Eddie Russet was planning to take his exam, marry Constance Oxblood, never ask any questions, and live a useful life. But then he and his father get s...moreEddie Russet was planning to take his exam, marry Constance Oxblood, never ask any questions, and live a useful life. But then he and his father get shipped to the Outer Fringes, where everything is a little weird, and among other unpleasant people he meets Jane, who (between attempts to kill him) lets him in on the fact that there's a lot to question in the world… and not just why they're forbidden to manufacture spoons.
If that summary seemed a bit confused, that's more or less how I felt reading the book. I really wanted to like Shades of Grey; I very much enjoyed Fforde's Thursday Next series, and a friend had recommended it to me, so I had high expectations. Unfortunately, it just didn't quite work for me. But I think that's in equal parts because of me as a reader as it is about the book itself.
About the book itself, well, I'm not sure prose is the best form for this story. It's a story about color -- specifically, it's sort of a dystopia, taking place 500 years after Something That Happened (Significant Caps abound) and now people are entirely different (I was never quite sure how, but they can see only tiny bits of the color spectrum, one color each, and the society is organized around how much of what color people can see; and there were other things, mentions to how they look at paintings of the Previous and see exaggerated differences between the sexes and creepily large eyes; they have barcodes growing on them, are susceptible to mildew and spores, and often get limbs torn off and sewn back on, so… huh). It's hard to represent those things, especially the importance of color and how much of it people can see, in a completely non-color, non-image medium. There are also a lot of weird and whimsical elements, which might have worked better visually, too.
But aside from that, I've come to realize in the last couple of years that I'm a very, very structure-based reader. Which means, among other things, I have no interest in stories where the protagonist isn't actively engaged. If the main character isn't trying to do something, even just figure out what's going on, or actively wants to avoid whatever he or she is supposed to do, or whatever, I get bored. I know some characters and some stories don't require the protag to act in as huge a way as others; the fact that epic adventures loan themselves to, well, epic struggles is part of why sci fi and fantasy appeal to me so much. But I get that not every story has that; not every story needs that. But, as a reader, I need something to latch on to -- a sense that there's a story going on, and not just a person drifting through events. Or if the character is drifting, at least a sense that the character cares about the events and would like to figure out why they're happening.
Eddie Russet spent three quarters of the book not doing that. He wanted to marry Constance, but didn't spend much time on it -- he wasn't in love with her or anything, she was just the best option, so he was only attempting to woo her because it seemed like he ought to. He did want to pursue Jane, but for most of the book was intimidated out of it. Weird things kept happening to him and around him, but for the most part he wasn't too concerned about it. His society considers it unacceptable (not to mention impolite) to question things, so he didn't, just sort of collected awareness of the things going on around him.
The last quarter of the book does pick things up. Eddie finds himself with yet another potential… well, not love interest, but marriage prospect. As he attempts to get away from her, he agrees to lead a dangerous expedition, and on the course of that he figures out a few things, has a few more shown to him, and is finally forced to make real decisions, pick a position, and stick with it. Not shockingly, that was my favorite part of the book!
My other, much more minor, issues: I had trouble keeping track of who a lot of the minor characters were, and I found much of the book just over the edge of Weird For the Sake of Being Weird. Then again, I know a lot of my friends enjoy that a lot more than I do. So basically, it boils down to this: if, like me, you are really into the pacing and structure as elements of what you read, this might not be the book for you. But if you enjoy voice and tone, this book very easily could work for you. It's just a case where I don't think what I've read is a bad book, it just isn't a book for me. (less)
Oh man, you guys. During the four days I was reading this book, I kept running into articles about how it’s going to be the Next Big Thing in YA, and...moreOh man, you guys. During the four days I was reading this book, I kept running into articles about how it’s going to be the Next Big Thing in YA, and had to flee spoilers. But I hope it is the Next Big Thing, because it’s pretty much awesome.
