These are perfectly fine three stars, really. The exciting and the creative moments definitely outweigh the annoying, the repetitive and the draggy onThese are perfectly fine three stars, really. The exciting and the creative moments definitely outweigh the annoying, the repetitive and the draggy ones. And the rather complex main characters manage to outshine the stereotypical goodies and baddies on the sidelines. I had a good time reading it even though the storyline - not the setting(s) - felt a bit too familiar/overused. And I do wish I had a magical coat like that. Thank you lots, dear Teccc!...more
*** I must have read it for the first time on Christmas 1984, since it had been a Christmas present from grandma and grandad. *** Oh, how I loved it t*** I must have read it for the first time on Christmas 1984, since it had been a Christmas present from grandma and grandad. *** Oh, how I loved it then. Sweden! Horses! A misunderstood, diary-writing city girl who finds new friends in the countryside! A deep-voiced, polite boy who blushes... But the thing that impressed nine-years-old me the most was that Sofie, at the advanced age of thirteen, travels with a handbag that contains a compact mirror to check her sickly city complexion with. How very grown-up! How like the princess-like ladies in our games of aristocratic make-belief. Oh, my!...more
The writing struck at once a chord. It's quite beautiful, really.
Plus, the comprehensive gothic manor-house-package including grinning porcelain dollThe writing struck at once a chord. It's quite beautiful, really.
Plus, the comprehensive gothic manor-house-package including grinning porcelain dolls, chambers full of one-of-a-kind clocks, hidden rooms, cobwebby nurseries, draughty chapels, squeaking trapdoors, ambivalent housekeepers and mute little servant boys has really been polished to a shining perfection.
On top of that, I had already warmed up to the reluctant, but bright and sassy, Cinderella-style heroine, Katherine Tulman, with her astute views on her money-hunting aunt and her toffee-addicted cousin by page six.
Unfortunately all that brilliant brightness seems to have deserted the seeingly sharp girl's head like warmth deserts a cottage through a cracked window by the time she drinks her first cup of sugared tea in her dusty room: (view spoiler)[ This is coincidentally the second book in a row which displays the main character being repeatedly suddenly dizzy or almost drunk and oblivious to things that happened the previous night without realizing that somebody is systematically drugging them. How very, very cumbersome and annoying for the reader to witness the characters being clueless and only marginally concerned. (hide spoiler)] How could she not investigate the matter, when staff members accused her of having been drunk or tipsy on evenings she had no recollections of? Soon I started skimming Katherine's strange dreams and almost everything that happened after lights-out, because those parts appeared to be pointless and avoidable. The second unforgivable piece of the plot was part of the climax.(view spoiler)[ There was really some kind of stupor befalling me, when I noticed that Davey had really drowned in the canal. I certainly expected him to turn up after the chaos of the flooding had been sorted out. (hide spoiler)]
Those little - but in the large context important - details were more or less responsible for my spoiled enjoyment of the cliffhanger-adorned gentry thriller.
I did not choose to read the book for its romantic parts of the plot - I swapped it on a sudden whim without having heard anything about it before - but I cannot complain about them: The love interest is prickly and moody most of the time, but he has certainly every reason to hold back: Katherine has come to the estate to declare his employer insane and thus to turn him out of work and on the street. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
***2.5 stars***. Well written. Chillingly creepy characters. Creepy setting that remains a mystery. Claustrophobia. Helplessness. Fate. Symbols. Power***2.5 stars***. Well written. Chillingly creepy characters. Creepy setting that remains a mystery. Claustrophobia. Helplessness. Fate. Symbols. Powerful flowers. Nordic mythology. Past, present, future. Horror. Sacrifice. Vampires. Based on a painting by Carl Larsson. Seven lives, seven loves. Human bonds through the ages that did not touch me. Rather devoid of the blurbed-about romance. Weird, but not the kind of weird I love (view spoiler)[ like One Whole and Perfect Day or Chime(hide spoiler)]. Disappointing. ...more
I adore the illustrations, but I am not so sure about the plot. To be on the save side I didn't give it to my niece like I had planned before buying iI adore the illustrations, but I am not so sure about the plot. To be on the save side I didn't give it to my niece like I had planned before buying it....more
Eine einfache Geschichte mit knuffigen Illustrationen und komplizierten Wörtern und Formulierungen: Unter anderem bevölkert diese Geschichte "Kurt" (KEine einfache Geschichte mit knuffigen Illustrationen und komplizierten Wörtern und Formulierungen: Unter anderem bevölkert diese Geschichte "Kurt" (Kung), ein "deutscher Marienkäfter mit chinesischem Migrationshintergrund". Bei manchen Bilderbüchern bin ich mir hinsichtlich der Zielgruppe überhaupt nicht klar. Empfohlen ab 5 Jahren? Vielleicht, wenn man den Text mit eigenen Worten neu erfindet - oder ein Miniatur-Sprachgenie zuhause hat....more
He faced her then, arms folded across his chest. 'I have no time for games.' The tips of his fingers had black rings of charcoal dust buried under thHe faced her then, arms folded across his chest. 'I have no time for games.' The tips of his fingers had black rings of charcoal dust buried under the nail and into the cuticle. 'I have work to do.' 'Not if I say you don't.' He turned away. 'I like to finish what I start.' He gave her the look she recognised well, the one of measured disdain. [...] 'Where do you propose we play?' He swept a hand around the forge. 'Here?' 'My rooms.' [...] He leaned against the anvil considering. 'Your sitting room will do. I'll come when I've finished this sword. After all I have house privileges now. Might as well use them.'
