that will draw them both to the brink of madness and beyond, particularly when Dane comes to learn that his father's death may have been prevented.
I was immediately drawn into the world that Hutchison was painstakingly recreating. Within a page I knew that I was going to like her style. Her writing is solid, beautiful, and rife with deliciously quotable passages. Her use of metaphor and word-play is perfect. I found myself rereading lines and sharing them aloud to others amazed that this was her first novel. The level of craftsmanship that went into this is unbelievable. It's obvious that this book has been a labour of love for her. It shows with every nuance in characterization, with the attention to thematic elements, and, most importantly, in the wild, runaway chemistry between Ophelia and Dane.
Here Ophelia is gorgeously rendered; the dynamic woman of myth and fantasy that Shakespeare only hinted at. Hutchison gives her so many new levels - she's troubled, she's sneaky, she's loyal and she's kind. She's also devoted and strong and weak and knows her limitations. She is the heart and soul of the play and in this book she finally gets the spotlight that she has deserved for the last four centuries. One feels every emotion as if they were there with her, holding her hand and spurning her into the water yourself. My heart broke repeatedly for her with every foreshadowed allusion to her end and then broke again... and again... and again.
There's a chaotic beauty to her relationship with Dane. Dane himself is a masterpiece of characterization, a wondrous glitch. Dane is the kind of man that a reader sympathizes with despite his obvious and distasteful flaws. Dane is self-absorbed, he's singularly minded, and he's manipulative without realizing that he is. He's the ultimate user and Ophelia is merely the drug that he abuses... and abuses her he does, both mentally and physically. There are some haunting, brutal, painful scenes in this book. And yet the reader forgives him just as Ophelia does, accepts that he has his problems, and let's him get away with his callous whims. It's not that he's a particularly good boyfriend or anything, far from it. He's gets away with murder... until he doesn't. And he drags Ophelia along for the ride, every tragic turn of it.
This is the love story that I love to read; a doomed one. I'm a sucker for torturous beauty and impossibilities when it comes to romantic plot lines. To me there is no better romantic ending than two lovers who don't live happily ever after. This play has always fulfilled that element for me in multiple ways. Hutchison's execution of this tragedy goes beyond my expectations. I gritted my teeth for the entire book but my lips were still smiling. It's such a rough ride but it's worth every heart-wrenching, aching second. I'm not sure who Hutchison was writing this book for but I swear she was directing it at my kind. I'm so in love with her words.
I encourage fans of Laini Taylor, April Lindner, and Tessa Gratton to go immediately and pre-order this book. I think you won't be disappointed. This is a definite favourite of the year. It's going on my shelves and never leaving them.
The Madness Underneath was a confusing read for me. It was one of those books where I hated it one second and then passionately loved it the next. I w...more
The Madness Underneath was a confusing read for me. It was one of those books where I hated it one second and then passionately loved it the next. I wasn't sure what was going to happen next or where it was going... but I knew what I wanted from it, where I wanted to see it head. In the end my desires were met in spades.
But the ending... wow, the ending. It's worth it to read this book just for that ending.
* Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not read The Name of the Star *
The Ripper murders changed Rory Devereaux in unimaginable ways. Traumatized and wounded she has been changed into something new, a human Terminus that can exterminate ghosts with a touch. This new found ability does nothing for her at Bristol, where she is recovering away from the stresses of Wexford. When her therapist encourages her to return to her normal routine she leaves for school. However, school is the last thing on Rory's mind. Her concentration is at an all time low and she finds herself barely caring about anything - her grades, her friends, even her boyfriend. Everything is different now and Rory has to learn to work within this new paradigm.
Like I said, the read was up and down for me for most of the book. Having finished it though I can firmly say that this was intended on Maureen Johnson's part. The roller coaster effect of the narrative sharpens the ending. And the ending makes sense of the peaks and valleys. I immediately forgot any misgivings I might have had earlier in the read.
And how does Johnson succeed so well in this book? Very simply, she gave me exactly what I wanted with the ending... and then she took it away. Which is amazing and infuriating of her. That said... I'm impatient to read the third book in the series now, probably more so than any series I can recall just now. And that is stunning considering I was fully prepared to not like this book at all. It's amazing what good writing can do to change your mind... and a good plot twist. Scratch that... a GREAT plot twist.
I will say this, Johnson really nailed the scope of emotions that a human dealing with trauma. As Rory goes through this book we see various coping mechanisms employed to deal with her own levels of sorrow. She experiences guilt, horror, shock, grief... so many things. It's wonderful to go on this journey with her, to see how the events have changed her and what they are shaping her into. I enjoyed that she didn't immediately rise to the occasion. Rory resists her fate, she denies it. I found this refreshing and diverting from most plot lines where a character is suddenly special and unique because they are the only person able to perform a specific task. Rory doesn't just roll over and accept. Rory hides. Rory cowers. And Rory riles. And I was fine with this. This too made the ending that much more powerful. Rory doesn't have a choice now. She has to act.
... and now we wait for book three... while book two isn't even out yet. Bugger.
Dance of Shadows is a relatively new Young Adult book by Yelena Black. It's been up and down in reviews since ARCs began circulating last year. I fina...more Dance of Shadows is a relatively new Young Adult book by Yelena Black. It's been up and down in reviews since ARCs began circulating last year. I finally got around to cracking mine today and it's officially a did-not-finish for me. This book did nothing for me. It's awful.
Vanessa is 15 and a new student at a prestigious ballet school in New York. She is there with a motive, to discover what happened to her sister, Margaret, who disappeared the year before. Vanessa quickly falls into a friendship with a few of the dancers but there is something dark happening at the school, and Vanessa suspects that her sister was a part of it.
There are a couple of things that are really apparent from this book from the beginning. The first is that it's not a well written book. Black's transitions from the end of a chapter to the beginning of the next are clunky and jerky. Her prose doesn't flow very well in general. She says several really awkward things throughout the book. The second is that I had a sense that I've seen this story before. Comparisons to Black Swan are going to be inevitable for this book, especially considering the ballet content, but it's more than that. Dance of Shadows exhibits every cliched trope that can be found in the Young Adult Paranormal genre to date - young impressionable girl out of her element, insta-friendship with a cast of misfits, insta-attraction/love with not one but two possible suitors, domineering adult figure, a mysterious set of circumstances, a hint of something supernatural... the list goes on and on. I found myself rolling my eyes so many times in the first hundred pages I'm surprised I didn't give myself a headache. Cliches can be done very well, but not with the coupling of bad writing. It stacks one travesty upon another.
Another weird thing is this blurb that once existed on Goodreads for this book and no longer does:
"Curtains up on a deliciously dark new YA trilogy from the creators of Lauren Kate’s Fallen."
Just a thought - What does "from the creators of Lauren Kate's Fallen" even mean? Does that mean that THIS is written by Lauren Kate under a pseudonym OR that the Fallen series was a conglomerate corporate book series written by a bunch of writers like the newer LJ Smith Vampire Diaries? If that is the case maybe that explains why the Fallen books were never something I got into, and perhaps explains the poor writing in this book. I suspect that this book was dreamed up by a marketing team who hired Yelena Black to write this book. I know that this happens more than we suspect, particularly with the explosion of books in the Young Adult market in the last five years. However, that doesn't make it right, particularly when the output is so terrible. It could very well explain the numerous cliches in the book. If you have a brainstorming meeting between a number of minds it could end in, well... this. And no amount of good writing can save a dodgy idea.
To put it mildly this is not a good enough book to keep my attention, and because of that I had to give it a rest. I can't afford the time it would take to trudge through something this bad. There are many good books out there and this, frankly, is not one of them.