You're evil incarnate, and you need to be destroyed.
Erik Ponti just wants to leave all the violence and criminality behind. He wants to get away fromYou're evil incarnate, and you need to be destroyed.
Erik Ponti just wants to leave all the violence and criminality behind. He wants to get away from his sadistic devil of a father, his dreary school, and the so-called friends who let him down. When he is transferred to a new boarding school, Stjärnberg, he thinks it might just be the saving grace he has been waiting for. He can finally start over: nobody knows him on Stjärnberg. Instead of Erik the violent gang leader, he can be Erik, the quiet boy with the goofy haircut.
Unfortunately, that's not what happens.
Stjärnberg turns out to be a melting pot of violence and insanity. In Stjärnberg, it's up to the older students to educate their younger peers in proper behaviour, and the teachers are not allowed to interfere. They call it "comrade rearing". In actuality, the last year-students dominate the younger ones through methodical harassments and beatings. In Stjärnberg, the rules of the real world don’t apply.
Erik doesn't fit into this world. At all. But, thanks to his indomitable personality and skills as a fighter, he is most certainly not helpless.
What worked? So much!
First of all: the prose. Jan Guillou doesn't care about proper grammar or pretentious formulations or shit like that. He writes honestly and fluently, sets the mood of every scene perfectly by choosing his words carefully and slowing down or speeding up the rhythm when it's needed. He is no doubt up there with Stephen King when it comes to good prose. I read this book in Swedish, the original language, but I'm aware that many of the readers on this site might have to read a copy in another language. All I can hope is that the translation holds up to the original. It's a shame to miss it.
Second, the characters. There are some characters in this book that aren't nearly well-developed enough (which is mostly why I did not give it five stars), but those that are developed are wonderful. Erik is a manipulative, violent young man with issues as large as Australia. But he is also incredibly intelligent, vulnerable, and painfully sympathetic. He's the best fighter you will ever see, not because he's the biggest or strongest or fastest, but because he knows how to play his opponent. He knows how people work. He knows how to make them scared. And, as Erik himself states, fear is really much worse than pain. Over and over again, we see him use his amazing intellect to manipulate people into giving up before they ever realize it. It's often-times satisfying, sometimes frightening, but rarely unenjoyable.
Pierre Tanguy, Erik's best friend, is another wonderful character. They're as different as night and day, but balance each other perfectly. I deeply enjoyed their friendship; the scenes where they interacted casually or worked together were some of my favourites, and without giving away too many spoilers, (view spoiler)[it was heart-wrenching to see the turn their relationship took (hide spoiler)].
As far as the rest of the cast, including Erik's family, the students and teachers at Stjärnberg, and Marja, I will just say that some were terrible but at the same time immensely enoyable while others were unbearable to read about and some really should have been given more screen-time. No spoilers here!
Additionally, this book has some of the best fight-scenes I've ever read. Yeah, Hunger Games and the rest of YA can suck it, because they've got nothing on Erik's formidable displays of violence. Jan Guillou does a fantastic job raising the tension before a fight, and you're never quite sure who or what is going to snap, or when.
On the other side of the coin, the humor is spot on! Watching Erik "stick it to the man" is just as satisfying as his fights, especially considering his wit is as sharp as his knuckles. But that's not all; here's another area where Guillou's descriptions and word-choices really shine. He's got a very dry sense of humor which I loved!
But what really makes this book one of the best is that it matters. For better or worse, we've all witnessed violence. Heck, this book is even based on Jan Guillou's own life! (By the way, that boy on the cover? A young Guillou!) Whether we love it or hate it, believe it needs to stop or think it's a means to an end, violence is a prominent part of our world. Ondskan doesn't try to sell us on one point of view or the other. Not really. It just tells it like it is, and lets you make your own decision. And that, to me, is what makes a great book.
I really hope you will read this. I think everyone should. It's just one of those books, you know? ...more
So yeah, my worries about this series going downhill after Throne of Jade were completely unnecessary!
A few mindblowinglyTEMERAIRE IS BACK, BITCHES!
So yeah, my worries about this series going downhill after Throne of Jade were completely unnecessary!
A few mindblowingly awesometacular things Black Powder War brough to this series:
-Tharkay. That is all. Tharkay alone is enough reason to read this series. Without spoiling anything about him, I can pretty much guarantee that you will find Tharkay, in and of himself, mindblowingly awesometacular.
-The trip around the world was way, way better executed in this book. It gave us some seriously awesome scenes, and the world-building in this series is downright astounding.
-SOOO many awesome fight scenes. SOOOO much funny! SOOO much intrigue, drama, love and just-ansjalcnasf!!!
-Lien and Napoleon Bonaparte are working together. Awesome team up is awesome!
