This is one of those books I'd like to call the "Koh-i-noor-of-Young-Adult", because after delving through cow shit of current YA books— there is alwa...moreThis is one of those books I'd like to call the "Koh-i-noor-of-Young-Adult", because after delving through cow shit of current YA books— there is always one that does restore hope inside me despite the Mary Sue heroines, bland/abusive love interests, lack of plot and lack of research when it comes to historical eras in which the book is set in(yes, I'm looking at you Cassandra Clare!)
The story follows the story of Gemma Doyle, a girl who has been brought up in 19th Century British-Ruled India all her life, until the dawning of her 17th birthday when she sees a vision of her mother's death. Traumatised, she is sent back to England and enrolled at Spence— a finishing school for young women where she does not get off to a good start, having been tricked by Felicity's clique and knows that she is being followed by a mysterious young man. but when she comes across a diary of a young girl who died in the fire of the East Wing a few years ago, learns about The Order— a society of women who possessed great power, she forges unlikely friendships with Felicity, Pippa and Ann, and together they discover The Realms— a place of great power but until their astonishment is shadowed by a menace, the same one that killed her mother...
I genuinely loved this book and this series in general. The setting of Victorian London was unique & interesting, thus catching my interest because I consider it to be oene of my favourite historical eras. I applaud Libba Bray for doing her research, the setting was mostly accurate and the dialogue was suited to that time although it can sound a bit forced at times, but nonetheless it was genuine.
I also really liked the concept of The Realms, the previous books I have read about that had the whole realms concept was Evermore which did not go down well for countless reasons. The whole idea of the Realms was really amazing, because it was a combination of a wide range of mythology as well as other fantastastical creatures:— such as the parralel between Pippa and Persephone, as well as the huntress and the Gorgon. It's also the place where The Order ruled and contained a great deal of magic. Alternately, exists the Winterlands— where there are corrupted souls and dark creatures which work for Circe, her mother's murderer.
Even though the Winterlands has been depicted of being the 'darker' of the two, the Realms also have an eerie edge to it because the creatures come across as deceitful at times which causes conflict of the good kind. With books I have read before, I never really felt inclined to read on because of lack of conflict but Libba Bray does this flawlessly to create an engaging, edge-of-the-seat plot. This series is not at all predictable and I was genuinely shocked at some of the 'surprises' because you know... they are supposed to cause the reader to be in awe and Libba Bray did this so well.
Another thing I adored was the fact that I finally came across a likable heroine— Gemma Doyle had her flaws but she carried herself well and I adored her snarky comments- she had a personality which made her likable. She wasn't infatuated with Kartik, it didn't become her life or anything, yes— it was a little weakness at times but it didn't ruin her character and that's the kind of heroines that I want. I also loved how the romance between Gemma/Kartik was not the main aspect of the story but rather a subplot which caused conflict. However my favourite character had to be Felicity, initially I hated her a lot— she was a total bitch but she grew on me- she was eccentric, witty and strong, what I also liked was her complex characterization— she has a dark past which makes me empathise as to why she acts the way she does. It did leave me devastated and I had tears in my eyes at points.
However there were somethings which made me dislike the book at times:—
± Kartik— I didn't hate him, but he was just so shady and untrustworthy so I didn't really feel attracted to him but he did have potential at times when he didn't let his 'fate' overcome his natural self, but his shady nature just seemed to outweigh it so I could never come to like him. I didn't hate him because Gemma wasn't the smitten kitten around him, didn't let him dominate her and their romance wasn't integral to the story.
± Ann— I felt sorry for her being bullied by Felicity's clique of shallow twits and how she longed to fit in, but at times she really did get on my nerves because she let her insecurities get the best of her. Even if she didn't have the high-class background, she shouldn't let that ruin her potential. She didn't strike me as a charismatic character- just one of those background characters. I don't love her but I don't severely dislike her either. She just wasn't anything special.
