Imagine a world where humans are near extinction, mutant bat creatures stalk the skies like birds of prey, and centaurs rule as nobility within theirImagine a world where humans are near extinction, mutant bat creatures stalk the skies like birds of prey, and centaurs rule as nobility within their own mountain fortress. That sounds like such a great fictional world, doesn't it? Wouldn't you want to read about such a strange yet dangerous place?
Well, I definitely did -- but once I started reading Daughter of the Centaurs my enthusiasm quickly dimmed to lukewarm feelings and then, finally, to a sense of disillusionment and confusion.
The author, Kate Klimo, tried to capture the charm and adventure that are to be found in novels by fantasy authors such as Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, Gail Carson Levine, and Shannon Hale -- but even with an original idea the novel fell flat in many areas.
One of the hard sells of the novel is that this book is not meant to be straight fantasy...but rather dystopian in the sense that this world ruled by centaurs and other creatures is meant to take place really, really far into the future (yes, OUR world's future). While that's an interesting idea in and of itself, my curious mind wants to know how. Klimo never explains the origins of her world and how these sentient creatures came to be. Are they the result of evolution? Genetic abnormalities? Magic gone wild? The questions always loomed in the back of my mind as I was reading, yet never once did I get an answer, satisfactory or not.
Another sticking point to me was that the centaurs...well, to put it bluntly, they were lame. Though I could understand more civilized centaurs (as opposed to my more traditional view of tribal, warrior-like creatures), I still expected them to be majestic in some ways. Instead, they are shallow and irksome beings who are served by cat-like servants called Twani (who actually reminded me of the house-elves from Harry Potter), and there is little depth to be found in the centaur characters (many of whom are nobles). Then, when we actually do meet a more traditional (and, might I add, much more likable) centaur, the novel is almost three-fourths done! Injustice, I say!
The society of the centaurs was...frivolous at best and cartoonish at worst. Though I was expecting some intrigues possibly a la Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, there was none of that to be found here. Instead, we are treated to some vague signs of tension between the Highlanders (the noble centaurs) and the Flatlanders (the common centaurs), but it never builds to anything especially exciting or noteworthy.
The one semi-good point of the novel was the heroine, Malora, who reminded me of a mixture of Katniss from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games and Daine from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals quartet -- but some of the likenesses to those heroines were often only skin-deep, making Malora seem more a caricature of the "wilderness girl" and less of a real character.
The writing itself had its good and bad moments. Pacing and exposition were not always consistent; those flaws make the story a bit of a rocky reading experience instead of a smooth one. Sometimes the novel also had an identity crisis in that it never quite seemed certain whether it was meant to be aimed towards middle-grade readers or young adults, and that could prove to be a problem for this novel to reach the audience that may be most receptive to it.
Though having the benefits of a fresh idea and an intriguing set-up, Daughter of the Centaurs honestly was a disappointment to me, but other readers may feel differently and find charm where I found annoyance. If you're interested, then by all means give it a try. Perhaps it will be a fresh yet nostalgic kind of fantasy story for your reading pleasure.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley....more
There has been much buzz surrounding Marissa Meyer's debut novel, Cinder, over the months leading up to its publication. How(Actual Rating: 3.5 stars)
There has been much buzz surrounding Marissa Meyer's debut novel, Cinder, over the months leading up to its publication. How could there not be? The main hook is Cinderella as a cyborg. Even without reading the synopsis, many people would likely snap to attention at the mention of such an idea, and I was no exception to to the allure of what this book might entail.
In the end, my curiosity felt only half-rewarded. Cinder was an enjoyable read with good (and some really unique) ideas, but oftentimes the execution wasn't as powerful as it could have been. Amusement and annoyance alike colored my reading experience. I regret to say that, for me, the story was not the unforgettable book I had been hoping to read.
In a world over 100 years past its fourth world war, Linh Cinder is a mechanic living in New Beijing within the Eastern Commonwealth. However, given her cyborg status, she lives under the thumb of her stepmother, who reaps the benefits from Cinder's work. Even as Cinder dreams of getting away from the life she lives and fleeing to somewhere better, her country is in a state of turmoil: a plague rips its way through the population, the emperor lies on his death bed, and the Lunar Empire threatens war. All of this is beyond Cinder's paltry life, yet she may play a bigger part in all of this than she ever imagined...