I’m crazy for worldbuilding, and Incarceron’s world is awesome. The world itself is one of the most interesting dystopias I’ve run across: several hundred years in the future, after some sort of horrific war (the “Years of Rage” — the book does have a minor tendency towards Significant Caps, but thankfully doesn’t take it too far), technology has been banned, but the wealthy still have it in semi-secret. The world itself is subject to Protocol (like I said about those caps…), which forces everyone into a sort of pre-industrial revolution existence, complete with corsets and capes and carriages (…alliteration is all mine, though). But the Protocol is oppressive, and the only people who find it entertaining or romantic are the people wealthy enough to use contraband technology — everyone else, for example, is illiterate, and likely to die from lack of vaccines. The combination of the Protocol and the sci-fi tech gave the whole thing a steampunky feel, which I really liked. (Hence it gets both the dystopian and steampunk labels up top.)
And then there’s the inside of Incarceron. Creepy, creepy, creepy. And again, a strange blend of sci-fi and steampunk — people born with mechanical limbs, metal forests, and the technology of Icarceron itself, contrasted with people living in semi-nomadic tribes, fighting with swords for survival, believing in magic and superstition. (Or is it only superstition …?)
The characters were great: Finn calls on a lot of standard fantasy/scifi tropes, but does so very well. I love that he isn’t just instantly a nice guy in a bad situation — he does bad things, and spends a lot of the book coming to terms with them and growing a conscience. I had a harder time getting a bead on Claudia, since she’s less archetypal, but she’s an active heroine (yay!), interesting and complex in her own right. And the supporting cast is equally complex: for example, the morally ambiguous guy is actually ambiguous. In many novels, that’s the guy you can tell either going to defect to the badguys, or get an obvious redemption in the end. Instead, I actually wasn’t able to tell which side he’d end up on in the end.
And then there were the twists at the end. I thought I called the book’s big twist — turned out it wasn’t the biggest, or even close. The last section is just reveal after reveal, and wow. I haven’t wanted a sequel this badly since I finished Catching Fire.
The one real quibble I had is minor at best. The first section has a lot of people expositioning awkwardly at one another — “Well, Claudia, let me explain this thing to you that you and I are both already aware of, but it bears repeating for no real reason except it’s a good way to explain to the reader.” It’s less than graceful, needless to say. But since I couldn’t put the book down, and every time I started to write this conclusion I realized I had another glowing thing to say, this book is a solid five cupcakes. (Or stars, if you're reading the Goodreads version of this review.)
Let us be up front about this. You know I'm going to love any book where the acknowledgement section ends with, "I'd like to close by thanking Mariano...moreLet us be up front about this. You know I'm going to love any book where the acknowledgement section ends with, "I'd like to close by thanking Mariano Rivera. Not because he helped with this book or anything … just for existing." The book is a series of autobiographical essays by Span, some about her experiences as a sports writer covering the Yankees and the Mets, but most are more generally focused around being a baseball fan. (Span is a Yankees fan, who is Mets sympathetic, and the book actually spends more time on the Mets.)
I loved this book for a bunch of reasons, the first of which is that I giggled aloud almost the whole time I was reading it, and kept stopping to read sections to my sister. The anecdotes are delightful -- trying to interview Pedro Martinez, but waiting for him to put on pants first, only to have him never put on pants, for example -- and there were plenty that made me laugh out loud while reading on the subway (the look back at the Mets' them "Our Team, Our Time," if only because I remember listening to that the first time and laughing so hard I cried).
It's also the only baseball book I've ever read where I actually identify with it. That's mainly two reasons: Span focuses mostly on the teams starting around 2003, which was the year I actually started watching baseball, so I've got a much better idea what she's talking about than in most baseball books I've read -- I remember Kevin Brown breaking his own freaking hand after a bad start -- but also because the way she describes watching baseball is something I identify with:
When I first got interested in baseball, and stopped treating it as background noise and actually focused on it, it was the characters that drew me in, the personalities, and the drama, more than any inherent beauty of the game. I didn't really care what kind of pitch someone threw or whether a batter had shortened his swing; I just wanted to see if Paul O'Neill was going to beat himself up all night, cursing his perceived failures in the dugout, terrorizing innocent water coolers. I wanted to see how the rookie replacing Tony Fernandez might overcome what I assumed had to be a bad case of nerves and succeed in the big leagues. I wanted Bernie Williams to do well because I wanted a shy, awkward dude with glasses to win one for sky, awkward people with glasses everywhere.
