My goodness. I whizzed through the first book within a day and couldn't wait to read the next instalment in the series. Yet I approached it w4.5 stars
My goodness. I whizzed through the first book within a day and couldn't wait to read the next instalment in the series. Yet I approached it with trepidation. The second book syndrome is a widely acknowledged and well studied phenomenon. Admittedly, I didn't have to trepidate that long. I finished Unearthly at like 3am, got up at 7 the next day and started reading Hallowed on the train on my way to work. I finished it within a day, at about 2 am last night. I thought I would pass out from exhaustion after the first one. But no. It's official. This book is better than caffeine at keeping me awake.
And guess what. IT WAS BETTER THAN THE FIRST ONE.
Although, I must warn you, this book is all about:
Where the first book was sweet and gentle and oh so romantic, this one was gloomy, emotional and, in some respects, gruelling. Hallowed continues with the coming of age, self-discovery, free will vs. destiny themes but it is also about death and grief and making difficult choices. I felt emotionally drained in the end and yet Ms Hand has managed to make me like all the angst.
At the start of the book Clara is blissfully in love with her boyfriend Tucker as she returns to school for the new academic year. She is worried about failing to fulfil her purpose at the end of the first book and about being found by the Black Wings but, generally, she is happy. The idyll is broken when she starts having visions again and realises that soon someone she cares deeply about will die.
Ms Hand appears to have settled into her writing very well with some wonderful flashes of humour shining through (I didn't notice those so much in the first book). Like here:
"This isn't going to become one of those creepy situations where you show up at all hours of the night to watch me sleep, is it?" he asks playfully. "Every moment I am away from you, I die a little," I say in return. "So that's yes, then."
It's like my own special form of birth control. The full body glow."
Ms Hand continues to make all the smart choices with this series and where her characters do things that appear like genre tropes, she has the grace to laugh at them, like in this little exchange which happens when Tucker catches Clara nearly falling asleep outside his window:
"Hi there," Tucker says brightly, like we're bumping into each other on the street. "Uh, hi". "Nice night for stalking," he observes. "No. I was-" "Get your butt in here, Carrots." I climb awkwardly into his room. He puts on a T-shirt and sits cross-legged on the bed, looking at me. "It's not stalking if you are happy to see me?" I suggest tremulously.
There are so many things I loved about this instalment. I loved the character development. Clara grows up so much in this. We get to know Christian a lot better and, almost despite myself, I grew to like him. Maggie is fabulous in this book. Where she was just a presence and a vehicle in many respects in the first instalment, here we learn her backstory and it is fantastic that she finally becomes a person, a complex character, rather than just a mother. I love the way she busts Clara's butt when the latter sneaks out for the night. The story arch progresses significantly and a lot of new information gradually emerges. Tucker is still the charming irresistible rogue we and Clara fell in love with. Hell, I even loved that the ending turned me inside out.
If I had any criticism, it was that the baddie continues to be somewhat less than terrifying (but I am sure we will learn a lot more about Black Wings in the next book and I will tremble in my boots), the father thing was quite predictable and I wish we saw more of Tucker. We got quite a lot of him in the last book, I know, and it was Christian's turn in the spotlight. But I am biased.
I am definitely buying the next book the minute it comes out. This is going to be a trilogy right? For some reason, I have this tendency to assume everything is a trilogy recently, mistakenly on a few occasions. I am so psyched for January but I don't think I'm worried any more. I am sure now that Cynthia Hand has enough smarts to take this story where it needs to go and make me like it, however she chooses to tie it up.
That's the sound of me flying through the pages of this book. This is going directly onto my "my own personal brand of heroin"Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
That's the sound of me flying through the pages of this book. This is going directly onto my "my own personal brand of heroin" shelf (previously known as my "crack" shelf, I am shaking up my illegal substances). Cause, seriously, I finished this within a day. And I was at work throughout most of it. Now I am looking like a blood drinking vampire, my eyes are so red. 'Cause I stayed up until 3am. Damn you, book, for being so addictive.
I put off reading this for several months. Because religion pisses me off. No, that's not right. The way so many religious authors shove religion down my throat in their books pisses me off. I already get enough of that from the Jahova's witnesses who insist on ringing the doorbell at 9 am every Saturday morning to ask me what I think the purpose of life is. I have not punched them in the face so far. Clearly, I ought to be canonised.
Also, I was lead to understand this was a HEALTHY young adult romance. Huh? What do I want with healthy? My hard on for dysfunctional, stalkery, rapey, unbalanced, damaged etc etc has been drummed into me for years and years and NOW you give me healthy? I wasn't sure I would like healthy. Maybe, healthy is not my thing. I haven't exactly gone for it in my real life. Much. Put me in a roomful of men and I am pretty much guaranteed to sniff out the mentals to crush on.