-Dear god, the men in this series! Laurence - the stoic, heroic, bloody sexy gentleman I fell in love with in book 1 - is back, along with his lovable Second in Command Granby, and now we have Tharkay too! (READ. THIS. SERIES. IT GAVE US THARKAY!)
-Iskierka! To avoid spoilers, I will say only two words: EPIC WIN!
And that, folks, in only the tip of the iceberg! If I was to list all the awesome things about this series, I would be here all night, but I'm sleep-deprived as it is. I will, however, end on this note:
PETER FUCKING JACKSON HAS OPTIONED THIS SERIES!!! HE'S DEBATING WHETHER TO MAKE IT A MOVIE OR A SERIES! I BEG OF YOU! I WOULD WATCH THAT SHIT TO DEATH! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! ...more
I finished this book a week ago, but due to a storm here in Sweden, my internet has been fucked up (pardon my French). Eh, whatcha gonna do?
This bookI finished this book a week ago, but due to a storm here in Sweden, my internet has been fucked up (pardon my French). Eh, whatcha gonna do?
This book is stunning. I was gonna wait until Christmas and ask for the sequel as a present, but I can't wait that long. I'm buying it tomorrow (waited this long only because I had to make room in my otherwise tight budget). There is not a single aspect of it that I disagree with. The story-telling is superb, I love all the characters, the concept is fresh and engaging, and the battle-scenes literally had my hands shaking!
Oh, and did I mention: FUCKING DRAGONS!!!
I haven't been this blown away since I read Harry Potter at the tender age of eleven, and that was the book which opened the world of literature to me, and made me realize my dream of becoming a writer. If I wasn't already a hard-core dragon-fan (and by the way: why the fuck hasn't there been a huge dragon-hype yet?! I mean we get some true masterpieces every now and then, like "How to train you dragon" and, well... this, but nothing along the lines of the vampire, angel or dystopian-hypes. Why the hell not?! They're DRAGONS! Do I even need to explain how fucking awesome they are, and how many different concepts you can come up with?! THEY'RE DRAGONS!)
Ehrm... sorry about that... Where was I?
Moving on! As far as story-telling goes, Naomi Novik uses a brilliant technique: every time I got even the vaguest thought that 'this is getting boring', she jumped ahead to a more exciting part. It was like she could FEEL when the reader needed something new, and responded to it. How did she do that?!
And if you're worried that this technique harms the flow in any way: don't be. It doesn’t happen often at all (because honestly? There’s very little boring stuff in this book to begin with) and she flawlessly weaves in all the information you need, until the jump feels as natural as breathing. Brilliant!
As for the characters… where do I even start? Contrary to many others, Temeraire is NOT my favourite (though he’s high on the list, make no mistake).
I’m actually kind of in love with Laurence. He’s kind, he’s brave, he’s honourable and confident – a true gentleman in every sense of the word. This is the kind of guy I want to marry. As a matter of fact, if I ever have any daughters (Instead of the triplet-boys I’ve got planned), I’m gonna make them read this book and be like “Girls, if you’re gonna go all boy-crazy on me, make sure that this is the kind of guy you’re drooling over, and not some drama queen-vampire with eyebrows so heavy that they’re practically crushing his eyes.” You know what? I might take it one step further! If anyone ever asks me what I look for in a man, I’ll hand them this book and tell them to do their homework. And I don’t give a crap that my ex-boyfriend thinks that books are one of the biggest turnoffs on the planet!
But anyway… aside from my Laurence-crush, the other characters, while rather in the background, were wonderfully vivid as well! Berkely, Maximus, Harcourt and Lily had rather small roles considering, but I liked them anyway. Another honourable mention goes to Granby, whom I also kind of love, and Jane Roland. Dear god, that woman was made of pure awesome: her personality, her looks, her role as a skilled aviator and Laurence’s on-off lover… what a woman!
Oh, and Temeraire is pretty much the most adorable and awesome dragon ever. That goes without saying.
What’s next… ah, yes. EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN FLIGHT-SCENE WAS UNIQUE AND WONDERFULLY VIVID. HOW DOES SHE DO THAT?! HOW?! I HAVE TO KNOW!
Furthermore, the concept and setting… it’s the Napoleonic Wars with dragons.
Do I have to say anything more? Do I really?
It actually boggles my mind how anyone can NOT like this book – and that’s not something I say very often. I can usually understand why people feel a certain way about a book, even if I don’t agree. But this… this is just so awesome.
One of the main complaints I’ve heard while browsing the reviews is that the book doesn’t have a plot: that it’s just a bunch of very nice scenes and no overall issue. Needless to say, I COMPLETELY disagree with this. Laurence and Temeraire’s lives, the way they get intertwined and face hardships together… that’s more than enough plot to last a lifetime, in my opinion. It’s not like they have no problems; there are plenty of conflicts – social, personal and political – all of which comes up naturally as the story progresses.
