I went in to reading this with too-high expectations, I think. I found myself groaning inwardly through the first half of the book, because I was expe...moreI went in to reading this with too-high expectations, I think. I found myself groaning inwardly through the first half of the book, because I was expecting too much of it. I had hoped for a more serious Victorian supernatural story, but once I settled into the lighthearted swing of it, I began to enjoy it. (less)
Honestly, I utterly despised this book. I had no end of people telling me that this was one of the most divine, perfectly written books EVER. What I s...moreHonestly, I utterly despised this book. I had no end of people telling me that this was one of the most divine, perfectly written books EVER. What I saw when I read it was literary masturbation. I'll concede Ondaatje has an elegant way of stringing together lots of beautiful words and phrases and moments, but I don't think that that alone can make a book. Others have said they think the characters in this are so real as to make you utterly devoted to them. I struggled to sympathise with a single one. This felt to me like Ondaatje had a lot of beautiful images in his head that he wanted to string together, but had no cohesive, workable story, so instead, he opted for the pastiche of past and present, from the perspectives of a dozen different people, so he could get them out but hide the fact that the story was weak.
I actually didn't finish this, as much as I enjoyed the first half. The problem, I think, was simply that I got bored. I agreed with everything Dawkin...moreI actually didn't finish this, as much as I enjoyed the first half. The problem, I think, was simply that I got bored. I agreed with everything Dawkins was positing, but I would have been more interested in reading a critical analysis of religion rather than the existence of God. It's certainly worth reading, but it's one of those books that couldn't sustain my interest.(less)
The third book in the loosely connected series, I enjoyed this much more than Tithe. I think, with a lot of Kaye's earlier scattered-ness out of the w...moreThe third book in the loosely connected series, I enjoyed this much more than Tithe. I think, with a lot of Kaye's earlier scattered-ness out of the way, she was a much more enjoyable character. Her humanity in the midst of the Unseelie Court is an interesting counterpoint, and believable given that she has spent her life amongst humans. The quest that she is roped into is despairingly and apparently impossible to succeed, and is resolved with amusing simplicity. Corny's involvement with Luis made me really happy, as I don't think there is enough exploration of gay relationships from the male focus in the world, and certainly not enough in general for the YA crowd. Again, Ironside is a little predictable, but handled with more finesse than Tithe; it is evident how much Holly Black has developed as an author over the five years since Tithe's release. I was also pretty happy with the way Kaye's mother dealt with the revelation of what Kaye really is; abject horror. And I love even more that the real Kaye (baby Kaye who was stolen away in the first place) is returned to her mother, and things kind of fall into place for everyone. It's the closest you're going to get to a happily ever after with Holly Black.(less)
**spoiler alert** The absolute best order to read Holly Black's 'Modern Faerie Tales' in is Tithe, Valiant and then Ironside. I almost didn't read the...more**spoiler alert** The absolute best order to read Holly Black's 'Modern Faerie Tales' in is Tithe, Valiant and then Ironside. I almost didn't read them in this order, wanting to get Ironside before I read this. However, by happy coincidence, I read it in what I think is the correct chronological order.
I expected from the beginning that things would be pretty screwed up in Valiant, given what my experiences of Tithe were, and I was not disappointed. Instead of beginning with a messed up main character, we are introduced to Valerie, a good student, a lacrosse player, for all intents and purposes, the average, ordinary teenage girl. Enter the cheating boyfriend and cougar mother, and Valerie's subsequent discovery of their affair, and things head into F*cked Up-Ville, right where they should be.
Valerie runs away and falls in with some homeless kids, and becomes addicted to Glamour, distilled magic which, if taken by fae, protects them to a degree from iron, and if taken by humans, gives them the high of their life and temporarily grants them the ability to use a form of magic which twists the world around them. Throw into the mix Ravus, the troll with whom Val invariably develops an attachment to, and you have one hell of a screwed up faerie romance.
There is much, much more to this story, and largely is a lot more intricate than Tithe. The plot is subtler, and the fae manipulation and power play is a lot more believable. Still, not really ground breaking stuff, though I will say that allowing a YA book to have a drug addicted protagonist and supporting characters, who ultimately either self-destruct or rehabilitate is encouraging. Again, no dumbing down or softening the blows here. If you want a comfortable YA fantasy romance, Holly Black is just plain not for you. She will make you cringe and squirm, you will find moments of discomfort, and in amongst all of it, there is this inevitable truth that the kids both featured in these books, and the kids reading them, are a lot more grown up than most adults give them credit.(less)
**spoiler alert** The thing about Tithe is, the main character, Kaye, is not likeable. Let's just get this all out of the way first. Kaye is a teenage...more**spoiler alert** The thing about Tithe is, the main character, Kaye, is not likeable. Let's just get this all out of the way first. Kaye is a teenager who doesn't go to school, drinks to excess, smokes to excess, swears to excess, and is, generally, quite unlikeable. Her mother is self involved, self indulgent, and is too busy caught up being the 'rock chick' and fighting with her own mother like she was still 16 to realise how f*cked up her daughter is. The people Kaye surrounds herself with are not the kind of people I would surround myself with.
And that is what makes Holly Black's writing STAND OUT.
Because there are people in the real world like this; f*cked up, miserable, substance abusing, self centred people are real, and a good deal more common than you might think. And in the real world, people die unnecessarily, and they're unnecessarily cruel, and things are often very uncaring in the real world.
