I admit it, I have a bit of a kink when it comes to girls masquerading as guys and managing to pull it off. Especially during times when, historically...moreI admit it, I have a bit of a kink when it comes to girls masquerading as guys and managing to pull it off. Especially during times when, historically, it was believed that women were incapable of even a fraction of what men were capable of. To shed the dress and don some breeches and go about the country side takes moxie and young Leon, er, Leonie has that in spades. Her story is wildly entertaining to read about and yet Georgette Heyer manages to kick it up another notch by adding in court intrigue, a debauched rake, and an ancient score that needs to be settled. Little Leonie finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind of scandal and only with the help of her savior, the Duke, does she have a chance to survive.
I have loved all of Georgette Heyer's gender benders, The Corinthian, The Masqueraders and now I can add These Old Shades to the line up. Her historical novels are so filled with period detail you feel like you really are in the century she is portraying. While it may be a stretch to believe that such characters as the Duke and Leonie can manage to pull off their very scandalous story then just remember it is France from before the time of Napoleon. The dissatisfied lower classes had to become dissatisfied somehow and some of the upper crust's hi-jinks definitely contributed to that.
Speaking of class differences that was one of the only problems I had with this story. The classism displayed by the characters, while accurate for the time, in some ways I think went a bit too far. The Duke loves Leonie and at the same time expresses disgust and distaste for the people in the class she was raised in. There was some character development as well that made the characters themselves reflect the very traits that distinguish them as being a commoner or a noble even in situations where it would be far fetched to believe it. In the nature versus nurture argument These Old Shades falls firmly on the side of nature and I can't say any more or will risk spoiling it.
Georgette Heyer makes you fall in love with her characters even if they really don't deserve it. Whether it is a debauched rake who is addressed as Satan (and rightfully so) on a number of occasions, or a headstrong girl who thinks little of everyone save for her savior the Duke Heyer will make them lovable and you will care what happens to them even if you don't agree with them, their ideals, or their lifestyle choices. The romance turned out to be very sweet and left me wondering what will happen to them down the road. Thankfully I don't have to wonder long because this is the first in a trilogy. Next is Devil's Cub followed by An Infamous Army each taking place generations later. I look forward to it!(less)
As if being dumped down into a completely fantastical and strange world that doesn’t speak her language or play by her rules wasn’t bad enough. Noriko...moreAs if being dumped down into a completely fantastical and strange world that doesn’t speak her language or play by her rules wasn’t bad enough. Noriko faces bigger enemies in this volume and feels more powerless than ever. She can’t help her friends or fight the bad guys, all she can do is be herself. But will that prove to be enough?
It turns out being herself is more powerful than Noriko originally thought, but she isn’t the only one showing her true colors. Izark finally breaks down and reveals his true self to Noriko and the result ends up shocking them both.
This volume delivers two fantastic, worth the wait, reveals. One is Izark’s long kept secret that he now shares with Noriko and the other is a flashback to Izark’s childhood and his struggles right after he left home. Both were exciting to read about and I’m glad this twist has come along, it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
The author is still interrupting herself a bit but it’s becoming less and that’s good. Her side panels throughout the volume responding to fan mail are very annoying and keep coming in during key tense and emotional scenes in the book. That I could really do without.(less)
Wow! Everything in this volume has reached new heights and I really think the series is starting to come into its own. Noriko and Izark find themselve...moreWow! Everything in this volume has reached new heights and I really think the series is starting to come into its own. Noriko and Izark find themselves in some pretty precarious situations after they were separated in the previous volume. What happens next was worth having in its own volume. Wow is all I can say without spoiling things, just wow.
The art was beautiful, varied and interesting. I loved the depiction of magic and the beautiful ways the layout often told the story. The story has some fascinating plot twists and reveals and new things are discovered about Noriko and Izark. What Noriko’s presence as the Awakening means for Izark and the people of this world remains unexplained but what is discovered definitely is food for thought.