As intriguing as all of its ideas are, Cinder often felt bogged down by its fairy tale roots, keeping it from gaining the wings that could have made it soar as a story right from the start. The first half of the novel is an introductory phase, groundwork being laid for not only this book but also the sequels to come. While in and of itself that seems like a good way to handle a multi-book story, the execution failed to draw me in and engross me as much as I had wanted. Only past the halfway point (over 200 pages into the story) did I begin to care for the characters and the world around them. This kind of slow-building storytelling usually works for me, but I can't say it bore full-effect with Cinder.
Then, thankfully, the second half of the novel kicked in, and suddenly things seemed...desperate. Dire. Maybe even deadly. And my enjoyment rose to much greater heights. By the time I reached the end, I did want the sequel, and I felt invested in Cinder as a character. I admired what Meyer had done with the climax and denouement, not seeking to tie up the end or give a quick (and unsatisfactory) happily-ever-after. Cinder's story didn't stay in the cookie-cutter mold; it broke free of it. Cyborg Cinderella, true to her promise, has much more in store for her than marriage to a prince. Her journey is only just beginning.
Speaking of Cinder herself, I admit that sometimes I was exasperated with her. How could I not be, when she's either forgetting to do something important (to the point that she seems an accessory to keep the plot "mysterious" for as long as possible) or mulling over her cyborg identity even though she always claims her humanity when in a face-off with her stepmother? She's not a bad heroine by any means (far from it, actually), but I wish she had been more consistent. She could have been only a more powerful heroine because of it.
For all its promise and hype, Cinder didn't work for me as I had hoped...but the strong final act convinced me that the sequels will be worth reading, if only to see how this saga (with all its threads) will end. Other readers will likely be much more receptive to the story as a whole, overlooking the flaws and enjoying the book for what it is: the first of a slowly unfolding saga that, layer by layer, may prove to be greater than the sum of its parts. I look forward to seeing if that will be the case when all is said and done.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley....more
Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus, is a book bound to divide book lovers into the "loved it" and "hated it" categories. Some people will adore the prose; others will despise it for being flowery and excessive. Some readers will hate the false promises the blurb on the jacket copy offers; others will still find something magical to love and admire in this novel despite the deception within the blurb. As for me, I was divided in my opinions. I mean, I really, really wanted that story the blurb promised about a "fierce competition" and "a deep, passionate, and magical love." I still want someone to write it since, sadly, Morgenstern didn't give it to me.
What Morgenstern did give me, however, was a lovely novel about the passage of time surrounding a circus concocted by magical means. The circus here is not just a location: it too is a character, one that is more vibrant than many of the other characters within this story. Morgenstern succeeds at making the magic wondrous and enchanting, although those looking for the rules to the enchantments will come away disappointed. There is no rhyme or reason to the magic here: it simply is, and that is as much a strength as it is a deficit.
The novel has no consistent timeline or narrative either, given that the chapters alternate among the past and present, standalone moments from the circus itself, and character viewpoints of varying importance. Although The Night Circus contains literary merit, it doesn't have quite enough spark to achieve everything all its build-up promised.
Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) has an uncommon inception within London in 1873: two gentlemen, one who calls himself Prospero and the other who dons a grey suit and is known as Alexander, make a wager that two pupils of theirs will undergo a magical competition. Prospero's choice is his daughter, Celia, whom he has only been aware of for the past six months. Alexander, however, does not make his choice until the following January: an orphaned boy whose name Alexander does not care to know. These two children become bound together by a magical pact, but they remain unaware of each other for many years. Only once the magical circus, the chosen venue for the competition, is in its planning stages does the real game begin...
"Competition" doesn't quite fit what transpires within the circus because of the magic of Celia and Marco (the orphaned boy). There are no showdowns, no competitive scenes, no dangerous moments. Instead, the novel showcases how Celia and Marco try to one-up each other with how enchanting their various contributions to the circus can be. These enchantments, however, devolve into almost a flirtation between the two as they silently create new tents and exhibits for the sole purpose of impressing one another. It's a nice idea, but it would have born more weight if both sides had been aware of each other's identities sooner in the novel. Somehow, we're meant to believe that, with so much secrecy abounding, these two can honestly, truly fall in love. And that is one of the greatest flaws within The Night Circus: the love story is not deep, passionate, dangerous, or even really sensical, and it makes the story weaker than it otherwise might have been.
