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 preHey 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....more
We have had Aunt Maria ever since Dad died. If that sounds as if we have the plague, that is what I mean.
Creepy and gloomy. Neither the plot nor the w
We have had Aunt Maria ever since Dad died. If that sounds as if we have the plague, that is what I mean.
Creepy and gloomy. Neither the plot nor the worldbuilding cohered for me, but I liked the relationships between Mig and her brother Chris and her mother, and the sickly sweet Aunt Maria was a despicable if flat villain....more
So God's an irresponsible teenage layabout named Bob, and unfortunately for all of Earth, he's fallen headfirst into a combo of lust & love for yoSo God's an irresponsible teenage layabout named Bob, and unfortunately for all of Earth, he's fallen headfirst into a combo of lust & love for young zookeeper named Lucy. Chaos ensues.
The premise sounds full of landmines of unenjoyability, but Meg Rosoff's earned my trust with two other books, How I Live Now and Picture Me Gone. This comic romp is a very different story, something that Vonnegut or Adams might appreciate, but it's also quite thoughtful about issues of faith, mortality, and the relationship between humans and God. There's even a strand of sweetness, particularly anytime Eck (a penguin-esque creature, the last of his kind, and under extreme threat of being eaten very shortly) was on page and ruminating about death and life. There is approximately zero theological coherence, and I wasn't happy with the way some of the story strands turned out, but overall, it was an interesting read....more
I wish I hadn't waited so long to read this. One of my favorite aspects of Laura Bickle's previous series (the adult urban fantasy series with Anya KaI wish I hadn't waited so long to read this. One of my favorite aspects of Laura Bickle's previous series (the adult urban fantasy series with Anya Kalinczyk, psychic arson investigator) was the way she incorporated faith, spirituality, and mythology into her worldbuilding, character development, and plot. I should have known that she'd hit a proverbial home run by zooming in on an Amish community during the vampire apocalypse. There's a good mix of thematic meditation--lots of interesting thoughts about evil and power--and slightly frightening (I'm a wimp, okay) action scenes with strong emotional resonance. Also, one of the book's major strengths, for me, was Katie: she's an appealing, down-to-earth, thoughtful protagonist....more
While the past four years have been a bit of a wait, it's a lovely experience to wait so long for a next book in a series, to fall right back into theWhile the past four years have been a bit of a wait, it's a lovely experience to wait so long for a next book in a series, to fall right back into the world without a hitch, and to have it be a very good book besides.
I find this series calming. The primary characteristic of protagonist Katie is that she's practical. Sometimes boringly sensible, and sometimes quite unemotional--the narration sometimes throws me because there is no mention of her emotions during some scenes, like when she was being attacked. Someone's choking her, and her narration focuses on her sequence of actions, no references to panic, dread, fear, etc. I also find this series rather chaste, with a few scattered swear words, and I can quite understand how this series might have struggled to find a genre to fit into; Katie is too sensible for a chick lit novel, and her world is too cutesy (without being very whimsical; remember the practicality?) to fit in among most urban fantasy series. But it's a combination that works, as unmarketable as it may be, and I quite enjoy the mix of magical and mundane that Swendson pulls off.
This installment is the fifth in the series and not likely a good place for new readers, as it basically wraps up the major arc of the past five books. There are a lot of cute character moments and great interactions (Katie and office nemesis Kim become allies! Ethan's well-stocked car of wonders is a well-stocked car of wonders! Gemma and Marcia assist Katie with a secret mission! Owen's trained dragons make a reappearance!), some momentum for Katie and Owen's relationship, (view spoiler)[Nita, one of my favorite minor characters, moves to NYC and joins in the adventures--without knowing that there's magic involved, (hide spoiler)] and the book ends with some big changes for some major characters. The plot's a bit clunky at times and, when ridiculous decisions are made, at least Katie realizes they're foolish (even if she can't convince other people), but that can still be frustrating to read. And even if Owen's backstory was pretty obvious for the past couple of books, there was a couple nice twists to it. Overall, it was a very pleasant, fun read, and even if the major plot that hasn't been wrapped up (the Phillip stuff, mostly) isn't my most favorite of subplots, I still see how there's a lot of room to play and grow in this universe, and I look forward to seeing what's next for Katie.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Some thoughtful and neat twists on the paranormal world and its inhabitants, but the story is weakly plotted and flatly written, and the romance aspecSome thoughtful and neat twists on the paranormal world and its inhabitants, but the story is weakly plotted and flatly written, and the romance aspect is unengaging.