I just don’t understand… what is it, more specifically, that these critics think should be in there?
So, in conclusion, this is definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel!
Oh, and one more thing: the titles of all the books in this series are so kick-ass! ...more
Let's face it: this is as good as the "teenage-ification comics" (word? It is now!) are going to get. Stories of this nature will always be a little sLet's face it: this is as good as the "teenage-ification comics" (word? It is now!) are going to get. Stories of this nature will always be a little silly, but in the case of Young Avengers, there's a huge emphasis on the "A LITTLE".
In the foreword by Jeph Loeb, he says that Young Avengers should have been a disaster, a train wreck, and he is right: it very easily could have been. But the comic's greatest strength lies in how much it respects its own characters. Devoid of stereotypes or generalizations, Eli becomes so much more than just the black kid, Billy and Teddy are not just the gay couple and Kate is absolutely kick-ass. In fact, I dare say that this comic is a study in how you should write characters of different ethnicities and sexualities!
And that's not the only thing it's got going for it! The dialogue is wonderful: effective, believable and had me laughing out loud at several points! The plot, while rushed in a few places, was very good too. I especially love Billy, Teddy and Tommy's backstories. The cameos from various Avengers had me fangirling all over the place, though I'm sad that my favourite is dead at the moment. And lastly, the artwork is superb!
It is not perfect. The silliness I spoke of earlier especially comes out in some of the fight-scenes, and a few things feel taken out of the blue, but if one isn't a nit-pick, that's not much of an issue. I say if you have the chance, check it out! This was obviously not half-assed. These people put a lot of work into this comic, and it shows! ...more
Seriously, people. Where do I begin? Where to I even begin?
Okay, so... read this book. You need to read it. Yes, you. I'm talking to you personally. You need to go out, to a book-store, or onto the internet, and get this book. Because there is no way I can put into words what this book does to a person. Heck, I tried earlier tonight to give my best friend a brief summary, and I ended up going "Well, there's this kingdom with twelve dragons, and uh... there's a lot of political power-struggle and a war happens and, uh... this girl who dresses up as a guy and nobody knows and now she must, uh... save the world and... and... it's complicated."
Like the masterpiece that is Fullmetal Alchemist, there are numerous layers to this story, and they are all handled with care. On one hand, we have the twelve celestial dragons and their dragoneyes, which is a fascinating story all of its own. The book could have easily focused on only that, but no. Instead, it is masterfully interwoven with the political situation of this kingdom, the power-struggle between the rebels, the emperor and the treacherous high lord.
On the other hand, we have Eona and the rest of the cast, which is so complex and delightfully multifaceted that it almost feels like Mrs. Goodman isn't showing enough sometimes. I don't know about you, but I could have easily gone with more Ryko and Dela action, not to mention Chart and Rilla and Kinra and Lillia and Yuso and, especially, the delightfully evil villain that I love to hate: Sethon.
I almost feel like this story should have been a character ensemble because there was so much development of personalities, motivations, and relationships going on. Then again, that would have meant giving up Eona as a narrator, which would have been a terrible loss, since she is so very conflicted, so very complex, and so very human in everything she does.
Eona, as a character, most certainly won't appeal to everyone; she is very frustrating to read about. The trick, for me at least, is that we can understand her choices. Half of the time, you have no idea who to trust; who is manipulating whom, and what hidden agenda is behind every word. If you, as the reader outside the story, can't see that, how is Eona, caught in the fray with her heart, life, and soul at stake, supposed to cope?
As for the situation between her, Kygo and Ido (I refuse to call it a 'love-triangle', because that would bunch it up with Twilight and the Hunger Games.
I will never, ever, ever, bunch this book up with Twilight and the Hunger Games.)
That being said, their situation was handled with skill: it was creepy and twisted, but also kind of intriguing and sexy at the same time. I had such a hard time categorizing Ido, until I realized that there was no need to categorize him; that he was just as much of a flawed, human character as the rest of the cast. That, to me, is great writing!
So, if I liked this book so much, why not the Big Five?
Well, that is simply because I wanted more, after the end. The climax was amazing, but I have so many questions about what happened then. I'm not only talking about the big ones, such as "How do they rebuild and cope?", though I certainly wouldn't have minded some exploration of that. I'm talking about what happened to Vida, and Chart, and Rilla. I wanted to see how the relationships that had been put under so much strain would recover, or if they fell apart completely. I wanted to see the grief, the moving on, the hope for a better tomorrow.
But, all in all, Eona took every issue I have with Eon and made it right. While you may not love every aspect of the book, this is one of the few books that I dare recommend to everyone, because I do believe that there is something for everyone in it. Don't miss out!