**spoiler alert** 3.5 stars. I liked this book a lot in spite of myself, because there are some things that make this book a mixed bag for me. (Spoile**spoiler alert** 3.5 stars. I liked this book a lot in spite of myself, because there are some things that make this book a mixed bag for me. (Spoilers to follow.)
As a historian, this book was so wildly enjoyable. Harkness's ability to appreciate the history behind the different settings (and to place her characters in wonderful historical settings, especially Oxford) is delightful. I also loved her wonderful descriptions of the sights, tastes, and smells of the protagonist's world, from Matthew's rare wines to the smell of a library. Those elements really sucked me in, and my favorite scenes were actually those where Diana the plot had not yet thickened - where Diana was mostly drinking wine and reading books - than when the action started. I am also very much invested in the plot. I, too, cannot wait to uncover the secret of the Ashmole text.
With that said, I, like so many others, had a very difficult time getting over the eyeroll-inducing romance between Diana and Matthew. There are a lot of elements that are unbelievable or cheesy, but that I don't mind. I don't mind that we learn that Diana is a magical hyper-powered super-witch. I read enough fantasy novels that feature conveniently hyper-powered main characters that it doesn't bother me. I also don't mind that Harkness uses vampires to inject a further note of historical flavor into her novels, or even that they are irresistibly handsome and rich.
However, I very much do mind that Matthew engages in a lot of behaviors, which Diana describes as "bossy," that are so far beyond that that they constitute domestic abuse. Then they are laughed away because he's a vampire from old timey times when we didn't have to listen to women so much, and really he's got the best interests of everyone at heart anyway. For instance, the time he puts Diana in a chokehold until she'll answer invasive questions about her past, for her own good. Or feeds her his blood without her knowledge, which isn't ever addressed... And all the women surrounding Matthew just keep telling her that really, she should just do whatever he says, for her own sake. Excuse me?!
I also dislike that somehow Harkness wants Diana to be a strong woman, strong enough to undergo extreme torture from another witch, but then has her constantly whisked up and carried around coddled in blankets like a little baby. I'm not trying to say that characters cannot be simultaneously strong and vulnerable, hard and gentle, but I found the incongruence too extreme in this case. Moreover, it's a trope I'm simply very, very tired of reading. It does not appeal to me in anyway, and I find it problematic that so many do seem to find it appealing.
Nonetheless, the adventure is so fascinating, and the worlds in which Harkness immerses me so rich and delightful, that I can't help myself. I will definitely be trying the next in the series....more
2.5 stars. I found this book to be incredibly frustrating. The premise is fascinating, featuring a world in which the Christian narrative is mixed wit2.5 stars. I found this book to be incredibly frustrating. The premise is fascinating, featuring a world in which the Christian narrative is mixed with magic. The Serpent is the force of chaos in the world, and the "Young God," very much a Jesus figure, has locked him away. Now, many years later, a cult attempts to wake the Serpent, and it is up to two young people, one a devotee of the church and one as wild as can be, to stop them.
The problem is that the characters fall incredibly flat, and the writing is so-so. The personalities of the characters are essentially cardboard cut-outs of the noble duchess and rags-to-riches peasant bastard. Although the story is told from both their perspectives at times, I still never felt the two protagonists were anything more than bland. The writing itself is also bland. "Bryan" (actually a pen name for Judith Tarr) speaks about magic at length, but cannot convey either through description or the intuitive feeling of her words what magic is like. So, the reader is simply told that magic does this or that, without any sense of what that might mean or look like. Additionally, the story shifts between following either of the two protagonists seemingly at random, in a way that feels very clumsy and sloppy.