The first meaningful conversation between Celia and Marco occurs halfway through the book. Then, Morgenstern does the unthinkable: the next chapter is set three years later, and suddenly Marco is proclaiming, "I'm in love with her." Really? Really? There needed to be some transition between the two chapters, something to bridge the gap to show that something was growing in the hearts of these two individuals now that they were both aware of one another. Instead, the love between the two is shoddy and gimmicky, the stuff of an hour-and-a-half movie rather than a nearly 400-page novel with a literary bent.
Now, you must be wondering: "Jillian, if you had such a problem with the love story, why give the novel three-and-a-half stars?" Because the novel isn't just the love story. There was plenty more for me to like in this novel: the segments about the circus's various attractions, a plot line following a boy named Bailey who's in love with the circus, and the inclusion of rêveurs (dreamers) who follow the circus around the world. Basically, the circus is the main character...and, given what I read about it, I knew that if such a place existed I would probably be in love with it too. So I couldn't dislike the novel simply because the story introduced me to such an intriguing, enchanting place.
All my qualms and opinions aside, The Night Circus is a charming story, but it won't be for everyone simply because it's not as universal as it could have been. It may be a literary smash-hit for a time, but will it be a classic read in the decades to come? I doubt it. However, if Erin Morgenstern can hone her craft a bit more, then maybe someday she really will become a household name. For now, though, The Night Circus is the debut novel that will either enchant or alienate readers. Whether you will be one or the other, that all depends on how you fare with the circus and its offerings if you give this novel a go....more
Ixion: a place of eternal night and eternal pleasure -- but nothing, nothing, comes without its price. . .
Admittedly, Burn Bright was one of my most aIxion: a place of eternal night and eternal pleasure -- but nothing, nothing, comes without its price. . .
Admittedly, Burn Bright was one of my most anticipated releases of 2011. First, there's the darkly beautiful cover that brings to mind the fashion of Lady Gaga and the gothic wonder of Tim Burton's movies; right from the first time I saw it, it ensnared me in such a way that for months I thought, "I must have this book, I must have this book." Then there's the synopsis, speaking of a dark place called Ixion and a heroine who plunges into this night world to find her brother even though she has no desire to cavort and party as other Ixion migrants do. Burn Bright is of those ideas that just lit fire to my imagination and made me wonder what this story would entail and what dark delights would lay within its pages.
Thus, you can imagine that I came into reading this book with high expectations. Perhaps it was wrong of me, but I really expected this book to be a dark and heady mixture that made me think of the works of Laini Taylor or Melissa Marr. Instead, I received something that was bittersweet in texture and feel. . .and I honestly don't know if I liked it.
Burn Bright is a book that thrives on being different. It is very much a dark supernatural fantasy, and there is nothing quite like it in the young adult book market at the moment. Since it's fresh in that respect, I can see why other readers would be enamored with it. When you're faced with something so different from the norm, you're going to either embrace it or run away from it. Me? I was caught in the middle.
Where the story really succeeds is the world-building -- which, again, is so different from anything else that it's really rather fascinating and intriguing as you learn about Ixion right alongside its heroine, Retra. Ixion is a place where teenagers flee to lose themselves in wild parties and no-holds barred behavior, but there are people who act as guardians in Ixion: the Ripers, a group of overseers headed by the dark and secretive Lenoir. Why must the 'baby bats' -- the newcomers to Ixion -- stick to the lighted paths? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?
Honestly, Ixion is a fantastically realized world, holding the madness of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland and the strangeness of J.M. Barrie's Neverland. However, a world on its own is not enough to carry a book: there also needs to be a balance with characterization and plot too. In Burn Bright, I couldn't help the feeling that the world of Ixion itself was so rich that the characters seemed flat and colorless by comparison. To me, the characters here felt like puppets moving against a backdrop that didn't help to ground or solidify them but rather outshine them -- when, really, it should be the other way around. The characters are what move the story forward, and they need to feel like live players instead of figures at the mercy of unseen twists and turns. Yes, the world building offers so many fantastic ideas and concepts -- but, meshed with the characters and plot, the story didn't seem so stellar of a package as it could have been.