I saw an ad for this book on a romance novel blog months ago and clicked on it eagerly simply because of the heroine's attire on the cover: she's wearing a collared, button-down shirt and a pencil skirt. Have you seen what paranormal heroines usually wear on covers? It's all tight leather pants and tank tops and black black black. And, if anything, this tips off the reader that Natalya is not your ordinary paranormal heroine.
The most prominent difference is that Natalya has OCD and it impacts her life, her relationships, and her status as a werewolf. A lot of reviews and blurbs include patronizing claims like calling Natalya lovably quirky or adorably neurotic (seriously? SERIOUSLY?), which made me wary, but I thought the book treated Natalya's OCD with seriousness and didn't play it for laughs or for "cuteness" or to turn Natalya into a victim needing rescuing. Which was awesome. On the other hand, the overeating habits of Aggie, Natalia's best friend who is a werewolf with an eating disorder, were sometimes a subject of amusement, which did make me wince, but on the other hand, Aggie was also treated as more than just her eating habits and portrayed as extremely sympathetic, and the book spends time showing how Aggie and Natalya are actually friends and do care greatly about each other.
Plus, Natalya goes to group therapy for paranormal creatures wrestling with various aspects of mental health, and while I think that thread of the plot culminated in a way that was oversentimental and unbelievable, it was a really neat thing to portray, and the supportive friendships born out of that therapy group were sweet. Lots of kindness and humanity in showing how people (or werewolves, mermaids, wizards, trolls, deities, muses, etc.) can fall through the cracks and how they work hard, really hard, to pull themselves out.
The actual story, however, was frustrating. The worldbuilding and the characters were so neat, but the skeleton underneath, the vehicle of the book, was so listless. :/
First, Natalya's mooning over Thorn came across as pretty pathetic. (I just want to make that clear that when I call her feelings pathetic, I'm not referring to her OCD at all, which years ago was exacerbated by his abandonment of her; it's her current "I looooove him and he sneaks into my room like a creepy Edward Cullen and makes me feel safe because he does that and I looooove him but cannot be with him" feelings that I'm rolling my eyes at.) He came across as nothing more than a generic alpha werewolf with ~feeeeelings~ for the ex he wronged. No personality. No humor. Just tons of stated attraction. Bleh. It was desperately difficult to see what Natalya might have seen in him, or to even find him interesting when he showed up on the page. At the same time, the other love interest, fellow group-therapy attendee Nick, had slightly more personality but was also fairly bland. In comparison to all the female characters who show up practically bursting with personality and history (Natalya, Aggie, all of Natalya's older female relatives, Heidi the mermaid and Abby the muse, Karey the pregnant nymph), the main male characters weren't interesting at all. The minor male characters (Natalya's goblin boss, her creepy necromancer coworker with whom she goes on one very memorable date) were more engaging than the two love interests! It was as if in trying to make the male leads inoffensive and likeable to a vast number of readers, they lost the ability to have any sort of interesting angles or personality. This is a pretty common complaint I have with paranormal romances, though, so more devoted fans of the genre probably wouldn't mind the way I did.