I am going to attempt to finish the series because I love the initial concept, but I suspect it will be some slow, painful reading to get there....more
I very much enjoyed this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. Draven is an excellent author in terms of her detail and the convincing worlds she createI very much enjoyed this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. Draven is an excellent author in terms of her detail and the convincing worlds she creates. I did find this story had almost too much detail, however, seeming to drag on at parts. Additionally, there were many adult scenes in this book, which I skipped. The plot holds up very well without them, which shows they were superfluous, but also that there is genuinely a good plot....more
4.5 stars. I essentially devoured this book in two sittings, one yesterday evening and one today, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the world-buildin4.5 stars. I essentially devoured this book in two sittings, one yesterday evening and one today, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the world-building, and the way that several elements of the story came together at the end in subtle ways.
The writing could use some work, in terms of gaining some polish, but I personally did not find it to be unbearable. It was fairly standard writing for a young adult audience. What did annoy me was my growing confusion over whether this book was about the heroine, Clary, whose perspective the story is generally told from, or Jace, the hero/love interest. Starting the book, I really enjoyed the character of Clary, particularly her strength and sassiness. It seemed the further the book went on, however, the more personality that Clary lost, supplanted by the growing focus on Jace. As much as I liked him, this was a somewhat disappointing transition for me, as I'd wanted to see a young adult book where strong female characters are not treated as mere foils for the brooding, dark male characters. I do recognize that if the book is truly being told from Clary's perspective, it makes sense for the focus to shift to Jace because hers does, but I also fear that might be offering the book a bit too much credit.
Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the book immensely and will continue in the series....more
I picked up this book already a huge fan of Orson Scott Card, but unaware of anything this book was about apart from having heard that the Alvin MakerI picked up this book already a huge fan of Orson Scott Card, but unaware of anything this book was about apart from having heard that the Alvin Maker series was amazing. I'm actually glad I did not not know the book's premise, because if I had, I likely never would have read it. The basic plot of the book functions around an alternate history of early America, in which folk magic works and legends are a reality. Ben Franklin is even a character. None of these ideas appeal to me on paper.
With that said, I found this audiobook to be incredibly compelling. I didn't find it very cheesy at all, just very good, solid storytelling. I was also so amazed by how "American" it is; I don't know that I had ever read a fantasy novel before that was simultaneously very serious from a literary standpoint and yet so distinctly grounded in the vision of America and its rural locales. I was very impressed. Particular to the audio version, I felt that the readers did a great job, both holding my attention and helping me to truly hear the characters speaking.
I will definitely be continuing the series, albeit it at a slow pace....more
I expected to like this book much more than I did, what with the high ratings from some of my friend and overall from Goodreads. I did enjoy the plotI expected to like this book much more than I did, what with the high ratings from some of my friend and overall from Goodreads. I did enjoy the plot of this book, and I enjoyed the fast-paced story. I read this in an afternoon, in one sitting.
That said, I felt the world-building suffered somewhat for the plot's speed. There is really no reason why the characters in this book need to be vampires; they could just as easily be magic-users and it would make no real difference to the plot. Moreover, I did not get the sense of immersion in a parallel or otherwise fantastical world that I want from my fantasy/paranormal stories. I am unsure if this is because the plot was so self-contained at the academy, or if it's because it just exists in our current world.
Ultimately, I did not hate this, but I have not yet decided if I will continue the series or not....more
Overall, the story was fairly good as a young adult mystery. Juroe did an excellent job making the world and her characters seem realistic for the timOverall, the story was fairly good as a young adult mystery. Juroe did an excellent job making the world and her characters seem realistic for the time period. That is to say, Scarlette's world sucks and Scarlette herself is fairly naive, just as she would be. I also liked the somewhat slower pacing and world-building of the novel, and felt it was a neat, unique take on the Red Riding Hood tale.
However, the book suffers from too many "big reveals" at the end, such that the pacing began to seem off. This problem also made the ending seem a bit too neat and thrown together to me. Additionally, the Kindle version I read also suffered from many editing errors ("scarred" for "scared" is one example) that distracted from the flow of the novel.
I recommend this book for anyone who likes twists on fairy tales or wants a breezy young adult mystery to read through....more