The plot itself is mostly a mixture of uncovering the secrets of Ixion and seeing a battle for dominion over Ixion begin to stir -- and Retra finds herself caught up in all of it and forced to change because of her involvings in Ixion. In and of itself, the story didn't really offer me much that I hadn't expected. You have the heroine who becomes a key player in a world to which she is still only a newcomer. You have her love interests, neither of whom seem really good for her in the long run. You have her friends, most of whom have brighter personalities than she does but who take a backseat as mere tagalongs for much of the story. Needless to say, I wasn't very much impressed as far as the characters and plot go.
While others will love Burn Bright for its ingenuity and freshness, I'm sad to say that it just wasn't enough for me. However much I liked the world building, it wasn't the book I had expected to read. Whether it will be a hit or miss with you. . .well, you have to read it to find out. I hope it will burn bright in your eyes as I wish it had done for me. ...more
Red Riding Hood, a tie-in novel to the 2011 movie of the same name, tries to be many things: a love story, a fairy tale, a mystery, and a thriller. ThRed Riding Hood, a tie-in novel to the 2011 movie of the same name, tries to be many things: a love story, a fairy tale, a mystery, and a thriller. The trailer for the movie is beautiful and seductive -- but does the book hold that same allure? Frankly, I can't say it did. The movie trailer held the promises of danger, secrets, and seduction. . .but the novel held none of that for me.
Quite honestly, this book made me see red.
I usually give novels about one hundred pages to grab me before I set them to the side and promptly forget about them. After the 100-page mark with this book, I was ready to give it up, but I was just so frustrated by it that I was stubbornly set to finish it and give it a slamming review. There's nothing really outstandingly likable or even tolerable about this story: the heroine is fickle and unreliable; the love interests are so flat and two-dimensional that you're supposed to take the 'love factor' at face value alone; the other characters waft among being cowardly, secretive, or just downright reprehensible; and the big bad Wolf mystery is so back and forth that, by the end, you just don't care who the Wolf is since you want the damn book to be over already! Not to mention the fact that the story is like the bastard child of The Village and Twilight with some splashes of the original Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale thrown in as allusions. It all just made me so dang annoyed.
As far as the writing itself goes -- everything about this book was inconsistent. Whether it be characterization, prose, writing style, or simple plot, none of it was at the same level throughout the entire novel. Sometimes I really liked the writing for its fairy tale-esque simplicity. Other times I hated it for its simple 'he said/she did/it ran'-type sentences, its choppy narrative style, its fickle characters, and its nonsensical attempt at being a horror story and a love story wrapped into one. Granted, I realize that this book was first a script and then fleshed out into a novel -- but, honestly, that isn't an excuse. If a script is a story laid to its barest bones to clock in under a time limit, then a novel has endless ground to expand upon said story. The expansion here, however, was really quite underwhelming: too much tell and not enough show, too much lax hold with the pseudo-limited omniscient style, too many scenes that seemed ripped out of a script with only filler bits sprinkled around them. At best, it was a story with too little real emotion. At worst, it was an overlong read with next to no substance.
(I also really hated the heroine, Valerie. She may go up there on my list of most-hated book heroines along with Zoey, Luce, Nora, Ever, Bianca, and Mary. She was the most inconsistent character of the bunch. If she's such a doesn't-want-to-fall-in-love tomboy, then why does she fall for old blast-from-the-past friend Peter with no words exchanged and only a few heated glances? PLEASE. Even Edward and Bella talked a bit before they admitted they were in love with each other. There was no build-up to the romance. It was all just -- SMACK! Romantic tension! Jealousy! Heated kiss! "I'm not good for you!" "But I love you!" Eventual make-out session ensues. Yawn, yawn, yawn.)
