This book was just what I needed after coming out of my Mockingjay funk. Mockingjay was brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it also sucked my will to l...moreThis book was just what I needed after coming out of my Mockingjay funk. Mockingjay was brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it also sucked my will to live in 7 loaded hours. I was in a daze for, like, two days. I think I could only move on to other books because my mom started reading it after I finished, preventing me from a re-read, and I got to meet up with my best friend to discuss and have group therapy over our very similar, life-ending experiences.
So yes, dry British humor was what I needed to slap some sense into me. Ironically, it was a story about Hell, Satan, and Necromancy that plucked me out of my depression and had me laughing out loud in public.
The book did drag in a few odd places, mostly near the beginning, but that’s really my only criticism (Well, that and the appalling lack of female characters! Layla the Latex Lady doesn’t count. However, the ending does give me hope for the sequel!). The characters, the dialogue, the obscure/odd references, the lighter take on seriously serious issues…all of it works together to form a novel that is quirky and sometimes unpredictable, goofy and occasionally disgusting, but above all, hilarious. The author, Howard, reminds me of Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman (Truly, the highest of compliments).
However, despite the crafty absurdity, there is an underlying seriousness to the book, a human element. It’s a character study of motivation and relationships (and how the two influence one another) and the true nature of evil (is it taking people’s souls or insisting a person in Limbo must fill out thousands of forms with no eraser?). The laughs and the bizarre twists do a good job of distracting from that seriousness, but if the ending is any indication, Howard will touch more upon these themes in the sequel.
I will suggest this book to everybody, because it would be a shame to never read about Johannes Cabal and his serious lack of social skills. He’s soulless, yes, but not heartless. (less)
**spoiler alert** I honestly don't understand the hype surrounding this book. I have yet to see the film (I know!), but I'm sure it's decidedly better...more**spoiler alert** I honestly don't understand the hype surrounding this book. I have yet to see the film (I know!), but I'm sure it's decidedly better than its source material. I bought the book because it came highly recommended, but I was already disappointed half-way through my reading.
The first page was so charming with its witty narrator and seemingly plucky heroine, but in no time at all the narrator stopped being cute and the heroine quickly lost her backbone (Was it ever clarified whether her stepmother was good or evil? There were so many vague and confusing subplots.). Most of the character’s were unlikeable and I didn’t care whether they succeeded or failed (Sophie and Howl specifically, Calcifer was alright), the story lacked pace and meandered here and there. There was so much double-crossing and characters not telling each other things and going behind each other’s backs with information and pointless lying, I felt Jones made it impossible for the reader to figure out the story themselves as they went along and she waited until the end to randomly reveal vital information (spoiler: Howl knew the WHOLE time who Sophie really was even though there was absolutely no indication of it, but his knowledge didn’t seem to really affect his actions until the end, conveniently.).
Sophie didn’t have any true character growth either. First she’s plucky, then a doormat, then a sassy old woman who is nosy and annoying and blurts out things she shouldn’t say. Then she’s in love with Howl at the end. Howl was unbelievable as well. He’s a vain playboy…and then he’s in love with Sophie who he luckily knew was a young girl the entire time but neglected to mention it.
I don’t know, I just wasn’t swept up in a magical, playful world like I thought I would be. I still plan on renting the film which I hear is fairly different than the book. Yay.
(random: This books had the same feel to me as The TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE(which had “seven-league boots” as well!) by Gail Garson Levine. ELLA ENCHANTED is one of my favorite books of all time, and I remember eagerly buying and reading Levine’s other book with the expectation it would be as charming and lovely as her ELLA. In the end it felt clunky and awkward and forced, with unlikeable characters and no satisfaction or joy at the end. I was so depressed by that experience.) (less)
Nothing too spectacular. Reads just like you would expect an IR to. No flowery prose, stock characters for the most part, prophecies and destinies abo...more Nothing too spectacular. Reads just like you would expect an IR to. No flowery prose, stock characters for the most part, prophecies and destinies abound. I expected more, to be honest, because Collins’ The Hunger Games is so engaging, but I mainly just felt silly reading something so obviously written for kids. (I do hear that Collins ups the ante and holds nothing back in the death department in the final book, much like Mockingjay, but I don’t know if I can make it all the way to book 5).