And just, yes, that's it exactly. People complain about the slow pace of baseball, but for me, watching my first game when I was 20, it was perfect. The fact that it's one guy batting at a time makes it much easier to figure out who's who, and gives plenty of time for the announcers to speculate wildly about his mental state, personal life, and whatever else seems interesting. The moments of human drama were more interesting to me than the game at first, and gave me an entrance point that got me watching and kept me interested.
Finally, the book is also basically a love letter to New York. My hands-down favorite essay is "Frankie Furter, Chorizo, and Guido," in which Span travels to Milwaukee to see a Mets-Brewers game. The thrust is that it's lovely: the stadium is nice, and cheap, and the people working there are helpful and friendly. The Brewers fans were also nice, and totally welcoming to out-of-town fans, happy to give directions, and cheerfully inviting Mets fans out for drinks after the game. And, as she enjoyed herself there, Span realized that she wouldn't trade in the hurried, rude, dirty, crowded New York experience for anything:
Let me just say here that I understand why people from other parts of the country get annoyed with New Yorkers' refusal to see their city as anything other than the center of the world. It's obnoxious and dismissive, this attitude towards the rest of America, grudging respect for L.A. and (maybe, sometimes) Chicago aside. There are lots of great cities in the United States and plenty of sophisticated people between the coasts.
That said … come on. If New York isn't the center of the world, what is?
And you know I've been a New Yorker for awhile, because of my nodding agreement. (Sorry, entire rest of the country.)
Span touches on lots of other subjects, ranging from the near-and-dear-to-my-heart topic of being a female fan (and female sportswriter), to watching broadcasts of American baseball games while staying in Taiwan, to stats and why people are still arguing over how accurate they are, and so on. It's a short, quick read, extremely smart, and extremely funny. It's going right on to my reread list, as soon as I'm done loaning it to everyone I know.(less)
If you like secret babies, this is your book! If that's not your cliche, probably not, then. I sped through it in an evening, though. It was completel...moreIf you like secret babies, this is your book! If that's not your cliche, probably not, then. I sped through it in an evening, though. It was completely delightful.(less)
Mary's village is the last village, the only village, haven to only living people left in the entire world. Beyond the village fences is the Forest of...moreMary's village is the last village, the only village, haven to only living people left in the entire world. Beyond the village fences is the Forest of Hands and Teeth, full of undead Unconsecrated who hunger for human flesh, and only the word of the Sisterhood keeps the village on God's path and protected. But Mary stumbles on to a secret, a stranger from Outside, which means the Sisterhood has been lying for generations. But what are the Sisters covering up -- and what is outside the Forest?
The book's biggest weakness is pacing. The first half flounders a bit, as Mary deals with the loss of her parents (both zombie-fied), being turned away by her brother, being forced into Sisterhood because no one will propose to her and then getting proposed to by the wrong brother (there's a love triangle through much of the book, which is really not my thing at all), and some mystery and intrigue, but it took a really long time for me to get into it. Basically what finally snapped me into the narrative is the zombie attack roughly halfway through the book, when the Unconsecrated breach the fences and Mary and her companions are forced out of the village. That is a long time to settle in. And even after that point it still drags in parts.
The characters also wavered in quality. Overall, I liked Mary; I liked that despite the love triangle, she was driven by a need for more, I liked that she was human enough to freeze up at a few key moments but keep moving at others. She's a first-person narrator, so it isn't shocking that she was the strongest character. But I didn't buy the love triangle, or her relationship with her best friend, because we never really saw why any of their relationships were happening the way they were. Mary loved Travis for… some reason? I never got much of a sense of why she was so desperate for him -- or even why she wanted him over Harry, since I never got much of a feel for either one. Ditto for her friend Cass; they have a lovely moment near the end, but we never see them as friends before all of the tension between them, so I never cared much about their friendship. (That said, her relationship with her brother is a bit better, since it actually grows and changes through the book, so I got it on a deeper level.)
Final frustration: the book raises a lot of questions about their society in general and the Sisterhood in particular: What exactly was the sisterhood doing with Gabrielle, and why? What was the point of the maze of paths and other villages existing? What happened in that other village? Who put the fences up and why? How did the puritan-esque society develop? … And those are just the specifics, as opposed to the general ones that were less necessary to the narrative, like how the zombie outbreak happened in the first place.