Second, the plot was just...meh. When a rival pack is encroaching on Natalya's former pack's area, they particularly target Natalya, and no one knows why, least of all Natalya. The reason why was so clumsily handled that I set aside the book and almost didn't finish the last few pages. (view spoiler)[The event that put Natalya on their target list was that she killed the pack leader's son five years back when, during a search for a missing local girl, she discovered he attacked/kidnapped/abused her. A slight reference to this event was mentioned once, in a couple sentences, near the beginning of the book, but not to the fact that Natalya quietly murdered the man. From then until a confrontation with the rival pack leader, there is no mention of this event AT ALL, and here we are, in Natalya's first-person POV, getting all the details of all her feelings and thoughts and ~memories of Thorn~ but oh, not a single reference to how she killed a guy before. I would have thought that murdering someone would be a pivotal event in one's life, but a) it wasn't referenced or alluded to at all in Natalya's thoughts, b) there was no indication that she had suppressed memories of the event, and c) the trauma didn't manifest in any expressions of unusual mental health; all of Natalya's mental disorder manifestations were unrelated and more closely connected as coping techniques for Thorn's abandonment than the whole killed-a-guy thing. (hide spoiler)] It wasn't cohesive, it wasn't organic, and it wasn't believable. Other unbelievable things: there was no indication that Natalya's former pack, or werewolves in general, were good for anything other than group barbeques and breeding. Compared to the dimension Madison gave to the paranormal world in other senses, this lack of detail of what it meant to be a werewolf or a pack member felt oddly jarring.
Third, little things in the writing style irritated me. Some of the things Natalya said made no logical sense or contradicted herself.
Example: Natalya and Thorn discover that her male relatives, camping out in a forest to find a missing pack member, had their camp infiltrated and seized by the rival pack. They're sneaking upon the camp and Natalya thinks, "For once I was proud of my uncles--they'd picked a position that we could approach from downwind." Am I missing something? Why should she be proud? Sure, that location makes it convenient for her and Thorn's stealth approach, but it was also kinda what let the rival pack sneak up on them, too. Don't be proud of them for their stupid mistake, Natalya.
Another example: Natalya remembers a painful piece of Aggie's family history, how Aggie's mother was used as a breeder. She says, "Aggie had never let me forget that fact during camp. While everyone else opened up about their problems, Aggie was too embarrassed to talk about the dirty little secret among the more affluent packs--the practice of forced breeding for the high-ranking females." How did Aggie never let Natalya forget if she was too embarrassed to talk about it? Am I missing something, because isn't that a contradiction? There's no follow up sentences about how it was a secret Aggie told Natalya once in complete confidence, etc., just two sentences that didn't make sense together.
And a third example of jarring inconsistency in the writing: "Why did every guy--the ones who knew I was a werewolf, that is--assume that when I said it was that time of the month that I meant a woman's monthly cycle? Well, it wasn't as if I mentioned the subject very often. When I said it to Bill, he simply nodded and replied, 'So that's why Mrs. Ferguson kept sniffing the other customers.'" If, quote "every guy" made the menstrual cycle assumption, IT'S A CONTRADICTION for Bill to have not. I...just...ack. Same paragraph, contradictory sentences. Why should I assume that "every guy" was an exaggeration? Why couldn't it just have been "nearly every guy"? When I'm arguing about minor words in your prose, you can guess I've been yanked out of the story world.
Anyway, the writing often felt careless like that and made me lose trust in the story. There are other examples, but those are some of the ones that irritated me the most.
Overall, there was a lot to like, but a lot to find irritating and unengaging. I think many paranormal romance readers looking for a not-so-high-octane series with fresh ideas about worldbuilding and characters would be pleased by this book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Down-to-earth widow Norah works as the chaperone to her glamorous, silent film star sister-in-law. Mostly this entails looking after Christine's trioDown-to-earth widow Norah works as the chaperone to her glamorous, silent film star sister-in-law. Mostly this entails looking after Christine's trio of Pekes and ensuring Christine arrives places on time, but when Christine's stunt double is the victim of a violent murder on a night when Norah experiences some creepy horror herself, surreal Hollywood gets even stranger.
The 1923 Hollywood setting had me swooning; I pretty much ate up every detail about film-making, about the brutal lifestyle, about the power struggles, about the personalities. The characters, even the minor ones, were vibrant presences, easy to remember who was who without needless caricatures.
The tone/genre of the book enthralled me as well. The horror is slowly, elegantly revealed; not just the supernatural horror driving the book's plot, but the very human horror in Norah's backstory, and the very human horrors of doubts and insecurities that keep Christine up at night. It's a mixture of subtlety and over-the-top craziness that really worked for me.
