There have been a few duds in this series before, but this was the first that was actually disappointing. Because let's face it, this is Lothaire andThere have been a few duds in this series before, but this was the first that was actually disappointing. Because let's face it, this is Lothaire and it was his book and it just did not live up to the glimpses of him we got throughout the rest of the series. It was still the same old formula used in the other books in the series, it just didn't really work when applied to Lothaire because I already had certain expectations for his character. And I was expecting more. This was just boring and blah. ...more
Ugh. Cutting my losses on this one. I read to about half way and flicked through the rest but it doesn't seem to get any better. None of it makes sensUgh. Cutting my losses on this one. I read to about half way and flicked through the rest but it doesn't seem to get any better. None of it makes sense. The heroine is a hospital doctor who gets turned into a vampire and one of the first things she gets told to do and does in pretty short order is quit her job. Because people will start noticing that she doesn't age. Ummmm, yeah, but probably not for at least another 10 years or so. She's only 28, FFS. And wouldn't it make sense for her to stay working at the hospital at least for a little bit. You know, easily accessible supply of donor blood (however unethical it would be to steal it) would come in handy. But nooooo, the very first time she needs to feed she goes out and stalks someone and gets herself stabbed and nearly dies. The words "dumb" and "ass" come to mind.
Of course the heroine is so incredible everyone falls in love with her on sight, of course there is a love triange, of course she suddenly acquires mad fighting skillz that come literally out of nowhere (you just need to let go and let your nature take over) and of course there is a blood tie that is used to justify a bunch of inexplicable, illogical and downright despicable behaviour. The heroine's "sire" is a psychotic rapist/murderer and the heroine voluntarily and for no good reason hands herself over to him, allows him to abuse and murder 15 year olds (she even starts to enjoy the view!), develops feelings for said psycho which are not entirely down to the tie (yeah, poor boy, there must have been something to cause him to become like that, it's not his fault) and really, I just couldn't go on reading this bull.
So, another series is over and, I'm afraid to say, for me the ending was just meh. Unfortunately, this appears to be the fate of so many series theseSo, another series is over and, I'm afraid to say, for me the ending was just meh. Unfortunately, this appears to be the fate of so many series these days. The Soookie Stackhouse, Georgina Kincaid and Dante Valentine books all immediately spring to mind. Like the first two of these three, the main problem with the Parasol Protectorate series, I think, is that there just was not enough plot for the five books and the series went on for longer than the author is convincingly able to sustain the storyline.
This last instalment takes place two years after the ending of the previous book with Lord and Lady Maccon still residing in Lord Akeldama's closet. The latter is the legal guardian to Prudence, the infant inconvenience who is now a toddler causing a lot of havoc and keeping Lord Akeldama, all his drones and the majority of the Woolsey werewolf clan on their toes. That is, until Alexia receives a summons from Matakara, Queen of the Alexandria hive and the oldest living vampire and the Maccons, along with the Tunstells and their troupe whom they take along as cover, set out for Egypt where, inevitably, they encounter adversity, mystery and adventure, leading to the series being very neatly wrapped up and tied up with a bow (a very oversize one with pink and turquoise stripes, to fit in with the general atmosphere).
Where with the previous book I was a teensy bit bored, with this one, I was a lot bored. In fact all of the first half of this book was just filler, with the author re-visiting some of the more memorable places and characters from the previous books - the hat shop now run by Biffy, the Woolsey Hive (with notable appearances from Countess Nadasdy and Mabel Dair), the fleeting return of Felicity Loontwill in a flurry of spite, the sudden reappearance of Lady Kingair (in the nude in certain placess, no less!) and a single appearance of Guatve Trouve (to deliver a replacement parasol) to name but a few.
The charm and humour of the earlier books has fizzled to a point where a lot of it read like bad panto tipping over into complete absurdity at several points (yes, I am talking about the hideous trouser ripping episode involving Tunstell and the overabundance of silly names). Most of the book could have been illustrated with images like these:
Not a great visual backdrop.
After the leasurly self-indulgent intro, the actual story and the wrap up were far too rushed and felt desperate and emotionally manipulative. (view spoiler)[Two major caracters die or are on the point of dying only to be miraculously rescued a few pages later, for crying out loud. (hide spoiler)] But the most disappointing thing of all, is that the main mysteries of the books - the Order of the Brass Octopus, the nature of the soulless/soulstealers (what/why/how are they?) etc - remain unanswered pretty much completely, unless you count the fact that Alexia's abilities are discovered to be cancelled out when she is submerged in water (I am not even going to mark it as a spoiler because, really, after five books, that is what we find out?!?).