I will say that after 2/3 of the way through with no real connection to the world or main characters, the introduction of Ripred the Rat was a pleasant one. He really made the book and I took to him almost immediately. It’s always the cranky, sarcastic, cruel ones I grow to love the most.
Speaking of rats, I think another reason I took so long in caring about the book was all the talking animals. I don’t usually go for that (Narnia excluded, of course), so it took awhile before I got used to it.
I do hear such great things about this series so I will attempt to read them all…but if Ripred dies in book 3 or something I might just go ahead and give up.
If you had a half-decent time reading the Percy Jackson books, you’ll enjoy this as well. I just hope multiple books provide multiple opportunities for character growth, especially for the hero. (less)
Authors need to stop making trilogies and just write MASSIVE books, because cliffhangers kill me every time and my life is over until I get my hands o...more Authors need to stop making trilogies and just write MASSIVE books, because cliffhangers kill me every time and my life is over until I get my hands on the sequel. So, Catherine Fisher, I hate you AND I love you!
Incarceron is an original and intelligent dystopian fantasy that pulls the rug of what you’re used to right out from under you. Steeped in adventure, political intrigue, and lore, this dark read may be too much for one all-nighter. It works its way inside of you and haunts your dreams. Metal trees, stagnant royal courts, sorcery, and a beyond creepy high-tech prison that just might be sentient…what more could you want?
This story begins and dumps you right in the thick of things, but if you hang in you won’t regret it. You’ll find Fisher is a master storyteller, weaving in tangled plots with chilling horrors and lively characters, all described with a prose that is both vivid and lyrical (I found out later that Fisher is also a poet, and this did not surprise me at all, her descriptions are so lush and moving, Incarceron is poetry at times.)
Claudia and Finn, the trapped and manipulated protagonists, are surrounded by many equally well-developed supporting characters—Finn’s loyal protector Attia, Claudia’s father—the twisted Warden, the frail mentor Jared, and the manipulative oathbrother Kiero. Everyone’s motives are murky and complicated, not everything is as it seems, and the ending will have you racing to get the sequel (only available in the UK right now. Thank you, internet, for fixing that problem).
Incarceron at times feels like two books in one. Claudia, in her historical/political setting, conniving and backstabbing and double-dealing galore!, and Finn, in his prison setting, deliciously full of adventure, challenges, and beasts.
The book has been described as both sci-fi and fantasy, but I say it’s a bit of both. A strong plot, dynamic characters, an in-depth history and believable world, these are my prerequisites and Fisher doesn’t disappoint.
*EDIT*As I've rated more and more books since joining Goodreads, I've wrestled with changing my stars on this particular book. 4? Or 5? Since I seem to feel much more comfortable giving out 4 stars (and I generally settle on a score pretty close to the average) I thought I had perhaps been too easy on Incarceron and shouldn't have given it 5 stars. But you know what I realized? I DON'T CARE. I've come to the conclusion that while all the technical factors that make up why a book is great are indeed important, my personal reading experience is key. I was (am) crazy about this book and had such an amazing time reading it. I guess I can't pinpoint exactly why (heck, maybe I had just finished reading a really crappy book and Incarceron seemed like gold in comparison), but dagnabbit this story did it for me! FIVE STARS, I SAY! (less)
Alright, ladies, so according to George R.R. Martin, good fantasy is gritty, and by gritty I mean you gon get raped. Seriously. This same “gritty real...moreAlright, ladies, so according to George R.R. Martin, good fantasy is gritty, and by gritty I mean you gon get raped. Seriously. This same “gritty realism” never goes into detail describing the disgusting hygiene of our main characters (pretty sure people wouldn’t bath that often, George, just saying), but you better believe that gritty realism involves lots and lots of rape and misogyny and constantly comparing women to horses. Because Game of Thrones is REAL, ok! It GOES there.