*** This review contains spoilers for the first third. *** I am so angry - mostly at myself - and as deflated as a balloon after a kiddie party in summer. Because I blatantly ignored all the lovely, thoroughly reviewed and dissected titles waiting to be purchased on my wish list since forever, quite spontaneously preordered a novel I practically knew nothing about in hardcover, and did not cancel that mistake after reading the chapters that are cockily offered as a sneak preview for Kindle - even though those left me pretty unimpressed. Sometimes all the rational things that lead to choosing a book matching my taste fly out of a hidden window in my brain.
The preorder 'happened' after an early review by a friend, who compared the book to 'Darkness Shows the Stars', which I adored. She also mentioned another title, which I did not enjoy. But I stupidly chose to be deaf on that ear. After ordering I read the sample chapters with my book-taste buds screaming 'ordinary' and 'jerk-alert-level-3' at me. Unfortunately to no avail, because by then Kristin Cashore, whose Seven-Kingdoms-books I really love, had posted a glowing blog entry in a foreboding defense of her blurb. Yes, Rutkoski was her friend, but 'The Winner's Curse' was “wonderfully excellently super-good“ etcetera, etcetera. Obviously it was me, I guessed. I failed to see the sparkle that would ignite the book after chapter 5. The preorder remained in my account, rubbing its greedy hands. And I have to say that I really believe Cashore - and Aguirre - think their colleague's story to be “masterfully plotted“ and “beautifully written“. But if I admit what good marketing triggers in me in spite of my carefully honed purchasing rules stacked around me, maybe they should admit, that friendship probably made them unable to judge impartially. It usually does.
So, I fetched the eagerly awaited book out of my postbox, dug in and ... made it until page 104 - with difficulty.
Heavens, I was bored, so very bored and indignant, too. Why? Let's see:
- There has been gushing going on concerning the world-building. What world-building? It's a standard fantasy world with neighboring countries divided by a body at water at war. Like, i.e., when the Spaniards made a grab for Granada/the Alhambra, the nation with the upper hand, the Valorians, is the one with the inferior culture. They have no music, they have almost no literature and their army's victory depended on a premature surrender of the enemy, who is now enslaved, bound to serve the victors in their former homes, and certainly waiting for a chance to turn the tables. There is some talk about dresses, pianos, sitting rooms, chaperones, horses, lawn parties and - certainly human breeding rules (those make this almost 'dystopian', he?), which state that some girls/all girls/whoever has to do her part for her country's survival either by marrying and popping out puppies at a fixed point in their lives or join the army (Isn't that combination of choices superduperoriginal? Going all house-wifey or going all Amazone? Sprinkle it a bit with grand ideas like music-is-for-the-lower-classes and you've got yourself an “exquisite worldbuilding“ ( Kirkus Review).
- At least during the first third not much is happening. Although I enjoy thrilling books there are several examples among my favorites, which are slow or whimsical and concentrating mainly on a character or even on words or ideas. I didn't notice much extraordinarity about the writing. And as the characters are concerned ...
-- Kestrel displays right in the beginning chapter that she can distinguish between fake jewelry and real gems. But it is also made known to the reader that she is aware of market place politics, empty social standards like the necessity to go out chaperoned and probably her nation's much more complex prerequisites to keep on going in prosperity, too. She later successfully makes a deal with her father, because she offers to contribute her talent to strategize to the military (“Her father gave her a level look. 'Your military strength has never been in combat. […] You’re a strategist.'“). Apparently she is sharp-minded enough to be the designated winner in the board game favored in High Society (“Kestrel especially liked it when they cheated. It made beating them not quite so easy.”) and to keep the greedy bride-seekers at bay. But all these fine examples crumble like theatre props when we get to observe the girl in action: She is suddenly too dense to notice how letting her young, spontaneously acquired and physically attractive slave rudely walk all over her in public might be interpreted by her gossip- and power-hungry peers. (Btw, I remember reading reviews that proudly pointed out the book's lack of insta-love. Hmm. It's not mutual, no. But at the very least there is an insanely amount of insta-curiosity and - rather unforgivable for someone supposedly cunning - insta-trust.)
-- Arin is that sort of undercover spy/rebel, who cannot see that blending in and going with the flow would keep him off the radar and therefore in business. Luckily his condescending display of superiority inexplicably strikes a chord in his new mistress, who does not punish him for speaking up against her friend at a social call, but books his services until further notice, allows him to roam the city ('I want the priviledges of a house slave.' 'They are yours.' 'And the right to visit the city on my own. Just once in a while.' ) and is interested in hearing his opinion while losing at board games against him. Wow, Arin-My-Name-Is-Not-Smith would do well as the upper jerk in a High School romance. All the other slave girls have the hots for him and he just has to smirk and be haughty to get lonely and misunderstood Kestrel blabbing about her war-lord-dad's weaknesses and her own shortcomings. My guess is that in spite of the implausibility of his actions the jerk-affine crowd cannot help but swoon at his feet in a puddle of happy goo. The stellar average ratings will easily be maintained on a permanent basis.
-- Forget about the rest of the cast: There is an autocratic, cold-hearted father, an opportunistic steward, a fluffy-brained best friend, whose simplicity enhances Kestrel's intelligence, a harmlessly cute admirer, a still-attached nurse and mother-replacement, an evil, influencial upper-class prick, market people, slaves, rebels and a whole gaggle of unimportant folks in fashionable attire (see cover), but - at least during the first 100 pages - they merely provide the fairy lights for Kestrel's and Arin's drama about smitten ladies led on a tight leash by brooding wannabe-slaves.
Enough. In my book boring means bad. I don't want to bore you more than necessary to illustrate my stance. And, as you surely know, being bored by what and being bored easily or not are individual reactions and traits. Should the quote on top have activated your inner swoon mode, please go ahead, gorge yourself with sexy haughtiness and do not mind my peculiar opinion.