Having said that, there were a few things that I liked which saved this from being a one star disaster. While I still feel that too many pages were dedicated to it, I did like the relationship between Biffy and Lyall. It was nice to have a homosexual relationship which was genuinely sweet and not reduced to riduculousness. I admire the fact that Alexia stays human and the elegant solution introduced by Carriger to deal with Connall's immortality and that Alexia never descends to the depth of Bella's vanity to obsess about her aging. But the thing I like most of all is the fact that, unlike in the vast majority of urban fantasy and PNR, Alexia remains very much her own person, with her own separate interests, friends and responsibilities and does not immediately turn into a woman-sized appendage of her virile sexy werewolf of a husband, entirely subsumed into his world, beliefs and persona. I can respect that. And I still love certain characters enough (Madame Lefoux and Lord Akeldama please make your way onto the stage) to be content to simply watch them. I almost feel nostalgic already. Almost.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Warning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).
So, for me, this bookWarning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).
So, for me, this book was pretty much just a big pile of unbelievable sprinkled with absurd and a generous helping of awkward inappropriate romance on the side. The heroine, Beatrice (Tris) Prior lives in a world where, following years of war, humanity (or, at least, Chicago, where the heroine resides) divided itself into five factions based on character traits: GryffindorDauntless, RavenclawErudite, HufflepuffAmity, Candour and Abnegation. Each faction lives separately from the others in its own compound/part of the city and embraces and promotes its trait above and beyond everything else. Yes, that is REALLY, the premise.
Apparently, the rational adults in the world of Divergent decided that all the endless war was caused by one specific character trait (cowardice, ignorance, aggression, I can't even remember what the one for Candour was, telling lies, I guess, and selfishness), the only controversy was which one, so they divided themselves based on that opinion and have since all devoted themselves to stamping out the chosen trait by dedicating themselves to its opposite and all war and adversity ceased immediately and unicorns started flying across the sky (hint: not really). Now, I don't think I even have to go into how patently absurd this premise is. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can surely understand that a complex phenomenon such as war cannot and does not have one single identifiable stamp-outable cause, FFS. How can anyone possibly argue that, yep, it is just cowardice alone and nothing else that causes wars, so once we get that under wraps by jumping on and off trains and beating up people who are much weaker than us, world peace will be upon us? Halleluja! Middle East conflict has been solved. Let's divide them all up into Hogwarts houses and hey presto! Peace for all.
And even if you did manage to convince yourself that all war is caused by cowardice/stupidity/whatever. How the hell do you get from that to the assertion that this must mean that everyone has to be brave (unless they are in another faction, in which case they have to be selfless, honest etc, as applicable) AND NOTHING ELSE. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, much? If you think cowardice is the problem then why not get rid of, you know, just cowardice? But nooooo, not in this looney land. Here, if you are brave, you cannot possibly be anything else. Not clever or selfless or peaceful or honest. Because if you are, that would make you normallike so totally rare that there'd even be a special name for you – Divergent – and it would mean you are a total rebel and impossible to control, so immediate extermination for you. Whaaat? SERIOUSLY?
Unless Ms Roth wants us to believe that this world is populated entirely by morons? Which is a possibility, I suppose. They are surrounded by a fence which is locked and guarded from the outside. Perhaps, later books will reveal that this is in fact a colony where the world had sent it's delusional lunatics. That might actually be fun.
And while I am on the subject of that fence. The book is set in Chicago but for all we know nothing else exists on the face of planet Earth. There is no mention of anything outside of the fence. The city appears to be entirely self-governed and self-sufficient. Nothing comes in or out except for some Amity farmers. One has to wonder where they get shit that is not available in Chicago and its immediate surroundings. You know, like maybe oil and gas and coal and rice and sugar and coffee and tea and oh maybe about a gazillion other things. I mean, even assuming it is a harsh post-many-many-years of war austerity, they'd have to get at least some of those things from somewhere, otherwise how would their cars and busses run and houses be heated and I am pretty sure there was mention of coffee. Did the Erudite discover how to photosynthesize this stuff out of thin air? Who knows. For all her aptitude for intelligence, Tris just doesn't seem to be that curious about or interested in anything apart from herself and the immediate minutiae of her life.
Which brings me nicely on to our heroine. Tris may have been an awesome character had Ms Roth taken the time to flesh her out, given her some context, some depth, something. Instead, she is plucked out of a vacuum and is emotionless to a point where she could give Terminator lessons on how to be more robotic. What has Tris been doing up until the point we meet her at the start of the book? She doesn't appear to have any friends or have any emotional attachment towards her family apart from constantly resenting them. What does this girl actually enjoy, if anything, what interests does she have? Yes, I know she is in abnegation but surely she must have done something, thought something, had some interests for 16 years until we meet her. But there is nothing. No little childhood anecdotes, no memories, no nostalgia. Nothing except for what she is doing and feeling right now, right this minute. The only thing we know for definite is that she is not selfless and has not enjoyed being made to appear so. Yet, for someone supposedly intelligent, this appears a pretty poor basis to make a life-altering decision.