What I'm saying is that, unlike a lot of YA tripe out there on the market, Holly Black doesn't talk down to her readers. She doesn't soften the blows, or sand back the rough edges, and I have a lot of respect for an author who is willing to do that.
That said, let's look at this plot-wise. The faeries in this, as all good faeries should be, are utterly alien and can seem somewhat contrived, in the sense that there seems to be no "real" reason for the way they act. Arguments for the unnecessary murder of Janet have abounded, and I suspect that this comes from a lack of understanding that this is exactly the way a kelpie behaves; it lives to kill. There are fae who live to cause pain. There are fae who live to toy with others. This is the nature of the fae; always has been, always will be. My one complaint about the fae in this is Roiben. He is a little too noble, a little too moral, to really strike me as a good fae (good in the sense of well-realised).
Kaye's actions, when she discovers she is a changeling and needs to remain under her glamour to stay 'safe', irk me. Perhaps it is me as a reader able to see the metaplot, but in her shoes, if I were told I had to rely on this glamour to keep me safe and alive, I don't think I would have immediately gone out and found a way to break it. Then again, who knows what I would do, given that one does not truly know how one would react to being told one is a goddamned changeling (lol).
Overall, Tithe is nothing groundbreaking. It is a good, entertaining read, and I certainly didn't want to put it down. It is dark, it is gritty and most of all, doesn't dumb down for its audience. I can't help but feel that /something/ was missing, I just can't put my finger on what it was. Still, worth the read.(less)
I didn't actually bother to finish this because, as a kid, I read an abridged version that was still quite long. I already knew everything that was go...moreI didn't actually bother to finish this because, as a kid, I read an abridged version that was still quite long. I already knew everything that was going to happen, and I couldn't stomach the piety that was constantly preached. The girls' "flaws" hardly felt like flaws at all.
Meg wishes for wealth and affluence, yet it doesn't stop her from getting on with things; she just complains a lot. Not much of a character flaw. And then, not even half way through the book, lo and behold, she has "conquered" her "flaw", and marries a poor man, and lives in a small, unremarkable house. Ok, that's fine, but then why didn't I care?
Jo has a vicious temper, and in the beginning, this is a great flaw! It causes conflict, it drives parts of what little story there is. And yet, what's that? She has also conquered her temper? *groan* The most interesting part of all of this development is that her change comes more from indirectly causing her sister Amy harm. But oh no, that's not the central lesson here, no. The real lesson is that you can conquer your temper because it will bring you closer to God. Isn't it enough to realise that by nearly killing your sister, maybe you should learn to rein it in a bit? But no, at the heart of this book, and every so called lesson there in, is God.
Beth. Oh you poor derided thing. Beth's flaw, if you can stomach calling it that, is shyness. Forgive me for being a bit peeved about this, but I have never encountered the idea that shyness of a flaw of all things. She is timid and quiet, but she is also caring and kind and sweet and charitable and all she wants is to stay at home and make their home a lovely place for them to live. Beth is one of the characters I liked more but forgive me while I retch. I actually felt worse in regards to Beth, because I knew she was going to die, having read the cliffnotes as a kid, and I was hanging to get to the part where she died, because it comprised about the most interesting thing that happened in the entire book. My memory failed me, and I had thought she died of scarlet fever. But no, even then, I was disappointed, and attempted to slog through the rest of the book to get to her death. But in the end, she just peeves me off even more because she's such a goddamn Mary Sue.
And that brings us to little Amy, who is probably the most flawed of all. Selfish, vain Amy wants nothing more than to be beautiful and admired and fawned over. And here is another sister who, through the power of religion, conquers her flaws halfway through the book.
Honestly, this book frustrated me so much that I gave up immediately after Meg and John's wedding. I understand it is a product of its time, and that kind of piety was not uncommon. I also am not missing the point of this book; I was reading it in preparation for university study and critique. But it was so unenjoyable, and so preachy, that I frankly couldn't stomach it. (less)
**spoiler alert** I don't think I can stress enough how amazing this whole series is. I read it in the omnibus edition, so I think of the series as on...more**spoiler alert** I don't think I can stress enough how amazing this whole series is. I read it in the omnibus edition, so I think of the series as one whole book. Which, given the scope of the story, can be daunting when trying to tell someone about it.
The title character, Paksenarrion, is the daughter of a sheepfarmer who longs for greater things; specifically a career as a mercenary (yay for strong female characters!). She joins a particularly respected company, and shows great talent as a soldier. The book follows her over the course of roughly three years, from soldier to sergeant to paladin-in-training to a broken shell of her former self. Her journey through these three years is so full and varied that it is difficult to put it into a short review. Over time, she regains her mental and physical strength until at last, she is made a paladin. In her world, there are ways of training people into becoming paladins, essentially making them a man-made hero, rather than the god-chosen heroes they are meant to be. Paks is chosen by the gods and finds herself being called to a neighbouring kingdom, whose king is about to die, and she must find the sole surviving heir, whom no one knows who he is, where he is, or how to prove he is who he is. OH GOD THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! I seriously cannot stress enough the scope of this book. If you are a fan of realist fantasy, military fantasy, or just books that are so intricate and involved that you can get lost in them, you MUST read this.(less)