Once someone points out to you that GRRM is not actually a genius or an original fantasy writer and is really his own brand of hack, it’s difficult not to notice. Martin’s supposed to be this god among men because he doesn’t go down the road of “romantic heroes” and “social/moral messages”. He sucks the fun out of fantasy, is basically what I’m saying. He says to his reader, you like your highs and lows? Well, guess what?? Screw your highs! Have a basket full of lows and some rape! How you like them gritty apples?! I call it character development!
But, similar to a story full of highs, a story full of lows gets pretty boring and predictable fast. Because, shockingly, life happens to be a mix of highs and lows (realism!!).
Look, I get it, rape is a fact of life. Rape is more common when/where women have less rights. Martin chose to set his story in a time and place where women have few rights. But by the tenth mention of rape you start to get this feeling in your gut, like, hmm… maybe this old, overweight, pasty white guy shouldn’t be writing so freely about rape? And hey…is he having his fourteen-year-old character fall in love with her husband/rapist without any reference within the text back to all that rape? And why does he describe this fourteen-year-old girl in some sexual way EVERY time she’s mentioned? Hilariously quoted from Keely’s review: _______
The problem is when people who are not comfortable with their own sexuality start writing about it, which seems to be the problem of every mainstream fantasy author.
"When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest . . ."
I can imagine the process, as Martin sits, hands hovering over the keyboard, trying to get inside his character's head:
"Okay, I'm a woman. How do I see and feel the world differently? My cultural role is defined by childbirth. In the process of marriage, I can be bought and sold by my own--Oh, hey! Look at that, I've got tits! Man, look at those things go. *whooshing mammary sound effects* Okay, time to write."
Yet we don't get any descriptions of variously-sized dongs swinging within the confines of meticulously-described clothing. We don't even get 'freely-moving' manboobs--which, as an overweight, elderly man, I assume Martin has some personal experience with. It's not a balanced depiction. _________
*this is me every time Martin described Dany’s “lower lips” and how they felt at any particular moment*
Thanks for that mental image of a 13-year-old’s fully mature sexuality when the only sexual partner she’s ever known raped her multiple times. ~~Realism~~. Apparently ladies walk, talk, and think in ways that require you to always mention their “high, firm breasts” or “swollen breasts” or ….you get the picture. It’s crucial for their characters.
BESIDES all the rape and underage sex talk, shockingly there were aspects of Game of Thrones that I liked. I like snarky characters like Tyrion no matter how unoriginal they are in their snarky archetypes. They’re entertaining, alright? (But Martin did make sure he too had shades of misogyny, can’t let anyone off the hook, now, you hear?! Realism! Sorry guys, according to Martin, no matter who you are, in a gritty real world you ALL would hate women on some level. Face the music.). I liked stupid noble Ned, I liked special snowflake Jon Snow (who hasn’t objectified any women yet, but the boy is young), and my girl Arya (who a friend sadly spoiled for me will not always be good and awesome. Thanks a lot, George! I appreciate the REALISM of no one ever not eventually sucking). But with how the females' plots seem to go, the day Arya gets raped is the day I throw the book straight into the fireplace. This would have to happen in book 2 because so far it’s the only other book I plan on reading since I already bought it.
You know what I also could have done with less of? Effing descriptions. I can't tell you how many times I found my eyes drifting over entire paragraphs because I knew the bloated descriptions were not crucial in the slightest. I hear it only gets worse as the books go on. Here’s a quote from a reviewer describing book 2, that could have been written about book 1: “The superfluous naming goes from amusing (now we get to know the names of everyone's boat and/or horse as well as their house, family, and sword) to confusing. Any chapter that involves warfare becomes a rolodex of characters we've never heard of killing or capturing other characters who might have had a single line. This book is filled with unnecessary tedium. You will always know what each main character eats and wears every chapter. After the third ten course feast and seventh jewel-encrusted sable-lined tunic it all runs together; and it runs together for almost 1000 pages.”
And to finish, one more fantastic quote from Keely: “Like all authors, Martin begins by producing plot arcs that grow and change, providing tension and goals for his characters. Normally, when such arcs come to a close, the author must use all the force of his writing to deal with themes and answer questions, providing a satisfying conclusion to a promising idea that his readers have watched grow.