In Tris's world, you choose which "house" you want to belong to at 16. You can choose the faction you grew up in or one of the others. To help you decide, you undertake a highly suspect psycho-pop mumbo jumbo of a "test" which is supposed to determine your natural aptitude. However, notwithstanding the result of the test, you can choose whatever faction you wish, it appears.
Apart from this "test", the kids appear to be given no information whatsoever about what joining a particular faction involves, the initiation process, what the people there actually do, the fact that your survival chances are about 50% or that it might be kinda like moving in with these guys for the rest of your life:
You know, little details like that.
If you do choose a faction other than your own, the likelihood is you will never see your friends or family again. But that's nothing to Tris. Friends? She doesn't have any. Family? Family is for snivelling weaklings. Why would she give a shit when she can get tattoos, wear what she likes and jump on and off trains all day long instead. Yeah!
Oh, and that's another thing that bothered me. Given the initiation approach of half of you will die or be kicked out to become factionless to live in a cardboard box under a bridge, how on earth does Dauntless sustain itself? What was it, 10(?) initiates they were going to keep on? Which makes you wonder, with the off the charts mortality rate they must have with their adrenaline junkie mentality, how many Dauntless actually are there? How do they not become extinct?
My sense of disbelief absolutely refused to let itself be suspended and frankly, it is insulting to me as a reader that any author would think I should just swallow this preposterous world. And for the sake of what? An inexplicable, unexplainable, unexplained, flat romance between two emotionally stunted teenagers who appear to be unable to feel anything beyond their inappropriate attraction to each other?
Four (the romantic interest) is the fucking instructor (not literally) of the new initiates so should, really, concentrate on instructing them, instead of getting a boner for one of his students and whisking her off for additional training sessions giving her an unfair advantage over the others. Just a thought.
Four is also a complete cipher. I have no idea who that man/boy is, beyond a possibly abusive childhood, no qualms about hitting on students who look like 12 year olds and badass awesomeness which I am supposed to take purely on trust (hint: after that world-building, I don't have any) there is just a void of… of… well, nothing, really. I couldn't even tell you what he looks like. Or why he likesloves(!!!) Tris. Or why she likesloves(!!!) him back.
So why two stars? I would have given it 1.5 if I could but I can't so I settled on two because it wasn't totally hopeless. The pacing was good, it was nice to have a heroine with intimacy issues rather than one that melts into a pile of goo at the hero's feet (even if this did carry too far into emotionless automaton territory at times). The writing wasn't bad and I didn't detect any particularly offensive themes. Did that make it ok? Let's just say, I don't think I will continue on with the series but I can sorta kinda see how people might like it if they have a better behaved sense of disbelief....more
What Ms. Harris used to do well is tell a light, fun, uncomplicated mystery with some excellent sexual tension between light, fun, uncomplicated charaWhat Ms. Harris used to do well is tell a light, fun, uncomplicated mystery with some excellent sexual tension between light, fun, uncomplicated characters and some light, fun, uncomplicated comedic relief along the way. By now, however, with well over three thousand pages of Sookie spewed out, she has ceased to care anything for her characters or her story and it is painfully obvious in this book. There's no fun left, no mystery and no light at the end of this tunnel. My gripes for this book are legion, so I will just concentrate on those that irritated me the most.
Some are unrecognisable, others brought in pointlessly, some suddenly develop traits that are completely at odds with their character and all are senselessly and wastefully mutilated.
Since when has Eric started acting like a 5 year old having a tantrum? Where has the man who could turn up at a party in pink lycra and still be HOT disappeared to? When has he started taking no for an answer? Where's his charm, sarcasm, smouldering looks, confidence, all the things that made him Eric?
Pam, probably my favourite character of the entire series, had maybe one line where she only just sounded like herself, the "what kind of a husband are you" comment.
Sookie is revealed as a great reader, all of a sudden. Have I missed something before? She has never struck me as a great lover of books. Yet here she is devastated by having to burn damaged books, she reads (!!!!! Have we ever seen her hold, let alone read, a book before? If so, I have no recollection of this) a Nora Roberts book and she can answer most of the questions about writers on a TV show, since she reads a lot.
Alcide, Lily Bard, the Big Bad Sandra Pelt, Hunter, Amelia all make completely pointless appearances.
Oh, the endless moralising. The goodness and the pseudo-Christian pontification of Sookie that is shoved down our throats at every turn. She has always been a prude and a hypocrite but it has grated more than ever in this book. She just does not shut up with moral judgements on everything and everyone around her, yet is completely unable to see how morally suspect her own views and actions are. She does deliberate on whether what she is doing is right at times, I will admit, but she barely scratches the surface with what she actually considers and what she comes up with in terms of her attitudes to other people and their actions is astounding in its hypocrisy.