I wasn't really wild about the MYSTERIOUS EXOTIC CHINESE MYSTERY RAT GOD angle. There was depth depicted to Chinese-American culture, and there was narrative acknowledgement of whites appropriating and misinterpreting that culture in awful ways, and acknowledgement of whites treating Chinese-Americans awfully, and the white protagonists of the book all treated the prominent Chinese characters as people. Which was ALL GOOD. But I wasn't completely at ease with the mythology being used and exoticized, even if the narrative was generally lucid and thoughtful about what it was doing.
Also, for fellow dog lovers, the dogs in this book are awesome and awesome characters with dog personalities and come out safe at the book's ending....more
Gene is a non-vampire ("heper") in a world of vampires, and he lives among them only by disguising himself as one of them. It's highly dangerous, andGene is a non-vampire ("heper") in a world of vampires, and he lives among them only by disguising himself as one of them. It's highly dangerous, and if he slips up even the slightest--forgets to shave, starts to sweat, gets a papercut--the nearest vampires will devour him without a moment's hesitation. Gene's typical m.o. is to lay low and be unremarkable, but when the government drafts him into a celebrity-making ritual hunt to kill and eat the last known remaining hepers, he finds his ruse harder and harder to keep up.
It's a book full of tension (in most scenes, Gene comes perilously close to outing himself) and a few scattered cool world-building pieces (I think the wrist-scratching is funny, and the story of the little heper girl who goes to kindergarten out of loneliness and then gets discovered during naptime, when all the actual vampire five-year-olds fly themselves up to the ceiling to sleep upside down and she remains on the ground, still clutching her teddy bear [spoiler alert: her teacher is the first to start eating her], THAT will stick with me long after the rest of the book). However, the world-building is pretty much slim to non-existent. Any questions you might have about how this world works? Do not get answered. Sigh. I was mentally arguing with nonsensical and inconsistent ideas/concepts on nearly every page, characters who were stupid (evil antagonist: "HERE, LET ME MONOLOGUE"; underlings: "HERE, UPON THE SLIGHTEST PUSH FROM YOU, LET ME TELL YOU ALL THE SECRETS OF OUR SECURITY SYSTEMS THAT AREN'T REALLY SECURE AND AREN'T REALLY SYSTEMS"), and really clumsily handled tropes and info-dumps. The writing is mostly stilted, but a few of the action scenes are quite well-written.
Oh, yeah, and young female virgin hepers are the most irresistible! Vampires go slobbering crazy upon seeing them even on video screens. Lovely. (Sarcasm.) I'll take less unreflexive reproduction of real-world sexism in the next dystopian YA I read, thanks. Young women being the most savory of all is mentioned a few times, but the only time "virgin" is specified is when the hero's fellow heper love interest is in danger from being bitten, shortly after they have a fade-to-black cuddle session. You know, just in case anyone was worried that they had sex somewhere in between all those boring sentences.
Also: first in a trilogy alert, ends on a cliffhanger, and I wish there were more complete-in-a-single-volume paranormal YA out there. I'm not interested in reading more of this, but I'll be on a lookout for spoilers because I did end up caring enough to want to know about the fates of some of the characters....more
In between a three and a four, and I chose three because I don't think I'd reread it. It was enjoyable, and it concluded well, but it wasn't my favoriIn between a three and a four, and I chose three because I don't think I'd reread it. It was enjoyable, and it concluded well, but it wasn't my favorite of the series.
After a slow start, this final installment of the Parasol Protectorate original series does a good job of delivering further character and worldbuilding insights (Biffy, being a character who crosses the various paranormal subcultures, was a treat to read, and so I'm glad he had a major subplot in this book) and delivering delightful prose and antics. However, the plot was often muddled (and relied again too much on the old "...and then Alexia gets attacked!" plot strategy) and too many characters obscured: seriously, I love that Madame Lefoux is such a complex woman, but I would've liked to know how she thought her allegiances shook out; Felicity Loontwill arrived on the scene to drop a plot bomb that felt randomly deployed rather than strategically deployed; and Sidheag Maccon was too two-dimensional antagonist-y. However, Professor Lyall and Biffy both grapple with big consequences of choices, lacks-of-choices, lies, and changes, and Ivy and Mr. Ivy are funny and loyal and--even Alexia gives them props for it--progressive. It's a big cast, so I can understand many characters getting the shaft, but I wish it were otherwise. Additionally, I was wary of the book's setting, because "westerners traipsing through Egypt on a grand adventure" isn't a story I'm interested in, but I only winced a couple times.