But essentially none of those questions are answered. Like, the thing about the blurb that intrigued me was the idea that the Sisterhood is covering something up, but we never find out what or why, and that really irritated me. (Yes, I know there's a second book, so at least some of this might be resolved. But I'm not sure how I feel about that, frankly; I prefer sequels that are an extension of the story, and this wasn't a story that needed much expanding, just one full of questions that weren't answered. And since the second book is a companion rather than direct sequel, I have no idea if it will even involve any of this particular society.)
But with all that said, what the book did well it did very well. I am a wimp when it comes to horror, but I think this book is legitimately scary. Like, I could only read it in small chunks, and not too soon before bed, because I needed a few minutes of daylight and sunshine and non-zombified human contact after a spell of reading. Two other words come to mind: claustrophobic and unrelenting. That's what makes it all work, I think; the antagonistic force will never stop coming and are always right there with only a fence separating them from the antagonists -- and in some places the path is so constrictive that they can only walk in single-file, with zombies on either side of them trying to break through and kill them. And as for unrelenting, it isn't just the zombies; it's that Ryan doesn't pull punches with how death-filled this world is -- it isn't just that several characters die along the way, it's that as I edged closer to the end, every time Mary faced a group of zombies I wondered if maybe Mary was going to die. Not in a general, "Oh, the hero is in danger," way, but because despite being in the first person, it seemed like a totally viable way for the story to end. There are moments of hope worked into the narrative, but it is freaking bleak. Really well-done bleak, but bleak.
Overall, I think this book was not really my cup of tea -- the world building was well put together, but not enough questions were answered to satisfy me as a reader; and while the horror elements were very well done, they aren't something that makes a book for me, personally. I'm on the fence about the companion; curious, but not enough so to spend money on it. So: three and a half stars. (less)
Beloved has finally broken through into Luster, the land of the Unicorns, and brought the Hunt with her. As the Hunters start their genocide, the unicorns gather together and find allies of their own -- but if they can't find a way to get back their fighting fire, it could be the end of the unicorns forever. But Beloved's mad Hunt has an unintended consequence: the gate she opened is right in the heart of Luster, destroying the great tree that holds the world together, and now not just the unicorns, but all of Luster, may be doomed...
Not gonna lie: I devoured this book. I did a doubletake when I realized I'd missed its release, bought it the next day, and had it finished in under 24 hours. I had originally planned to reread the whole series first, but it was so new and tempting and right there in my bag, and look, I'm only human and I've been waiting for the series conclusion for, like, 16 years now.
It's hard for me to figure out what to say here, so I'll start with this: it feels like the legend and worldbuilding behind Luster ran away with the story at some point. I remember reading the second book, and I was utterly blown away by the twist at the end, when you find out the truth about the Wanderer. But I didn't feel similarly about the reveal of the Whisperer in the third book, because the first two set it up clearly that Beloved is the series' Big Bad. Adding in the Whisperer, while intriguing (and it says a lot of interesting things about the unicorns) meant that the story was no longer about Cara and the unicorns fighting with Beloved; it was about defeating a much more nebulous villain.
The fourth book takes it further. It turns out that the Whisperer isn't something that can be defeated by Cara or the unicorns at all, which surprised me: with the repeated talk about the unicorns needing to find a way to "regain their fire" after having tried for so long to be pure, I genuinely thought that they would have to reclaim their darker impulses, and in so-doing, defeat the Whisperer that was created by those impulses. Instead, there was a whole additional layer of conflict added. To defeat the Whisperer, you had to bring in Elihu, Fallon, and Allura, and even though we barely got to know Elihu as a character, the whole conflict hinged on him. There were pieces of it I loved -- I think the Dimblethum's backstory was awesome -- but that meant that the series was really no longer about Cara and Lightfoot and their friends. Instead, it was about some godlike creatures and ultimately out of everyone else's hands, and that frustrated me a little.