Or you could just kill off the character central to the conflict and bury the plot arc with him. That way, you never have to worry about closure, you can just hook your readers by crafting a new arc from the chaos caused by the dissolution of that arc. Start to make the reader believe that things might get better, to believe in a character, then wave your arms in distraction, then yell and point, 'look at that terrible thing, over there!', and hope your audience becomes so caught up in worrying about this new problem that they forget that the old one never actually resolved.
By chaining these false endings together, you can create a perpetual state of tension which never requires solution, and so, the author will never have to do the hard work of finishing what they started.”
So, thanks a lot universe for recommending this "FLAWLESS SERIES" to me!!!!!
I read this book for two reasons: 1) I had just finished my 10th book in a row that dealt with heavy themes of war and death, and I knew I wanted some...more I read this book for two reasons: 1) I had just finished my 10th book in a row that dealt with heavy themes of war and death, and I knew I wanted something light, something fun and cozy and happily ever after. 2) I chose this book specifically because it was #2 on this list, and I trusted the list-maker’s judgment (I mean, two of my favorite fairytale retellings were listed as #1 and #3 (Ella Enchanted, of course, being one of the best books ever written and don’t you dare try and convince my 5th grade soul otherwise)).
Am I glad I took such a chance? Was it worth all of the book-smuggling I did in public? The cover-hiding I attempted so I could maintain cred? Awww, of course it was!
I’m a sucker for enchanting, romantic, adventurous, and charming fairytales. I crave heroines who grow and take action and create their own destinies. I adore heroes who are strong and selfless and brave and who fall for the heroine because she is a true partner in every way. These stories are rare, and I have found myself reading embarrassingly cheesy trash with one-dimensional characters, because I can’t get my hands on the good stuff.
This is the good stuff. Shannon Hale took an oft-neglected Grimm fairytale, nurtured it, and made it breathe from its very pages. Gail Carson Levine took Cinderella, who many see as a push-over saint who falls in love too easily, and transformed her into a vivacious, quick-witted heroine who has a curse to break and a life to live! Hale works the same magic here, she takes the “Goose Girl” (who seems so meek and easy to control and silence in fairytales) and paints her as a sheltered young girl with an eager mind who finds an inner strength she once knew but somehow lost.
Hale’s gorgeous, evocative language really makes her world come alive, but there were a few times I thought it was a bit overdone. The story took its time which I found refreshing since it seems every other book these days ends all chapters with cliffhangers, but the pace might still be improved upon without adding any unnecessary “action.”
And regarding the romance, yes, it was lovely. Ani and Geric might be the most adorable, awkward, perfect couple ever. (It was so nice to see awkward for a change! Not all guys are smooth operators, and not all girls know how to bat their lashes with ~come hither~ looks!)(But I wanted to see more of Geric, there was far too little of him). And when the inevitable /conflict/ happens between the lovers, Ani’s world doesn’t fall apart, she gets mad and she gets focused and she chooses to deal with the bigger issues at hand, like, the start of a possible war on her homeland. She doesn’t go off sulking and crying about her world ending like some people do when they get faux dumped…
There were lovable side characters, humorous escapades, dastardly deeds, evil plots, swordfights, enough animal and nature love to satisfy the most passionate hippie… This book was about the power of language, the strength that comes with friendship and loyalty, and the importance of working with fate, not fighting it, in order to learn from it and come to one's own.
A favorite quote that demonstrates the beauty of this story: “And when you get tired of worrying and mourning your horse and trying not to be afraid, tell me and I'll do it for you a while so you can shut your eyes and sleep peaceful.” (Doesn't that just break your heart in a good way?)
Alright, I’m off to finish the sequel, actually told from the perspective of one of the secondary characters, Enna, who is fierce and fabulous and hilarious! Too bad the cover is so atrocious. (I honestly couldn't look the cashier in the eye while purchasing it. Like, hey!, how did this get in here? Kids. Stuffing cheesy books in your purchases. What can you do?) (less)
This Cabal sequel did not fail in making me want to quote every line (much like the first). The writing is so perfect I almost want to fault it for th...more This Cabal sequel did not fail in making me want to quote every line (much like the first). The writing is so perfect I almost want to fault it for that.