One thing I really appreciated with this book (and this series) is the motherhood angle. With women being foremost among the protagonists in this genre, and motherhood being a fairly prevalent condition among women, it's surprising how infrequently I come across it in series. (Or it happens at the end of the series, at the end of the character's adventures, presented as part of the HEA reward, not something ongoing in their lives.) But in the Parasol Protectorate series, we have the main protagonist and two other main characters who are mothers, and they're kind out of there kicking ass and having careers (!) and pursuing their scientific and artistic interests and feeling varying degrees of motherly feelings but also caring for their kids (with the help of nursemaids and vampire drones, but well!).
My least favorite part of the series is the romance between Maccon and Alexia, but that was only a minor focus of this one. I'm satisfied with their ending, and I was quite swayed by the little family unit they've created with their daughter.
I'll miss this set of characters, but with two spin-off series coming out in the next couple of years, I'm quite pleased to know that this very fun world will still be expanded....more
A sneaky, funny, tenacious high school journalist uncovers a gothic mystery in her quiet little village. Also, she has awesome friendships, and her imA sneaky, funny, tenacious high school journalist uncovers a gothic mystery in her quiet little village. Also, she has awesome friendships, and her imaginary friend turns out to be not as imaginary as she thought. The book overturns expectations and YA tropes in really enjoyable ways, ways that create a unqiue, rich, and emotionally-grounded story.
I absolutely loved this book except for the ending. It's not a cliffhanger; I just found it unsatisfying and too "and thus ends Act I!", even for a first book in a series. (I admittedly had such high hopes for the ending, given the first book of SRB's first trilogy, The Demon's Lexicon, has one of the most sublime endings I've ever read.)...more
It's the turn of the 20th century in the rural English village of Swampsea. Briony is a witch, and she's about to be hanged. She's asking, very politeIt's the turn of the 20th century in the rural English village of Swampsea. Briony is a witch, and she's about to be hanged. She's asking, very politely, to be hanged right now and to just get it over with, but for us, she loops back to narrate her story. It's a twisty one.
This book, a YA historical supernatural fantasy, does not hold your hand. It's a watch-where-you-step sort of read, in which there can be no readerly skimming of sentences, because you never know when a sentence, a paragraph, or an idea might twist and turn. Even when carefully reading, there weren't a lot of toeholds to be found; I didn't always understand what was going on, or what the creatures in this were, or which way was up, basically. I'm not usually a reader who likes to work at reading (what, I'm lazy and I do this for enjoyment, what do I look like, an English major?) but I worked for this one, because I loved Briony. A lot. She's a tough girl who is very, very, very hard on herself, and she has good reasons for it.
The pacing was sometimes frustrating, and the resolution was a bit neat for my tastes, but I loved so much about this book. The voice. (Franny Billingsley may do whatever she wishes to the English language, because ALL THE WORDS are at her command.) Briony. Rose. Eldric. The way sexism is depicted in this story, lightly but ever-present, that made it feel like the real world (sadly), despite this taking place in an alt-version of England, and how it surprised me when I got near the end of the book and one of the characters brought up the issue of emasculation and I went, wow, that too was here all along in the book, wasn't it? The way that the time period depicted was important, to the characters and to the plot, and the oncoming changes in the world were subtly palpable.