± Pippa— I. Hate. This. Bitch. So. Fucking. Much. She was such an annoying, shallow twit— she was selfish and was only focused on one thing: finding her prince/knight in shining armour. I didn't see what importance she had in the story, she was just there to be the fool. The whole prince charming thing annoyed me beyond belief. Like are you honestly going to spend every hour of your life desiring a fictional figure? She was so narrow-minded and foolish that I was in disbelief as to why Felicity liked her so much, I whooped in joy when she got bitchslapped by Felicity. I just really did not like how she did something foolish but never ever blamed herself, but rather she took it out on others. I've never seen the whole intrigue of the Felicity/Pippa ship— Felicity does not deserve her, at all. I'll complain about her later because she is the only character that constantly digresses in each book but I don't want to spoill you. However I was having a party when she fucking died, no I didn't feel bad, I was euphoric thinking that she was dead and gone, hopefully burning in hell. Only, to be metaphorically bitchslapped when she appears back in Rebel Angels, all well again, complaining her ass off and being her narcissistic, idiotic self. You're being happy about the fact that people cried at your funeral? Bitch, please spare me such fuckery.
Overall, it was a great book— rich history, great plot, & mostly likable characters. I'll give this a 4.5. (less)
I'm going to review this even though it's not a fresh review but I remember reading it and thoroughly enjoying it. City of Masks, although it doesn't...moreI'm going to review this even though it's not a fresh review but I remember reading it and thoroughly enjoying it. City of Masks, although it doesn't seem like a Young Adult book, is probably one of the best around. There are so many things that I love about this book and it's very rich in terms of plot and setting— it really captures the renaissance feel of Italy— so I have to give Ms. Hoffman praise for doing research properly even though the world in which it's set in is not real, at least there is a sense of realism there.
I'll talk about the concept of Stravaganting, it's a form of time travelling or "wanderer between worlds"- our current world and the alternate universe of renaissance Talia— City of Masks is set in an alternate renaissance setting of Venice, called Bellezza. However, it holds some risks, powerful renaissance families- especially the power hungry Di Chimicis (the equivalent of the Di Medici families) strive to be able to strvagate— our world holds sciences which are a wonderment in Talia— they desire to use our sciences and medicine in order to maintain their power over Talia or even increase it over to the only city in Talia ruled by a woman: Bellezza. Stravanganting is complicated and there are some heavy prices to pay in order to be able to stravagate. In order to Stravagate, the Stravagante must hold an object, a talisman, which is originally from Talia and fall asleep to find them selves travelling between universes.
Lucien Mullholland is undergoing chemotherapy seeing as he is afflicted with cancer and it's so severe to the point where he has to be in bed all day. His father finds a strange red and purple notebook which he gives to Lucien in order to communicate properly because of his sore throatmdash; heavy with fatigue, he falls asleep and wakes up in Bellezza. Here he meets a fellow, powerful stravagante Rodolfo Rossi and Arianna, a girl dressed as a boy in order to become a Duchesssa's mandolier (a gondolier in this world), who saves him from any prying eyes seeing he was standing on top of a bell tower.
I like Lucien as a character, usually most YA heros are a bit off and have no personality, but Lucien didn't strike me as that— he had this charm and down-to-earth ness that made me love him. He was sweet but mentally strong— I prize those traits in a protagonist— especially the interactions that he has with Arianna. The transition between our world and Talia was smoothly done so I wasn't thrown off by trying to figure out which world was Lucien refferng too becase the author makes the setting very distinct.
Another things that I adored was the world-building, seeing as how she created the politics, culture and the country itself- she manages to make it intriguing and enigmatic, all in one. It has it's conspiracies, it has it's corrupt politics and whatnot but I loved it because it was so well done. Talia consists of 12 states, each with a ruling city and a particular appellation to identify the series thus Bellezza being the City of Masks. It has it's little twists, Venice uses gold in the walls but in Talia, it's silver and also Remus won the legendary fight between his brother and thus Talia came into existence instead of Romulus winning the fight and building Rome, which I found quite clever!
I loved the characters, all of them. Arianna definitely holds some potential being a strong and intelligent heroine— I wished she played a somewhat larger role in the other books. She was strongwilled and spirited— seeing as she wanted to dress up as a boy in order to be a mandolier and then prove that women were just as capable to the Duchessa. She holds my heart because she was feisty and fierce and saw through people's bullshit easily— seeing as though the politics are deadly- plus she wanted to abolish the tradition of women in Bellezza having to wear masks once they turn 16.