Cabal is back and he’s got his soul with him (which only factors in occasionally, thank goodness, we don’t want Cabal shedding any tears or feeling for humanity), now if only people would stop trying to murder him!
To be honest, I was expecting this book to best the first and receive 5 stars instead of 4, but alas, it did not. After much deliberation (and deep discussion with a fellow Cabal-lover) I decided it was because that no matter how pitch-perfect I find the humor, or how despicably (and deliciously) Cabal behaves, in the end I don’t find myself emotionally invested in the book itself. That is sometimes the difference between 4 stars (4.5?) and a perfect 5 stars. The hint of emotional depth in the first book (Horst! The ending!) had me excited for more in Detective, but I think there was even less here to be found. (I could be wrong...reread?)
Some praises! Howard definitely turned it around in the female character department. The number of noteworthy male secondary characters in the first novel seems to have switched to a similar number of noteworthy female characters in this one. I nice change, and I’m glad that Howard has it in him for the most part.
Also, after discovering that Howard wrote short stories previously (and currently! Try and find the two or so Cabal shorts floating around the internet somewhere…), the “faults” of the novels make more sense. I found the plot of Detective to drag a little in the middle, but immediately fell in love with the short story that served as the epilogue. The entire opening sequence in Mirkarvia was also brilliant and one of the best openings to a novel I’ve read in awhile.
My dearest wish is that this be not a trilogy but a continuing legacy (Sherlock Holmes if he were a Necromancer of some little infamy and briefly soulless?). One can hope, eh?(less)
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? McKinley redeemed herself in my eyes with this one. She’d lost me with Sunshine (I’m sti...more What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? McKinley redeemed herself in my eyes with this one. She’d lost me with Sunshine (I’m still not entirely sure how), but the part of me that loves Beauty wanted to fight for McKinley’s redemption. And I did. And redemption was had.
McKinley may tell more than she shows (or at least just as much), but she can tell it so beautifully I forgive her for it (with more grace than I show lesser authors). THatC is a richly woven tapestry of fantasy storytelling (an admittedly common praise, but definitely well-deserving).
In many ways this book reminded me of Ella Enchanted—a more high fantasy version, sure, but the charm, the magic, and the fact that the story of a young girl manages to transcend age and sex is all the same. There is a fine line between those “clumsy” Mary-sues who stumble through everything, tossed about and fairly useless (but beautiful!) and still manage to come out on top—and the layered, believable, loveable gals who are a little bit awkward, a little bit unsure of themselves, but always brave, always willing to fight for what they believe in. Aerin trusts in fate and something bigger than herself and rallies her courage beside those people (and animals) whom she loves.
I just wish McKinley chose differently which subplots to elaborate on and which to gloss over (months learning magic and we hardly see a thing?). As a reader, I’m constantly focusing in on details I think will be important later only to feel disappointed or mislead. If only McKinley knew I would gladly read this book again if it were twice as long and I got to see more of what Aerin’s sword training was like or how some of her other little adventures dragon-killing went down. Such a tease…
…and I agree with another reviewer here who thinks Luthe was a fairly pointless addition as a love interest. Reimagining the story with Luthe as a well-meaning, but platonic mage and Aerin as a young woman who simply takes a little longer to discover her love for Tor, might have worked better for me, but who knows. Maybe I just need a reread.
Ok, so if Camelot and Middle Earth had a baby and she was a girl and her name was Joan of Arc and she moved to Arabia…this would be her story. Sounds...more Ok, so if Camelot and Middle Earth had a baby and she was a girl and her name was Joan of Arc and she moved to Arabia…this would be her story. Sounds awesome, right? I think I’m in the minority in that I still like the The Hero and the Crown better, but this one still gets 4 stars so everyone can quit their yapping (if yapping is indeed occurring). I would recommend both books, but THatC should be read first, as it technically occurs first, and I think it had a lot do with how much I ended up liking The Blue Sword.