Basically, this book is one that didn't make me care at all. It seemed more like a cheap marketing ploy than anything else, produced to give more buzz for the movie among the young adult set of paranormal romance fans. (I think this book would appeal to people who liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth, actually -- yet another young adult novel that seemed largely inspired by the movie The Village.) I can almost guarantee than any fan of the Twilight movies will flock to see the movie and then possibly read the book afterward (or vice-versa). There was no passion, no heart, no true goal in mind for the story. What was I supposed to have learned? That love lies? That scared group mentality will override morality any day? That villages in books and movies are doomed to be the center of dystopian and horror stories for centuries to come? Please, I already know that all from the LAST book I read like this one. I was not impressed, and I doubt others will be either. Then the ending is so shoddy and ambiguous that you will hate the book for it even if you liked the story before that point!
My verdict? Skip the book. If you're interested in the story, go see the movie. You'll waste a whole heck of a lot less time than I did for reading the actual novel. ...more
With some trepidation do I start this review of Supernaturally, sequel to 2010's Paranormalcy. Now, I liked Paranormalcy well enough because of its heWith some trepidation do I start this review of Supernaturally, sequel to 2010's Paranormalcy. Now, I liked Paranormalcy well enough because of its heroine, Evie, and the story's tendency to poke fun at the paranormal craze. Whatever flaws the story had, the novel had charm in a world of YA books gone shallow and insipid, unrelatable and inane, and I was hopeful to read the next installment even if I thought that Evie's story could have stayed open-ended with readers imagining what her future might hold after she has gained some semblance of normalcy. In truth...I think it might have been better to leave the story open-ended since Supernaturally doesn't have quite the same amount of charm that its predecessor had.
Supernaturally suffers from the "sequel slump," a common occurrence among many, many trilogies to be found in the young adult section. Most YA novels that expand into trilogies quite honestly could have stayed standalone novels, but nowadays the bigger publishers bank on trilogies instead of standalone novels. And that's fine. However, when you have a debut author who has likely only written a handful of novel drafts (if that) prior to a publishing deal, you have to take into consideration whether or not the author has the experience to undertake a trilogy. Will the author be able to handle an overarching plot that hangs as an umbrella over all three novels and then the individual novel plot problems and predicaments? Will the author potentially be able to make the novels tied up plot-wise on their own so that any reader can feel satisfied by finishing one novel without needing to read the rest? (Yes, that can be a pro and a con, but then you have the other end of the spectrum: cliffhangers that leave frayed threads of plot just hanging where you NEED the next book even if only to satisfy your curiosity. Now, which would readers rather have: books that can stand on their own or ones that thrive off cliffhanger central? I would guess the former before the latter.)
Kiersten White falls somewhere in the middle: though her novels have their own individual plots and then hints of an overarching plot across all three books, they aren't the kind of novels that leave off on cliffhangers (think The Hunger Games) that leave you wanting more, nor are they completely individual on their own (though, to be fair, YA novels that are a part of trilogies/series rarely are this sort). So what is Supernaturally? It's a novel caught in that place where no novel wants to be: too reliant on its predecessor to be a companion or standalone novel yet not fulfilling enough as a sequel to the original.
Supernaturally begins with Evie where she has always dreamed of being: living the normal life of a teenage girl. Sure, her boyfriend Lend may be away at college, and she may still have more questions than answers about her supernatural heritage...but life is good. Of course, this is Evie, so things are never quite so normal as she may think. After a series of strange occurrences, Evie finds herself working for IPCA again, but her jobs aren't solo anymore: this time, she's working with a trickster-like boy named Jack, a human who has the power to walk the Faerie Paths.
While Supernaturally did offer some smiles and just good-natured fun to me, it really didn't have oomph. One problem is that it was too easy for me to put the book down; when I'm reading a book, I should always feel the need to know more, more, more and keep flipping those pages. Time should be a void while I read -- to the point that when I look up from the book I'm shocked to find that hours have passed since I started reading. With Supernaturally, there was no pull for me. I slogged through the book over the course of a few weeks, and everything -- Evie, Lend, even the paranormal world around them -- didn't seem to have the same charm that I remembered it having in Paranormalcy. The need for conflict and plot motion gave way to stupid character decisions and unnecessary angst, and all of it left me feeling rather lukewarm.