The author has still not completely broken herself of telling things occasionally that she thought she couldn’t draw adequately but these explanations just took you out of the story and were often superfluous. I trust both this author and the story she has to tell implicitly, she doesn’t need to second guess herself! If I see it’s a different time of day somewhere else or two people decide to drink coffee I’m going to go with it. Quit interrupting yourself with asides explaining minutiae and tell the story!
Also the side panels talking about scenes from her childhood that she is not completely sure actually happened or not are a bit unnerving. I’m not sure why those are there either. I don’t mind if panels like that are at the beginning or end of a book but in the middle of a story is a bit distracting. Still looking forward to volume five though, I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for Noriko and Izark next!(less)
Picking up the third volume in the From Far Away series I thought I had a pretty good handle on where things were headed. We had a teenage couple set...morePicking up the third volume in the From Far Away series I thought I had a pretty good handle on where things were headed. We had a teenage couple set up against some pretty corrupt and evil governmental figures and some sort of magical prophecy bound them together. So I was stunned that within the first five pages Izark left Noriko! Their separation allows them to grow individually as they each go on their own adventures and yet something magical still ties them together. Not to mention that even through the language barrier Noriko is beginning to realize it and just how much danger that puts them both in.
There was also some adorable flash backs that showed the couple before they split up and it shows that they have grown in their relationship together. Though Noriko’s grasp of the new language is tenuous at best. They were still very cute to read about, though worrisome too as the more Noriko grows and learns about the world she has been transported too, the more danger there is of her letting slip to others just where she came from and how she got there.
This volume ends leaves you on the edge of your seat as the characters each are in the midst of their own dangerous adventure. But even though they are separated Noriko at least has not been totally abandoned and she finds strength in new allies as tries to survive in spite of an alien world’s political plots and machinations that want her dead, if they only found out just who she was.
P.S. About 1/3rd of this volume cuts away from From Far Away and tells a completely different story set in the real world about unrelated characters. Not sure why but thought I would warn potential buyers about the deviation from the plot. Fourth volume picks up with From Far Away again and we never hear about the real world characters ever again.(less)
I was expecting things to maybe slow down a little and we step back and really get to see this world poor Noriko has gotten plunked down into but unfo...moreI was expecting things to maybe slow down a little and we step back and really get to see this world poor Noriko has gotten plunked down into but unfortunately for the characters, and fortunately for us, the adventure picks up. Izark is struck by a strange, sudden illness and Noriko finds herself floundering in her attempts to help him because of the language barrier in place. She is forced to mime her intentions and more often than not she misinterprets what is being said around her and reacts inappropriately.
But that isn’t the biggest problem they face, because now that Izark is considered out of commission the robbers we met in the previous volume decide now would be a great time to strike and attempt to kill Izark before he can kill them. What follows is frankly stunning, and I won’t spoil it but it shows some fantastic character reveal for Izark and some real character growth for Noriko. The scared little girl from Japan, actually proves she can do and be more than just a helpless, hapless female in constant need of saving. Her actions are purely defensive and show quick thinking and a lot of nerve. I have high hopes for Noriko as the series progresses.
My only negative points were the same ones I have with a lot of manga and that is occasionally there is too much telling and not enough showing. A man who had been badly hurt in the previous volume gets hurt again and cries out that, “My wounds have reopened!” Another time characters fix tea and one character explains to the other as they are making it that it’s so they can stay up late almost as if he is more speaking to the audience and not the other character. I’m never sure if that is the author putting that in or bad translation or what. Another problem I had was the author put several autobiographical comments in panels throughout this volume. It was disconcerting and kept pulling me out of the story. I love reading author’s notes at the beginning or short fun comics at the end that talk about the author personally or their process, but I have no interest in having injected in the middle of a fight scene that the author likes Jackie Chan movies. It also made me take a moment when we got back story on Noriko to realize what was going on because it was in the same tone as the autobiographical comments before. I almost skipped over the back story thinking it was more author trivia and not character history germane to the plot.