Now, during the first 2/3 of the TBS I thought I might be giving the book 3 stars, because I kept comparing things like the pace and the heroine with THatC. TBS starts off more slowly, detailed to full capacity with its world-building and history and politics (while wonderful, doesn’t exactly grab me by my literary lapels and send my heart racing). I mean, in comparison, THatC pretty much begins with dragon-killing. THatC, while still incredibly layered, had a much less complex plot which moved the story along more quickly, as well as really beautiful language throughout. The Blue Sword was, I don’t know, not as enchanting at first. HOWEVER, like I said, near the last third of the book I felt a change and the language, the charm, the everything was as perfect as THatC. When I finished the last page I realized I had been slowly falling in love as I read the book and just hadn’t realized it. Love can creep up on you, I guess.
If you look for great characters and rich milieu, McKinley and her works are for you. If you get nerdy over great sentences her work is also for you. A random example that I swooned over:
They grinned at each other, and knew that they were friends, and the knowledge was a relief and a pleasure and a hope to each of them, but for different reasons.
Oh, one more!
Jack thought, I am going to follow this child, to my death perhaps, but I am going to follow her, and be proud of the oppurtunity.
McKinley is a master of the comma. A comma artist. And I'm a fan.
(*EDIT* Oh, and was I the only HP freak who noticed that the heroine's name was Harry and Jack's horse was named Draco, and that at some point there was a sentence like, "Draco stood at Harry's knee"? Yes? I need help...OR!...JK Rowling was a Blue Sword fan.) (less)
I just need to buck down and write my stellar review for The Book of Lost Things to make up for my two “letdown” ratings of the other John Connolly no...more I just need to buck down and write my stellar review for The Book of Lost Things to make up for my two “letdown” ratings of the other John Connolly novels I’ve now read, The Gates included. The problem with The Gates is that it was beyond obvious that Connolly was trying something completely new. Gone was the self-serious tone of Every Dead Thing (and presumably every Charlie Parker novel) and gone was the magic and heartbreak of TBoLT. The Gates is trying very desperately hard to be a Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett imitation, and because of Connolly’s sheer newbie status, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I laughed at times, sure, but an author can’t just randomly adopt a completely different storytelling style and expect it to work on the first try.
I struggled to finish the book, not because it was awful, but because I could be reading Good Omens. You know? But Connolly shouldn’t take offense to that, because aloof British wit is Pratchett’s thing, and I bet he couldn’t write something as beautiful as The Book of Lost Things. (less)
Who knew I was a fan of necromancy? First Johannes Cabal and now Sabriel. Ok, Sabriel is technically an “Abhorsen” and makes sure the Dead stay dead,...more Who knew I was a fan of necromancy? First Johannes Cabal and now Sabriel. Ok, Sabriel is technically an “Abhorsen” and makes sure the Dead stay dead, but the whole morbid notion of it remains the same. (Plus, the whole River Styx-like journey to the afterlife makes this Greek mythology lover get all giddy).
First of all, I love that Sabriel is only as talented as she is because of study and hard work and experience and even she isn’t perfect. Also, the world is very detailed and richly established, and Nix thankfully doesn’t rely on the literary trope of a main character being an outsider that has everything conveniently explained to them (I love you, Harry Potter, but gurl, you clueless). It took me a couple of chapters to fully wrap my head around what the “Charter” was exactly, because Hermione wasn’t there to explain it to me.
In this world, magic can only be tapped into by those who have gone through a certain ritual at birth and even those people only act as vessels for the magic and power itself. However, as most will likely point out, the real treat in this book is the actualization and descriptions of Death. If you’re looking for darkness, subtlety among the fantastic, and a well-done stand-alone novel (seriously, I’ve read book 2, it’s not really necessary), check out this book and get back to me.
This is a really great coming-of-age story. There’s a realism that somehow survives in a world of Dead Hands and magic bells and Charter signs. I can see why it has grown into a classic that works its way on to many people’s “favorites” bookshelves. (less)