However much Supernaturally was a mixed reading experience for me, I will be reading the final book, Endlessly, because I have hope that Kiersten White will manage to wow me with the finale. Though I can't wholeheartedly recommend Supernaturally on its own, I do think Paranormalcy is worth reading. I may not have been a fan of the second installment, but that doesn't mean that everyone will feel the same way I do. So...read at your own discretion....more
In the YA book world, 2011 is definitely shaping up to be the year of the dystopia. With the popularity and acclai(Cross-posted from The Book Lantern)
In the YA book world, 2011 is definitely shaping up to be the year of the dystopia. With the popularity and acclaim of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy, the young adult publishing world seemed to explode with all kinds of ideas for dystopias about oppression and chaos -- and publishers were all the more willing to oblige them due to the proven success of The Hunger Games.
Truthfully, I don't think the quick comparison to The Hunger Games does Divergent any favors except to build hype and expectations among readers. However much it's a great tactic for marketing, I personally don't know if this book should even be referred to as a dystopia since the label hurts more than helps it, giving the idea of one thing to the readers and offering something a little bit different with the story itself.
Let me explain: I have a set idea as to what, for me personally, a dystopian novel is. YA dystopian novels seem to have an identity crisis at times (something Vinaya spoke about here) where they're just so intent about illustrating some kind of suffering or shock factor hook that they lose the true meaning of a dystopia: a world that has descended from order to chaos, one where what once were nightmares and dark musings of past times (i.e. usually our own modern days) are now common pieces of society, even to the point where rights or privileges of the people have been abolished and replaced by 'what is deemed right and fair.'
Now, back to the case of Divergent: yes, it certainly has hints of dystopian tenets. . .but strip the layers of the story away and what do you have? Is it really a true dystopia, the kind that makes us fear for our own world because we see the problems and warnings present in our own time and place? Or just an action thriller with dystopian elements? Honestly, Divergent is an adrenaline-kick, shock-factor-enthusiast, and action-centric kind of book first and foremost; the dystopian undercurrent is mostly for show, at least in this beginning installment to the trilogy.
For being labeled a dystopia, the world-building behind the story leaves a lot to be desired. Though we are told that the five factions resulted from a 'great peace' following a devastating war, the nature and state of the world as a whole is a big unknown. Chicago is the focus, front and center, but any reader must wonder, "What about the rest of the United States? And the world itself?" Roth describes her world sparingly, giving only some modern downtown Chicago landmarks scene time to ground her world; one must wonder if the sparseness of setting is a sign of intentional withholding of information or lack of planning and fleshing of the story's world. (Personally, I hope it is the former.)
But all of those concerns of mine started to fade into the background as I continued to read. Though the flaws are many (the length, unfortunately, being one of them), Roth doesn't fail to draw readers into her story and make them feel compelled to keep reading just to see what happens. The first one hundred and fifty pages were a struggle for me, no lie, but then it got easier to accept the book for what it was instead of wishing for more of what I thought it could be. The most discernible problem for me was Beatrice, who was a difficult heroine to grow to like since she started out so judgmental and harsh to the point that she was a bit unrelatable. Then her 'change' seemed to come much too soon, but I was glad for it since she eventually became a bearable (though, at times, still not particularly likable) heroine.
The novel's plot doesn't start to come together under the last one hundred or so pages, but I have to appreciate the character relationships that grow within the story. However much I was ready to ride them off in the beginning, the characters grew on me (sometimes in spite of myself), and I really started to care about what was happening to them and around them. When I start off with questionable feelings towards a book, I don't often change my mind. . .but, with Divergent, I eventually found myself swayed.
In the end, what struck (and stuck with) me most about the novel overall is this: the underlying theme of morals and their importance in the story. The factions themselves are representations of things valued and praised within the Bible: selflessness, bravery, honesty, knowledge, and peace. (I am not taking liberties by assuming Roth used the Bible as inspiration for her world; she herself has not hidden the fact that she is a Christian.) Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the moral aspect of the novel, and it gave the story some of the depth I had been craving all along. Let it be known that, at its core, this novel is about choices, priorities, and beliefs. This tendency isn't a flaw in the story, however; rather, I think it helps to enhance and differentiate a book that would otherwise have been lost in similarities to its popular predecessor.