I hate to sound so negative about a series I am really starting to enjoy! The mystery around Izark deepens, Noriko is learning how to stand up for herself, and the fantasy elements and possibilities of the world continue to grow. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to these teens next.(less)
The one thing I love about Japanese fantasy is that while it may contain a few of the familiar fantasy tropes we know and love there are still many su...moreThe one thing I love about Japanese fantasy is that while it may contain a few of the familiar fantasy tropes we know and love there are still many surprises and unexpected twists that keep the story fresh, interesting, and enchanting. From Far Away has all of this and more as young Noriko falls victim to a terrorist attack, a bomb left in an unattended bag in the street goes off and sends her flying into a magical world far away. Many things are the same as our world and yet there is an eerie difference in the golden forest she finds herself in that manifests when she is set upon but huge flesh-eating worms! Luckily at that moment she is saved by a handsome but mysterious man named Izark. Who is this man? Who is this Awakening everyone is speaking of, in a language that Noriko can't understand? Most importantly, where is she and how is she ever going to get home?
From Far Away is a unique and engaging story about an ordinary girl thrust into a fantastical world where it turns out she might not be so ordinary. The world is beautiful and strange, there are flying dinosaurs and gigantic worms and enchanted forests, everyone speaks a strange language and the politics of the people who inhabit it are as complex as they are deadly. There is a blind sage child that can see the future, mighty warriors with super human strength, and poor Noriko a normal human teen in the middle of it all just trying to maintain sanity while she mourns all she has lost and deals with a new and frightening world she has gained.
The art is absolutely beautiful in this manga. The details are wonderful and the use of clouds and wind, stars and balls of light to convey a magical occurrence are wonderful to view. The story is fantastical and a joy to read and the premise has me excited to see what is going to happen to Noriko and Izark next. My only complaint is that sometimes the author jerks you out of the story to explain something to you. Like what single and double lines around speech bubbles mean and then inverts it part way through the story, and stops again to explain that too. I didn't like being pulled out of the story like that. Other than that one deviation from the storyline the rest was a great and exciting read and I look forward to proceeding with this (finished!) manga. (less)
This book left me feeling half and half about it. On the one hand there is this super strong heroine with this wicked awesome back story and world bui...moreThis book left me feeling half and half about it. On the one hand there is this super strong heroine with this wicked awesome back story and world built around her that is fascinating to read about. On the other hand, there were some unrealistic elements and some of the character building left something to be desired. The plot was super fast paced and it was an awesome page turner, but the fast plot left out some elements that could have made this story a lot better. So, I’m torn on a lot of it.
In Nightshade we have a story of a girl named Calla who is Guardian. That means she can change into a wolf at will. She is the alpha of a pack of teen wolves and is strong, sure of herself, and rules the pack with an iron will and a don't mess with me attitude. She has been betrothed to a boy named Ren who is the alpha of his own pack of teen wolves and they are set to be mated on their 18th birthdays, which just happens to fall on All Hallows Eve. Things get complicated when Calla saves a human boy named Shay who is hiking up on the mountain that she is patrolling, against the express wishes of the Keepers whom she guards for, and then starts to fall for his mysterious boy when he shows up at school not long after.
The plot gets interesting when it delves into the world surrounding Calla and the two boys she now loves. Who are the Keepers and why do they need Guardians? Who are the Searches and why is this boy so important to everyone involved when he is only human? Why is information restricted from the Guardians? Are they really only slaves? There is also this great fast paced plot where you are left guessing straight up until the end what is really going on and who Calla will choose to be with.
That's where a lot of the negative comes out too. These are three of the horniest teenagers on the planet. Calla gets her horny on with both boys a lot in this book. Ren seems to push boundaries with her and pressures her a lot to show off how experienced he is. Shay gets further with Calla but at least claims to have more respect for her than that, though his actions belie his words sometimes. I got a little exasperated with Calla for going from being a strong alpha with a ton of confidence to being unable to simply make a decision and stick with it when it came to two boys. They both pushed her around (Ren sexually and physically, Shay mentally and idealogically) and they both wanted her and she just went with both of them for the longest time in the book which was frustrating to read about. I also found two incidents a little hard to believe with Calla and Shay, one was where they were laying out on a public library's floor making out, awkward for the librarian I'm sure, and secondly when they stop to kiss and feel each other up while fleeing for their lives, which I find very hard to believe any one would do. Also, to the reviews that say this book is safe for 12 years olds because there is "just kissing", I personally do not consider partial disrobing and getting to second (and hinting at third) base to be "just kissing".