Oh, and ignore the generic cover that could be swapped on to almost any paranormal YA. The book is way less bland than the cover (pretty as it is)....more
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 beI 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....more
Zinzi December finds lost things. It's a tough way to scrabble up a living, though compared to her other job writing 419 scams, at least there's someZinzi December finds lost things. It's a tough way to scrabble up a living, though compared to her other job writing 419 scams, at least there's some dignity to it. In her Former Life, she was on her way to a bright journalism career, but due to drugs and a never-fully-explained murder, Zinzi and her sloth familiar (in this universe, these Animals appear and stick to a person after said person is responsible for someone else's death) are living in the Zoo City slum of Johannesburg, trying to pay off her drug debts and keep her head above water. When she reluctantly breaks her "no missing persons" rule to search for a missing teenage pop star, Zinzi's life gets infinitely more dangerous and even more complicated.
I found the story to be pretty broken, and not in a good way. The pieces just didn't fit. It's not generic urban fantasy and Zinzi is no generic heroine (her dark grittiness makes other heroine's "dark" pasts seem positively sunny), but I didn't find it very satisfying as something bigger, either. I liked it enough to keep reading, but I was left pretty cold by it. The biggest obstacle to enjoyment, for me, was that the writing style annoyed me A LOT. Too many metaphors and similies, ranging from the convoluted (seriously, I understand that Zinzi, as the point of view character, is a writer, and so I love that she narrates creatively and vividly, but it's kind of relentless, even when Zinzi is supposedly not firing on all cylinders) to the cliched (so...why include them anyway?). It came across as way too writerly and self-conscious: writing at the expense of storytelling.
However, despite my problems with how the book was written, I was quite in love with the worldbuilding and was hungry for hearing more and more about this alternate 2011 world. So fascinating, and so engaging, and Beukes clearly did some work trying to flesh out her worldbuilding. I really liked the interspersed media pieces, like one of Zinzi's 419 emails, the IMDB entry for a documentary about Animals (one of the references: Steering by the Golden Compass: Pullman's fantasy in the context of the ontological shift (2005)!), and the tabloid articles. My favorite passage of the book was the short section interviewing Animalled prisoners from around the world. (And then I got to the end of the book and the acknowledgements, and I saw that other people, not Beukes, wrote the prison interviews and the academic article about the Undertow. WELL, then. I guess that explains why I was irritated by most of her writing style but loved the short prison narratives.) The pop culture aspects were also quite interesting and made me feel like the world was believably three-dimensional.
The other biggest obstacle to my enjoyment of this book was the plot. It never felt very organic or purposeful, and the consequences what happened was always less interesting to me than the world-building developments. Events didn't read as connected and felt too loose and coincidental. While the big action scenes here might be far more darker and consequential than the big action scenes in most urban fantasy novels, I was often lost in how they were staged--for example, the climax was compelling and tragic and bloody, but confusing in trying to figure out who was where and who could be seen by whom and what was Zinzi's objective when.
One aspect I appreciated was that the Animalled weren't a straight-up direct metaphor for a single oppressed group, but instead, it's a condition, and a story, reflecting all sorts of oppressions and cruelties and dehumanization and violence. I was, however, disappointed that none of this was delved into in an on-the-surface way, though I guess I prefer the quick treatment to a possible lecture.
So. I liked what the book was doing but didn't often like the book itself.
NB: I bought the ebook version because it was on sale for 99 cents and I have a hard time resisting the lure of cheap, but there were a lot of formatting problems and and a few typos/missing letters (more than average, but still completely readable).
NB 2: It's a dark book, and it deals with oppressions, but a couple specific content warnings (small spoilers): (view spoiler)[references to rape and human trafficking, transphobia depicted, the sole trans character is murdered, evidence of animal abuse and violence and murder, and yep, references to and depictions of general human-based murder and violence all around! (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I wish I didn't like the vampire aspect of this series as much as I did. The main character is the definition of TSTL (while other characters go arounI wish I didn't like the vampire aspect of this series as much as I did. The main character is the definition of TSTL (while other characters go around calling her smart and praising her for being clever and spunky). There are excessive descriptions of what people are wearing, and Coke is namedropped with excessive frequency to the point I feel like I'm being advertised to. And yet I just like the idea of a college town secretly run by vampires, and feuding vampires with different ideas on how to save their race. It'd be a better story without Claire and her friends....more