(I will also give Roth credit in this respect: she could have easily had her factions act forever positively in regards to their specific traits, but instead she does not shy away from casting all the factions in gray lights. All the characters are ambiguous figures, mostly neither hero nor villain but rather 'flawed human,' and that in itself is refreshing in a YA landscape of 'goodies and baddies.')
Though this novel contains a rocky and lengthy start that takes away a bit from the impact of the novel as a whole, the story does eventually 'get there' where you're invested (even if only to see where everything is going). It took a while for me to care, but other readers who are more action-oriented than I am may look at this novel with more patience and appreciation. As it is, I'll be reading the sequels to see how the story continues, but I stand by my words that this novel is much more appealing when it is showing off its games of ambiguity and morality than its plays at brutality and violence.
My conclusion: Divergent is a free-for-all book dependent entirely on a reader's specific tastes and expectations. There's just no way to go other than reading it for yourself and deciding your own stance on it. Like it or dislike it, you will definitely be able to admit one thing, at least: it's a book that's going to lead to a lot of interesting discussions among readers.
(Note (May 7, 2012): I know I'm in the minority with this book, but I thought a re-read might help me to warm up to some of the things I had disliked the first time around. However, I just couldn't finish reading it a second time. Most novels I liked can at least hold up during a re-read...but not so with this one. Thus, I felt the need to detract a star from my original three-star rating.)...more
I had much trouble forming my thoughts about this book to write a review. Across the Universe is a hard book to describe. Yes, it has that lovely coveI had much trouble forming my thoughts about this book to write a review. Across the Universe is a hard book to describe. Yes, it has that lovely cover that beckons everyone to read it. Yes, it has an interesting premise. Yes, it has all these elements to make it a brilliant read, something fresh and exciting. But, for me, it just didn't give me everything I had wanted.
Dystopias and I have a love-hate relationship. I love The Hunger Games and Unwind -- but others books, like Matched and Wither, are more 'iffy' to me than anything. If I were to compare Across the Universe to certain dystopian novels, I would say it could have been the child of The Host and Inside Out with a bit of Star Trek thrown in for good measure. (I'm definitely a Star Wars fan rather than a Star Trek fan, though, so you can imagine why this book and I clashed a bit.) Almost the entire story takes place on the ship christened Godspeed as it travels to a new planet, labeled as Centauri-Earth, which humans hope to colonize. The estimated time of travel is 250 years, and sixteen-year-old Amy is one of the few to be frozen alive and loaded as cargo, set to be reawakened when the ship makes landing.
Due to outside forces, however, Amy is reawakened early. . .and she finds herself on the ship, a country unto itself ruled by a man named Eldest who has a successor named Elder. The story flip-flops perspectives between Amy and Elder so that you get the whole story. . .and it's not a bad story to read. It is, however, a game of truth and lies, deception and trust, conspiracies and secrets. You never know what's true or not in the story, and I found that to be a bit of a flaw. I dislike books where you never know who to trust. It takes away something from the story if I have to question everyone's credibility.
As characters, Amy and Elder sometimes seemed more like pawns going through the motions than anything else. Amy was a much more vibrant character than Elder, who went back and forth too much for my tastes. I didn't like how he always went back to 'Well, Eldest said. . .' when all the while I was thinking, "You can't trust a damn thing Eldest says!" The only other character I liked was Harley, the is-he-crazy-or-is-he-not artist, whom I actually believed was a better match for Amy than Elder. But, of course, that pipe dream is dead. . .so that cued grumbling on my part.
I will give Revis kudos for this: she made the science believable to me. In a year where there are so many dystopias to read, she actually grounded her book in some realism as far as science and its power go. But she leaves this question too: should we let science rule us, or should we use science sparingly and see what we can do for ourselves? It's a question we all will one day have to face for ourselves.
Across the Universe, for all its lofty ambitions, just didn't wow me as I had expected. Instead, I was left with a read where I liked some parts and disliked others. All in all, it was an underwhelming read to me. Will I read the sequel that's likely forthcoming? That, my friends, is still left up in the air. ...more