I liked the feminist themes and the concept of slavery and freedom in the book but I also wondered if trying so hard to be a free and sexual being with two boys at once ended up undoing a lot of what made Calla so awesome in the beginning. She had such a strong and decisive attitude in her life and a no nonsense approach to leading her pack. When things turned to matters of love and the fight with her mother over dressing proactively (the mother wants her to, she doesn't want to) Calla loses a lot of her spirit and in the end starts having decisions taken out of her hands by the boys in her life left and right. It was a bit frustrating to read about. I liked Shay a little better because he at least tried to have respect for Calla, even though he did push her to tell him things that could get her killed and discover more things that could again get her killed. But, In the end, the one that seemed to have the least respect for her own mind on things was Calla herself and that was sad to see.
Fans of Twilight will probably enjoy this book a lot, as will fans of other YA paranormal fantasy novels. I do think that this book is best suited for 10th grade and up, personally. I am interested in seeing where this book goes next, largely thanks to the huge cliffhanger! But, I think too much of it bothered me to really enjoy it as much as others perhaps will.
When you are as much of a fan of fantasy as I am you end up reading about a lot of awesome adventures, surreal magic, fantastical worlds, and thrillin...moreWhen you are as much of a fan of fantasy as I am you end up reading about a lot of awesome adventures, surreal magic, fantastical worlds, and thrilling battles, you also unfortunately read a lot of sexist crap. Women can do this, they can't do that. Women either marry or go into the convent or become a shrew. Women can't fight, can't defend themselves, can't learn certain trades, can't rule, can't lead, can't strategize, can't go anywhere alone, or do anything without men's approval. It. Gets. Grating. This coming from someone who loves fantasy but who also gets a little sick of being told what her gender can and can't do all the time.
Then comes Graceling. What am awesome, surreal, fantastical, and thrilling breath of fresh air! Graceling is set in a medieval era Europeanish world called The Seven Kingdoms. There are wonderfully complex politics at play and fiendish plots afoot and then we get to the people. Certain people within the various kingdoms are called Gracelings, these people have been Graced with a specific talent. Our main character, Katsa, learns at the tender age of eight that she has been Graced with the talent of killing people when she accidentally kills her step cousin who was making unwanted advances.
She is then trained by her uncle the King and instead of being given a position of prominence in the kingdom for being Graced she is treated more as a lap dog that gets sent to do the dirty work. This all changes when she meets Po, a prince who has been Graced with combat skills. Plots are uncovered, alliances are threatened, politics come into play and soon Katsa finds herself involved in a quest to save a kidnapped child. Her special Grace is needed desperately, but is it in the way she expects?
I loved this book. Carried all the way through was this fantastic feminist message that shined through Katsa. She was tough and spirited though granted she was a little wild at the beginning, but that's to be expected after being treated like an animal by her uncle's court. She was feared and mistreated more for her Grace than her gender, which was refreshing. While she was strong she also had true heart that made her endearing and human. The romance also was wonderful to read about. It was built up slowly and believably and remained respectful of them both, so rare in YA romance. It was a welcome addition to the story.
The world she was in was amazing as well, and not just because of the fascinating concept of Gracelings or the complex politics of the Seven Kingdoms. Marriage was a choice for women, not a need. Men were permitted the luxury of feeling and even of crying when all was lost. Gender conformity was not an over-driving need as it is traditionally in fantasy and that was true straight to the last and I'm glad the author made that tough call. That is not to say that all was roses. There were still unwanted sexual advances and comments made about various young women, there were still attempts at forced/arranged marriages, and there were still kingdoms that chose not to educate or empower their women or teach them how to protect themselves. But for a fantasy book, a genre famous for brutally enforcing gender roles, this book was amazingly progressive. It made Graceling a wonderful and magical rare breed of truly empowering fantasy centered around a truly powerful woman. I loved it and look forward to reading the other books set in this magical world.(less)