Actually, now that I think about it, very little of The Last Hunt was about Cara, and Lightfoot barely was in it at all. Between her parents, the dragons, the centaurs, the delvers, M'Gama, and other unicorns, her story was only one of many, many plot threads. They were all woven together very well. The book never sagged, I was never bored, and once I remembered what had happened in the previous book I was never lost or confused by having such an array of subplots. And the fact that they came together in the massive final climax was nothing short of amazing -- just getting all of those characters together at one place and time couldn't have been an easy narrative feat, and the dual-climax of the Hunt and Luster shaking apart worked really well. But, as I said in my mini-review of Dark Whispers, having so many POVs and so much going on means there isn't time for a lot of development for any of the characters. I think the character who stuck out to me the most in this book was Rocky, because (between this and the previous book) he really did have the strongest character arch.
As a reader, I'm really into story structure. I love worldbuilding. On a technical level, I think those aspects of The Last Hunt are brilliant. But as good as they are, I don't think those things are really Coville's strength as a writer. I've always loved his characters most of all. He has a rare talent of making characters feel very, very real -- especially tween and teen girl characters, which seems to be pretty rare from male writers (and oh man, I can't tell you how strongly I identified with Wendy from the AI Gang as a kid, for example). So as much as I flew through this book, and really loved the glimpse into Luster's history and aura of hope for its future, I also wish there had been more of that character in it. Still, I enjoyed it mightily -- more than Dark Whispers, definitely -- and give it a solid four stars. (less)
Super fun! I really wish someone would adapt this into a TV show, and I'll be picking up the other books ASAP. This also has the only love triangle I...moreSuper fun! I really wish someone would adapt this into a TV show, and I'll be picking up the other books ASAP. This also has the only love triangle I can think of off the top of my head that I don't hate. Love love love.(less)
I gobbled this book up, reading it in a day. It's weird and dark and gory, but compelling as heck. But it's also got some serious problems.
For me, the...moreI gobbled this book up, reading it in a day. It's weird and dark and gory, but compelling as heck. But it's also got some serious problems.
For me, the biggest issue in the book is mental health. Hanna, we're told, has a slew of mental health problems; the most recently diagnosed is manic depression (she prefers that term to bipolar), but she's also dealt with anxiety, ADD, and many many others in her life. That's all fine, as far as I'm concerned. My issue is that we meet Hanna shortly after she's blithely murdered her aunt. Okay -- so it turns out her aunt survived, but regardless, Hanna smashed her over the head and left, not caring at all, but she promises her mother she'd never do that to her. So I'd just like to say upfront that the linking of mental health problems with violence really bothers me. It's been in the media a lot recently, as Jared Lee Loughner (alleged Arizona shooter) has been presumed to be skizophrenic, leading to a lot of ableist assumptions that mental illness was the cause of his violence. The linking of mental illness to violence is unfair and inaccurate, so starting off the book with a character basically saying, "Hi, I suffer from manic depression, and also I kill people, and I have no remorse about it!" really, really bothers me.
Aside from what I felt was an ableist issue with the set up, I also didn't buy into Hanna's mental illnesses because several people in my life have dealt with severe depression, anxiety, and yup, manic depression. Warm, wonderful, creative people who I adore. Mental health, for some of them (from what I've seen as a friend), has often been a struggle -- not just in the "how do I cope and get better," sense, though that's a huge part of it, but also in the, "I hate the person this makes me, and I hate the way this affects people who care about me," sense. It's not something they shrug off or embrace or just don't care about; coping with mental illness is a huge part of their lives. Hanna… not so much. I know that people experience things differently and react differently; some people will want to go on medications, some won't, some will have a harder time coming to terms with their mental health, some will resist the idea of having a mental health issue at all. But Hanna wasn't resisting her diagnosis, or coming to terms, or struggling in any way. She was fully aware of it, and just didn't care. Not about how it affected her, or the people around her. Basically, what struck me was this: Hanna didn't seem like someone dealing with manic depression, she seemed like a sociopath. No empathy or regard for people around her (or ability to connect to them, at least in the first half of the book); poor behavior control, disregard for safety, and on and on.
I feel like a lot of the decisions in the book about Hanna's mental health were made to give it a "hook" -- a "crazy" protag, and the eventual reveal (spoiler!). It also seemed like some set up that was never carried through -- at first, Hanna questions whether some of the things she sees are real, with hints that her mental health issues are causing her to hallucinate a lot of Portero's oddities. It seemed like a setup for an unreliable narrator, akin to Justine Larbalestier's Liar, but that all sort of fizzled out. It was actually pretty straight forward: whatever problems Hanna may have, it's actually just that Portero is full of monsters and strange happenings, and everything is real.
