Hey so apparently Code Name Verity wasn't Elizabeth Wein's first rodeo on the emotional brutality circuit. The Winter Prince is just as ruthlessly pre...moreHey so apparently Code Name Verity wasn't Elizabeth Wein's first rodeo on the emotional brutality circuit. The Winter Prince is just as ruthlessly precise in its restrained depiction of wild and complicated feelings under stressful situations. And, okay, I feel like that description is something that only makes sense to me, but the beauty in Wein's writing is in that contradictory dynamic: careful narrators committed to truth, and all sorts of hard love blooming underneath the surface of that narrative. That hard love seeps to the surface in ways that feel like punches to the gut.
The Arthurian mythology isn't really my thing, and prior to reading this book, I couldn't recall anything about who Medraut was, but I found the story easy to follow, easy to enjoy. The characters were fully inhabited, not just placeholders falling into particular roles or fates. The climactic scenes tore my heart out, but I wished for an ending that left more resolved, that lingered more on the changes that had occurred in the relationships--though I understood clearly just how exhausted the characters were and how they deserved to get ushered off the page and sleep for a few days. But my feelings re: the ending don't diminish the story at all: there are four more books after this AND the series moves off to the Aksumite Empire next, so I'm a happy reader.(less)
I don't gravitate toward fantasy, but I quite enjoyed this one. A princess secretly married to the king of a neighboring country, on what seems to be...moreI don't gravitate toward fantasy, but I quite enjoyed this one. A princess secretly married to the king of a neighboring country, on what seems to be the eve of war! A lack of ridiculous YA romance! (The middle of the book suffered from the addition of a rote crush, but from a plot standpoint, I was pleased how that resolved, but I am an awful person, so. I'll refrain from spoilers.) Adventure! Awesome, consistently strong plotting! A fantasy culture that was distinctly non-WASPy! Nice little twists on what it meant to be a Chosen One, particularly when one is in a long line of Chosen Ones.
And, in general, I really love stories that are about faith, community, and developing agency, and on those themes, The Girl of Fire and Thorns didn't disappoint. It was thoughtful about choices/decisions, choosing, and being chosen, and I looooved that. I loved that Elisa realized, in the middle of the book, that being the Chosen One was not about her. It was about her service, what she can do for others, what she must do for others. I also believed in her transformation into a veritable warrior princess; the book established from the start that Elisa was a good learner, and logically, I could follow how she picked up on things, and how she grew more confident in leading.
Emotionally, however, Elisa fell a little short of feeling real to me. Though I could understand her and sympathized with her, and I loved the story of her gaining agency, I never felt the real girl underneath the princess or the warrior. (And maybe that was purposeful and part of Carson's aim, but I still felt like I was missing out on something.) And because of that, what should have been huge emotional moments fell flat for me. I had mixed feelings about Elisa's fatness; on one hand, I totally appreciated having a protagonist whose physical body falls short of perceived perfection. (I mean, I read lots of romance novels, in which it's a basic matter of course for a heroine to catalog her physical flaws as "too skinny" and "legs that are too long"; in comparison, in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa's weight has narrative weight and isn't an unimportant part of who she feels she is, at least at the beginning. And I liked that.) On the other hand, it's so unique to have a kickass protagonist who's overweight, that it was disappointing that there was no reflection about her overeating, even though it was painfully obvious that it was emotional overeating, and it was all resolved very patly by her losing-weight-and-becoming-awesome. Ooooookay.
It was a little too incomplete for my tastes; I understand there are more books to come, but I had a few lingering questions that gnawed away at the satisfaction I felt, because I wasn't sure if they were just convenient plot holes or little wormholes that'll be exploited for dramatic effect in future books. The ending itself, however, did a good job concluding and settling the major threads of the book, and it left the protagonist in a positive, warm and fuzzy place, so.(less)
A fantasy in three parts, The Anvil of the World was my first foray into the very incisive Kage Baker's work beyond her Company series, and this novel...moreA fantasy in three parts, The Anvil of the World was my first foray into the very incisive Kage Baker's work beyond her Company series, and this novel was an absolute treat. As always with Baker, culture clash, light-handed morals, and charmingly dark humor kept me turning the pages. I'm not finished thinking over the book's structure and why it worked for me (the sections built on one another and focused on the same characters, but the plot of each was rather self-contained: a caravan journey while chased by assassins, a murder mystery amid a orgiastic city festival, and a reluctant hero quest, sorta), but I can say I quite enjoyed the characters, the world, the different mythologies at play (and the range of believers and non-believers), and the lovely, cinematic ending.(less)
I wish I read this as a kid; I enjoyed it now, but this would have knocked off my socks and delighted younger me. Now I'm too critical of the plot and...moreI wish I read this as a kid; I enjoyed it now, but this would have knocked off my socks and delighted younger me. Now I'm too critical of the plot and the explanations (or lack thereof).
I loved Vivian, and I liked Jonathan and Sam. The worldbuilding was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed how the time travel functioned, even if I was left with more questions than answers.
This is my third DWJ book, and I've learned that as much as I can sink into her writing and enjoy the hijinks along the way, her endings have fallen flat for me. They feel rushed and poorly fleshed out, and I leave her books feeling newly dissatisfied. I wish that wasn't so, because I enjoy her worlds and her characters, but I'm always left feeling out of sorts, and not in a good way.(less)
Charming! While at times the story seemed to drag for me, the worldbuilding was full of gems and full of surprises, and Sophie was a delightful protag...moreCharming! While at times the story seemed to drag for me, the worldbuilding was full of gems and full of surprises, and Sophie was a delightful protagonist. I can see why so many people love this.(less)