Also, although I must admit I have come across interesting use of angel lore (Dogma was full of awesome, the brief glimpse at Anhelikos in Lilith Saintcrow's The Devil's Right Hand was intriguing and Daughter of Smoke and Bone is great), generally angels=epic snoozefest in my head. They never interested me much. I know there's supposed to be some amazing mythology behind them and all, but they just don't seem as fun as the Greek gods, to take but one example.
Anywho, this book. This book is about Clara. Not a fan of that name, BTW. Yeah, it's appropriate seeing as it means light and bright and blah blah blah but it still sounds a bit too turn of the 19th century. I don't know anyone named Clara or anyone who has named their kid Clara. Admittedly, I am not part angel, which is what Clara is. She lives in California with her mum Meg and brother Jeff. Being an angel-blood, Clara has wings, can speak any language and is better and more adept at, well, most things than an average human, but otherwise she is your typical teenage girl. Except with a purpose. All angels have a purpose which they must fulfil on this earth and Clara's comes to her in bits and pieces in visions. She sees a boy standing with his back to her in the midst of a forest fire but the specifics of what it is she needs to do elude her.
As more details emerge, Clara determines that the forest in her visions is located in Wyoming, so the whole family relocates to Jackson Hole, which is a real place. I googled it and it is breathtaking. Just look at this:
I can totally see why Ms Hand set it there. If nothing else, she has shown that she is really smart with this book. I wouldn't like to move there, cause I'm a city girl through and through, but it looks fantabulous. The log cabin houses/mansions are also available for viewing on google (if one is into property porn).
In Jackson Hole, Clara makes some new friends, including Wendy (probably the only complete cipher in this book for me, other than she likes horses, I got nothing) and Angela, who is a sassy, clever independent goth chick and poet and meets Christian, the boy from her visions who is magnetic hotness personified (I think the word broody is mentioned, but I didn't get too much of a broody vibe from him so far, perhaps, something to look forward to in the later book) and Tucker, Wendy's twin brother. All the other reviews of this already wax lyrical about how glorious Tucker is. So I'm not going to add much other than to say that he really is, bar a minor episode where he freaks out over Clara's glowing. It is quite clever the way Ms Hand makes Clara and the readers fall for him not because he is the pre-ordained star-crossed lover who we are told and must accept is hotter than the sun or by making the relationship antagonistic to the point of abusiveness because clearly love is all about that but by showing through Tucker's actions, interests and treatment of Clara what a great guy he is and by letting the relationship develop naturally.
I thought this book was great. It was maybe a bit twee at certain moments. I am thinking of the departure for the prom, achieving glory while kissing a boy and the whole power of love thing (the italics are a bit random, just imagine Celine Dion belting out the words, you know you know the tune). But, overall, I enjoyed it. Really really really enjoyed it. The pacing was good, the writing flowed, I didn't feel like anything was being shoved down my throat at any point, the mythology was interesting, the foreshadowing well done, the love triangle wasn't annoying but most of all I loved loved loved the characters. The cast was diverse and rounded and believable and I had no trouble at all locating my inner teenager to care for and sympathise with them. A great read and I can't wait to find out what happens next. ...more
The Dante Valentine hunting season is open an all bets are off.
Throughout this book I wanted nothing so much as to slap someone upside the head. And lThe Dante Valentine hunting season is open an all bets are off.
Throughout this book I wanted nothing so much as to slap someone upside the head. And let me tell you, there were plenty of candidates needing some serious slapping in this book, including the two main characters and the author. Ranting and spoilers ahead.
After Danny and Japhrimel rode off into the sunset at the end of the previous instalment, I was expecting to see lots of hot sex (they did have several months' worth of catching up to do) but mainly I was expecting Japh to do a lot of explaining about what the fuck he made Dante into. Well, guess what? Not so much of the hot sex (it is referred to but it is all fade to black and here they are laying tangled stroking each other's faces scenes) and Japh says no, he is not comfortable talking about Fallen and hedaira. And Danny just accepts that and attempts to do her own research on the subject instead. Now, any sane person would see that there is some serious slapping required right there. He changed her , modified her genes for Christ's sake, without her informed consent might I add, and now he is not comfortable talking about it? Are you fucking kidding me?