Silvia, another favourite character and definitely the Head Bitch in Charge, she is a woman who has had many lovers— one of them being Rodolfo Rossi— her confidante. She was definitely devious, cunning and intelligent and I loved the complicated relationship she shares with Arianna and Rodolfo. Same with Rodolfo, he was incredibly wise and a very able Senator and politician, being able to use his knowledge to keep rivals at bay. The chemistry between him and Silvia was evident— the history between that proved that as well as their character interactions.
The plot had a lot of twists and intrigue— especially seeing as the subject is politics and Ms. Hoffman is dealing with Renaissance times but she captures it perfectly, so I have nothing to complain— it's not the best but it was impressive. The ending was bittersweet but all the same I loved it because it was touching.
The writing style was rich so it almost felt real which I have to give credit for again.
Overall, I give this book 4 stars— great characters, great plot and great world-building. (less)
I don't know what to think of this book, because when I first tried to read it about a year ago, I got halfway and didn't really get the hype about th...moreI don't know what to think of this book, because when I first tried to read it about a year ago, I got halfway and didn't really get the hype about the books. When I read it the second time my opinion of it didn't change all that much, there were equally good and bad apsects of the book. Overall, I did think it stood out amongst the YA genre but the plot wasn't anything special other than a few surprises along the line.
A lot of potential lies in the mythology- it is based on real Romanian mythology about 2 races of vampires— one bad- the Strigoi and one good- the Moroi and the human hybrids- the dhampirs who are supposed to protect the good vampires from the evil ones. The variety of races really did intrigue me because it created a whole new world that YA usually never has, the academy itself, the Moroi politics and monarchy system, another pro is the elemental magic that the Moroi possess and the "5th element".
In terms of plot, it was mostly a flatline- the pacing was very slow in the beginning until we got some action in the last couple of chapters. However what I liked was the dark feel around it because usually what YA lacks is an atmosphere of the supernatural, other good parts were definitely but what really put me off was the amount of internal whinging, narcissism that we got from Rose Hathaway.
I don't understand why people call Rose Hathaway a strong, female character- she is not one at all, just because you are a rude bitch that is able to throw a punch or do Kung Fu doesn't make you in anyway an emotionally strong person but rather a physically strong heroine. Jane Eyre is a good example of a strong, female character- but was she one because she could do karate? No. When I read the series, Rose's character definitely goes downhill- her endless flaws are annoying as well as how selfish and hypocritical she is as a person. Her infatuation with Dimitri is unhealthy as she hero-worships and tries to kiss his ass- I've become tired of how many times Rose dearest has repeated the word "badass" and "God" when describing how amazing he is. She is not emotionally strong, at all- she doesn't stand up to Dimitri when he slutshames her and she justs stands there, let's him humilate her and does nothing about it. Whatever happened to a woman being free with her sexuality and standing her own ground at society's double standards? Hmm?
Dimitri on the other hand isn't the God of badassery that Rose makes him out to be, I think I should put him next to Edward Cullen as being one of the most boring love interests ever. He is so very bland, and has no development whatsoever, I fail to understand as to why people think he is an amazing character when he is as shallow as a puddle. Rose rides his dick too hard as well as everyone in the VA!verse- am I supposed to be all starry eyed that he killed Strigoi which is exactly what he's supposed to be doing? He also strikes me off as a dickhead- degrading Rose because she is immature, pushing her away because she is too young for him yet he has no problem checking her body out because her humps bring all the boys to the yard, and almost sleeping with her even though she is 17 and he is 24. Ugh, for fuck's sake is there a statutory rape law in Montana? He is just a sleazy creep who likes to read cowboy novels. The romance between the two is forced and there is no chemistry- more like a telling than showing.
Other characters such as Lissa, Christian, Mason etc, I adored. although Lissa does strike off as a bit weak at first but as the story goes on, she definitely improves- I just wish we saw more of her. Her love interest is a million times more interesting than Dimitri- Christian is charismatic, snarky and mysterious which is why I looked forward to Lissa/Christian interactions because they had a lot of sexual tension and chemistry. Honestly, I'd rather have those two be the centre of the story line than boring russian cowboy and Rose. I've noticed how the secondary characters are a lot more developed than the main ones which was the reason that I kept on reading the rest of the series-otherwise I would have stowed my copy of Vampire Academy away and never look twice at it.
The writing is OK, nothing special- I wanted more description than a simple account. I don't think Ms. Mead has an editor that does their job properly- there were countless grammar errors & typos that did throw me off while reading the book.(less)