Which brings me to what I really liked about the book: Portero. This weird little town reminds me of a darker, more adult Eerie, Indiana. We never find out why it's so full of monsters and doors and keys (or why they seem confined to Portero), but I'm actually okay with that. Not knowing didn't bother me, and though I hope there's a rich backstory that will be explained in Reeves' next book, I don't feel like Bleeding Violet was lacking because of it. Similarly, though I'd liked to have learned more about the Mortmaine, the town's protectors and monster fighters, I don't think that was necessary, either. I really enjoyed the book's setting, and found it deliciously creepy and incredibly intriguing. I'm not particularly into urban fantasy, but I really enjoyed this.
In terms of characters, there were only a few who were really developed -- Hanna, obviously; Rosalee, her extremely cold mother; and Wyatt. I really loved Wyatt: he's a Mortmaine initiate who's driven by an urge to help people. The Mortmaine help in a grander sense but are very rigid about when and how they step in. Wyatt just wants to help, period. He experiments with new styles of fighting that the Mortmaine frown on, he helps people the Mortmaine turn their backs on. Out of everyone in the book, Wyatt is the only one I'd like to be friends with in real life, and I think he was very well done (especially his big turning point moment, which I won't spoil for you).
Some other, smaller points: the book had a minor pacing issue. It didn't exactly drag, but the actual plot doesn't come into play until page 274 (of 454, hardcover edition). That's… a lot of set up. I was disappointed when the Mayor finally appeared, since she was set up to be Serious Chief Badass, but was actually pretty easily foiled by our protagonists. It also felt a little edgy-for-the-sake-of-edgy. I wasn't bothered by the sex or the gore, but it was very in your face, screaming, "Look! Sex! Gore! For teenagers!!!"
Overall… I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. I loved it the moment I finished it, but have found it a lot more flawed since stepping back and thinking about it. (Not that I can't love a flawed book, of course.) It's got compelling prose and a bunch of great concepts, but also enough serous flaws that jump out with less than 24 hours of distance. However, I do plan to pick up Slice of Cherry (a non-sequel, but also set in Portero) when it comes out, so I think I'll give this one three cupcakes and call it a day.
Nimira left her home of Tiansher hoping to find fame and fortune in Lorinar, only end up a singing "trouser girl" in a low-class show. Then Hollin Par...moreNimira left her home of Tiansher hoping to find fame and fortune in Lorinar, only end up a singing "trouser girl" in a low-class show. Then Hollin Parry, a well-to-do gentleman sorcerer, invites her to create a show with him, singing to accompany his fairy-made automaton piano player. Nim jumps at the chance -- but when she arrives at his estate, she learns that it’s haunted by the ghost of his wife, and that there’s something strange about the automaton... In fact, it might just be alive.
I enjoyed this book, but there wasn't much to it. It only took me a few hours to read, and after I finished, I was left without any serious impressions about it, positive or negative. Which makes it kind of hard to review.
Here's the best I can offer: the world building was really interesting. It was clearly a fantasy take on Victorian England -- I wasn't positive where Nim’s homeland was, certainly somewhere in Fantasy Asia -- with plenty of magic mixed in. Parry's house featured tigers turned to gold by alchemy, and garden fairies turned into decorative paperweights. There was war brewing with the fairies (a second war, actually), and interesting references to the mermaids Nim's ship had to pay off to journey to Lorinar, and some other magic creatures. The world building was definitely my favorite part. I wish there had been more to the book so we could get further into it.
Nim herself didn't leave me with much to say about her as a character, though I thought her situation was handled interestingly. She had been a child of privilege in her home country, who came to Lorinar after she lost that; she was self-aware enough to realize she craved having the trappings of wealth back, and that was part of her motivation throughout. The fact that she was also clearly an Exotic Other to the people of Lorinar, but that we saw it from her POV and how uncomfortable and upset it made her, was an interesting touch. (And makes the fact that the book was rejacketed to show Nim as a character of color all the more important.)