It gets worse, though. As soon as the cheesefest idyll of the first few pages is over, it turns out that while he was stewing in the jar for a few months, Japhrimel has become an abusive, controlling, jealous asshole of epic proportions. Being crispy fried does not appear to have done any good to his character. His actions and motivations in this book basically come down to I am stronger, wiser and older so what I say goes. I don't have to discuss anything with you or tell you anything, I just expect you to trust me blindly and do what I say and, if you don't, I will force you. He dangles her by the scruff like a naughty fucking puppy and tells her to fucking obey. And guess what, she does not cut off his balls and feed them to the fucking hellhounds, she pretty much does as he says and apologises.
This, apparently is Dante Valentine's character development. She carries on loving a man who has made it clear that he most definitely does not consider her an equal, who will treat her as an imbecile child and is prepared to use force on her (other than the dangling episode, he does a lot of dragging and restraining throughout). Most of her internal whining (and it is still as repetitive as ever) comes down to he is not telling me things, he wants to leave me, how will I stand it, my heart is breaking, what am I gonna do. And in the end all is forgiven because he didn't agree to kill her and "Everything's going to be all right. He's here."
Way to go there Lilith. Other than, possibly, Charlaine Harris, I don't think I have ever seen an author fuck up her characters this much. You are not writing "Living with the Devil: a frank and unflinching look at abusive relationships", you are writing "The Devil's Right Hand", an urban fantasy with a strong(ish) romance theme. You romanticising this shit is really not fucking on.
Another candidate for slapping is Lucifer himself. For various reasons but mainly because one would expect the Lord of Hell to fucking man up and stop letting all these demons escape from Hell left right and centre or, if and when they do, to deal with it himself, instead of making stupid fucking bargains.
And it is all such a shame. Because in terms of plot and momentum this was much better than the previous book (which is why I gave it two stars rather than one), interesting new characters are introduced and the world building with its mixture of futuristic sci-fi and magic is still pretty good. We travel from Tuscany* and Venice in the Hegemony to freetowns of Prague and Sarajevo, see more of the Nichtrvren and Werecain and learn about other species (Swanhilds, Kobolds and Anhelikos, the latter being particularly fascinating) that inhabit this world, yet all of this is overshadowed by the abusive relationship between the main characters, the repetitive writing and a certain amount of discontinuity from the previous books (e.g. all of a sudden we find out that Doreen was Dante's lover, not just her friend, which, I am pretty sure, was never mentioned in the first book).
* The names of places and languages that Saintcrow uses are all slightly modified, e.g. American is Merican, Italian is Taliano, Tuscany is Toscano, Venice is Venizia and so on. To be honest, I am a bit ambivalent about this. It seems to be done just for the sake of it and I am not sure that place names/language evolve in this way.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, the second was frustrating and this one is just infuriating. I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and drop it. I suspect that I probably won't. I'm more than half way through and I do want to see what happens. I dragged myself through worse books before (this attitude of soldiering on to the end no matter what is completely irrational, I know that, but still can't seem to help myself). What I would really like is for Dante to acquire some POWER so that she can show Japh what's what, cut off his balls and make him eat and re-grow them very slowly and very painfully. Or just put him back into the crispy fried jar for a few years to think about his behaviour. I doubt this will happen, though. ...more
After five books, I find that I no longer like or have any sympathy for either the heroine or the hero and cannot face the thought of another book fulAfter five books, I find that I no longer like or have any sympathy for either the heroine or the hero and cannot face the thought of another book full of sickly sweet soliloquys about how lovely and wonderful Seth is and how cute he looks in his quirky t-shirts with his messy hair, which one might expect from a love-sick pimply teenager but not from a millenia old denizen of hell, for crying out loud. In fact, I could barely drag myself through this last instalment, skipping whole chunks and pages along the way.
The shining beacon of goodness that is Seth never really did it for me (even Dante's style was more of a turn on) but now he has gone from merely pathetic to just plain detestable.
There is no real character development with Georgina. She is pretty, she loves wallowing in misery of the o woe is me variety and she loves Seth but can't help cheating on him from time to time. There is nothing else to her and it doesn't look like there will be. The woman does not learn, despite having lived for millenia and having reapeated the same patterns over and over again the entire time.
Moreover, it has now become pretty obvious where all of this is heading and the big reveal, when it does come, will, I am pretty sure, be somewhat underwhelming, if only for the fact that it is now at least two books overdue.
I am undecided whether to read the last book when it comes out. On the one hand, I am so fed up with Georgina and Seth, that I really don't want to go anywhere near it. On the other hand, having read 5 of the books in the series, I feel I may as well trudge through it just for the sake of completeness so I can draw the curtain on the whole thing (so to speak) never to go back to it again. ...more