The WTF moments just kept on rolling in this book. Examples:
• When Immanuel suggests that Pam and Eric are having sex, Sookie is shoked and has to think about it a while. WTF? That should have been a complete no brainer with the whole blood bond thing and her constantly moaning on about how she is never completely alone in her skin whenever Eric is awake. Yet, the reason she dismisses it in the end is that Pam prefers the ladies. Again, WTF?
• The ice pack. Do I need to elaborate? Is that supposed to be sexy? The only words I have are: What. The. Fuck.
• (view spoiler)[The blood bond revocation. So turns out it's a complete piece of piss. All you need is some some string and scissors. What was the big deal? (hide spoiler)]
• Sookie is hugely upset that her hair was burnt in the fire-bombing (she cries about it) and she is told by the emergency hairdresser that he is cutting three inches off which makes tears well up in her eyes. Does she bother to take a look at herself in the mirror when the hairdresser is done? Nope. In fact even the next morning when Sam turns up she has not looked, or not that we hear about. “How’s the hair?” Sam asks (because he can't see for himself, obviously, even though Sookie's right in front of him) but Sookie has gone deaf and doesn't answer. She has looked in the mirror by then, we know that much, but makes no remark about it at all whatsoever. Does she like it, does she hate it, does it feel lighter/strange/surprisingly good? We don't know.
• Amelia's amazing research skills. She manages to identify and provide info pretty fucking pronto when her only search terms were "c.d." and "fairy artefact". And you wouldn't expect Google to turn up much on the subject.
Really really really bad writing
Charlaine Harris is not a great writer. She never was. She is completely incapable of creating an atmosphere or giving any depth or complexity to her characters. However, she has managed to descend to new lows to an almost unprecedented degree. Huge parts are just jumbles of sentences with almost no connection to each other and no sense whatsoever. Here's an example right at the very start, as Sookie goes into the attic:
"When the second story had been added to the original Stackhouse home decades before, the new floor had been divided into bedrooms, but perhaps a third of it had been relegated to storage space after the largest generation of Stackhouses had thinned out. Since Jason and I had come to live with my grandparents after our parents had died, the attic door had been kept locked. Gran hadn’t wanted to clean up after us if we decided the attic was a great place to play. Now I owned the house, and the key was on a ribbon around my neck. There were only three Stackhouse descendants—Jason, me, and my deceased cousin Hadley’s son, a little boy named Hunter."
Does she cart the attic key on a ribbon around her neck all the time? Does she carry all her keys in that manner? Does it give her neck strain? I don't know. It just doesn't seem that anyone would. Why? It's not like she uses it regularly. And if it is only then and not all the time, again, why? Just struck me as bizarre. What does the fact that she owns the house or that there are now only three Stackhouse descendands have to do with clearing with anything in that passage? Etc etc
Then, only one paragraph down, Sookie says: "Cousin Claude and Great-Uncle Dermot stepped in behind me." Who the hell thinks or talks like that? She is not at a cocktail party introducing them. I had completely forgot who on earth Dermot was and did need reminding but that was a really clumsy way of doing so.
Throughout the attic clearing episode there is nothing at all to convey any sort of emotion or give any colour to the scene. She mentions that it is hot but then does nothing to show the heat and sweatiness of the work (bar the mention of shirtless fairies, which is just tacky and hypocritical since they are her relatives and she is later appalled when it is suggested they may not necessarily view her in a strictly non-sexual light). Sookie appears to go through generations worth of stuff accumulated by her family with no emotions whatsoever other than contemplation of their potential value. But then, that's Sookie for you, I suppose.
Unnecessary details all over the place. Sookie thinks about soaking her clothes in Clorox 2, she eats Special K with Equal and 2% milk, and uses other cleaning products the names of which I cannot be bothered to look up. Why do we need to know these things? They do not add anything to the narrative. They do not make it more realistic. They are just bits of irrelevance which jar and irritate. Word space that would have been much better used by adding some much needed atmosphere and depth to the story. Is this product placement? If so, shame on you Ms Harris.
“Do you want us to sleep with you, Niece?” Dermot asked, in the flowery way of the old fae… What is flowery about that sentence? Can anyone enlighten me?
So, will I continue on to the end with this series? I honestly don't know. I have almost completely lost interest in the TV series and that has the added appeal of visual aids in the form of extremely hunky men all over the place (although, I have to say, as hot as Alexander Skarsgard is I absolutely hate the way they dress him in this series, he looks worse than Paquin whom I dislike intensely). My relationship with the books has definitely reached the stage where all the thrill and excitement has gone and everything about them just sets my teeth on edge but I have always been very bad at breaking up. So, who knows. Perhaps, I will finish them off just so I can rant about them. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["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