The plot itself didn't wow me. The idea of the fairy automaton was very cool -- the secret of who and what it turned out to be even more so -- but that largely became a romance that I was never sold on. It happened too quickly, it seemed to be largely based on pity and intrigue and not actual connection. I was somewhat disappointed. Alternately, you have the subplot about Parry and his wife's ghost, which borrowed quite heavily from Jane Eyre. To the point where I recognized that without actually having read Jane Eyre. I wasn't terribly impressed by either plot or the book’s resolution.
Overall, the book was... fine, if somewhat forgettable. I feel like there was no there there; I wish it had been meatier, something I could sink my teeth into. More depth (of character in particular, and plot in general) would probably have improved it a lot. On my book review blog, I gave it 2.5 cupcakes; there are no halves over here, and I liked it enough to round up instead of down. Three stars.
**spoiler alert** On the one hand, this book hit a LOT of my favorite tropes. He's secretly very smart and is only in the gang to protect his family,...more**spoiler alert** On the one hand, this book hit a LOT of my favorite tropes. He's secretly very smart and is only in the gang to protect his family, and he'll do anything to keep his brothers out of it! He's tough on the outside but has a soft and sweet center, like some kind of gourmet candybar! And, uh, let's not analyze exactly why rich girl/poor boy (and good girl/bad boy, or in this case head cheerleader/gang member) romance set ups appeal to me too much, okay? And I love, love, love "we bicker because of our sexual tension." It's kind of my favorite romance trope of all.
Basically: I really, really enjoyed this book, even though I don't think it was actually very well written. The voice didn't feel particularly authentic at any point; the prose was all fairly stilted, with characters often making awkward word choices that didn't feel at all teenager-y. They also had deep self-awareness, and would expound on their motivations for all actions at length, in dialogue, so you'd have some really, really awkward exchanges. The prose itself pulled me out of the story again and again.
And overall, I wanted the plot points to be bigger. I loved that Brit's decision to dump her horrible boyfriend wasn't actually about Alex -- he'd changed, he was pressuring her, she realized she was only dating him to keep up appearances -- but I wanted *more* when she realized she didn't care about what people think; I wanted *more* when she realized she was in love; I wanted *more* with the it's-just-a-bet-I-don't-really-care subplot (especially the payoff; that really didn't feel big enough). The pacing was also a little wonky, especially near the end. There's the big climactic drug deal/police bust/shootout, and then a five month jump, and then *another* five month jump. Oh, and also the POV-change-every-other-chapter thing led to some awkwardness, with very brief chapters clearly inserted to keep the pattern up before skipping back to the character who is actually doing something.
On the other hand, I loved the female friendships in the background -- Brittany's awkward but growing friendship with Isabel was great; her friendship with Sierra was, too, and the dynamic between the three of them was very good (Sierra being hurt when she thinks Isabel has usurped her place as the best friend). I also liked Shelley, Brit's mentally and physically disabled sister; I liked the dynamics shown around her, but that she wasn't just a prop, and I like that the moment Brit realized Alex wasn't just an intriguing badboy, but was actually a good guy with a lot of issues, was when he treated Shelley with respect and compassion in a way most people didn't. Oh, and I enjoyed the hard-ass teacher, and I really, really loved the "Gary Finkle is a badass" running gag. (Which I don't think was *meant* to be a gag, but his three or four cameos were super entertaining.)
So overall? Like I said: I really enjoyed this. I will definitely read the sequel. The story is what it is, and the writing isn't quite good enough to pull it off. Reading it was like watching a bad movie for fun. It's not good, but it's definitely entertaining.(less)
Pretty good! If we could give half ratings, it would be a 3.5. I did tear through it and I enjoyed it a lot. It was a good blend of traditional fairy...morePretty good! If we could give half ratings, it would be a 3.5. I did tear through it and I enjoyed it a lot. It was a good blend of traditional fairy tale with modern structure and pacing, so though it felt very traditional it didn't lag or go off on tangents. I just wish there had been more depth to some of the characters, especially Kaisa and Sidhean. Everyone else follows the traditional Cinderella characters pretty closely, but I think a lot could have been done with those two to make them more special and dynamic, so even though I enjoyed them and the book, that felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.
I loved the world, though, and am fascinated by the whole concept of the King's Huntress. Since Lo's next book is a companion called, y'know, "Huntress," I'll definitely read that once it's out.(less)