But, you know what, nice is right next to this place:
McKenzie Lewis is a shadow reader. She can tWeeeeeeell, this was nice.
And, of course:
But, you know what, nice is right next to this place:
McKenzie Lewis is a shadow reader. She can track Fae by reading the shadows they leave behind when teleporting. And that makes her valuable in a war that's going on between the Court led by king Atroth and the rebels who want to replace the king with another contender for the throne. McKenzie has been reading the shadows for the king and crushing on the king's sword master Kyol Taltrayn for the last 10 years. She is convinced that the rebels are monsters who spread misery and death in their unjustified grab for power and that the Court is made up entirely of goody goodies whose only thought is for the Realm (a separate plane of existence/world which Fae inhabit) and what's best for it. Until, that is, she is kidnapped by the rebels and realisation dawns that things may not be quite so straightforwardly black and white.
This wasn't complete dullsville. I got through the pages fast enough. It was more bland than truly boring.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad. The writing was serviceable, no one was TSTL or made me want to scream with rage, there were no creepy rapist typesthe creepy rapist types were not made into romantic interests, the story plodded along nicely, plenty of action scenes, the world building didn't have any massive holes, sort of interesting side characters.
The love triangle was pretty annoying, though. Mainly because I could barely tell the two love interests apart they were so similar, but that's not the end of the world, usually. I think the main problem was that this just didn't stand out in any way and completely failed to stir my imagination/mind/nether regions. I just didn't care about what was happening or any of the characters. I'll probably still read the sequel but for now, the only memorable thing about this book for me is that the cover should definitely win the rear of the year award. ...more
Have you ever done one of those big 5000+ piece jigsaw puzzles, ones that can take weeks to complete? When we were younger, my sister used to love theHave you ever done one of those big 5000+ piece jigsaw puzzles, ones that can take weeks to complete? When we were younger, my sister used to love them and I inevitably got suckered into helping her, on occasion. It was engrossing but not straight away. It was a bit frustrating and tedious to begin with, and then all of a sudden you'd find that several hours have passed and you've forgotten to eat but you can't stop, you just need to find that one next piece. This is what the experience of reading this book reminded me of. Completing a jigsaw puzzle, except without the helpful picture that is usually provided with a jigsaw to tell you where the various pieces are supposed to fit, so instead you see the picture emerging very slowly bit by bit and you are not quite sure how the various pieces fit together until the very end.
I was a bit apprehensive about the structure to begin with. All this book within a book within a book nonsense just sounded too convoluted and I didn't expect to enjoy the experience. There are, in fact, at least 5 different narrative strands interwoven in this book. There is the story of Iris and Laura Chase, two sisters growing up at the beginning of the 20th century between the two world wars as told by 83 year old Iris. Then there are descriptions of Iris' present life. I was quite surprised by those. I didn't expect to enjoy descriptions of day to day goings on of an old woman, attempting to do laundry, walking to the cemetery and the doughnut shop and reading the scribbles on the walls of public lavatories, yet I did end up enjoying them a great deal because those passages are so dry, so self-deprecatingly hilarious and reveal so much about Iris as a person. There are also extracts from Laura Chase's novel "The Blind Assassin", published posthumously and describing an affair between two lovers meeting in secret and, within that novel, the lurid fantasy/science-fiction story set on planet Zycron, told by the hero to the heroine, of a blind assassin and a mute sacrificial virgin who fall in love. And finally, there are extracts from obituaries and various other newspaper articles concerning the newsworthy events in Iris' life.
I am still ambivalent about whether this complicated structure works better than a more simple straightforward narrative would have. I did find the story a bit too fractured at times but, perhaps, this is a story that can only be told in this way. Perhaps, that's what gives it its punch. We essentially end at about the same place we start. The narrative is circular and the circle is used as a symbol:
"She’s the round O, the zero at the bone. A space that defines itself by not being there at all. That’s why they can’t reach her, lay a finger on her. That’s why they can’t pin anything on her. She has such a good smile, but she doesn’t stand behind it."
The story that Iris tells is the circle of rock and mountains that she imagines surrounding her, the round dome of the fake sky that suffocates her.
The writing is exquisite. I truly believe that this may well be the most beautifully written book I have read, ever. Atwood has an amazing ability to say something really profound in very few words. This is not a book to be raced through just to find out what happens. Don't expect to be able to finish it quickly, you need a bit of patience, time to pause and to think to truly appreciate this book. There were so many passages that I read and re-read so many times just for the sheer pleasure of reading them. And every so often you come across a paragraph that is so startlingly beautiful, it is almost painful.
"Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it’s noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear."
"There’s a lipstick heart on the cement, surrounding four initials. An L connects them: L for Loves. Only those concerned would know whose initials they are—that they’ve been here, that they’ve done this. Proclaiming love, withholding the particulars. Outside the heart, four other letters, like the four points of the compass:
F U C K
The word torn apart, splayed open: the implacable topography of sex."
"When I look in the mirror I see an old woman; or not old, because nobody is allowed to be old any more. Older, then. Sometimes I see an older woman who might look like the grandmother I never knew, or like my own mother, if she’d managed to reach this age. But sometimes I see instead the young girl’s face I once spent so much time rearranging and deploring, drowned and floating just beneath my present face, which seems—especially in the afternoons, with the light on a slant—so loose and transparent I could peel it off like a stocking."
"The French are connoisseurs of sadness, they know all the kinds. This is why they have bidets."
"When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back."
I could go on and on and on.
And then there was Iris. She is so drily amusing and snarky, just the kind of character I usually love. Yet she is so flawed and frustrating at the same time. She seems spineless, she accepts and crumbles. There is no resistance, no spine. Yet, perhaps, this is really a strength rather than a weakness. The strength of grass which bends to the wind and survives where trees are uprooted and destroyed by the hurricane. Does s/he who survives the longest win? Can subsequent actions truly atone for choices and mistakes made? I wonder whether my inability to forgive Iris has to do with the fact that I saw too much of myself in her or the opposite. I don't know. I was never faced with her choices. I would like to think that I would have had the backbone to stand up not just for the people I love but for myself and my own dignity. But would I really? I have pretty much always done what has been expected of me and I do quite often choose the path of least resistance. The only difference is that I grew up in a different time and environment and things that were and are expected of me are quite different to those that were expected of Iris and Laura. When the hero of the Blind Assassin, the novel written by Laura Chase, asks the heroine to leave her home (not quite with him but to wait for him) and she responds with "But I wouldn’t have any money… Where would I live? In some rented room, all by myself?", it is quite easy for me to despise her. But would my own response really have been any different given the same upbringing and social environment? In the end, I don't think Iris really needs our forgiveness. Atonement through the act of writing is not, in my view, what this book is about. It is much more complex than that.
Overall this was a very contemplative and melancholy read. Not easy or quick but very rewarding. A book to fall in love with, word by word and sentence by sentence. Beautifully written, with complex interesting characters, engaging plot and some interesting explorations of the writing process and the motivation behind setting pen to paper. Not for everyone, perhaps, but it is going straight to my favourites shelf. I intend to re-read it when I have a bit more time on my hands as I think it is one of those books that needs to be read more than once. I expect I may even enjoy the second reading more, as I already know what is going to happen and can appreciate the little clues and significant details much better. ...more
What a ride. I have read the entire series in just under three days and probably need a few days to absorb the whole thing properly. Just wanted to joWhat a ride. I have read the entire series in just under three days and probably need a few days to absorb the whole thing properly. Just wanted to jot a few preliminary thoughts down.
The series as a whole was magnificent. Emotional, entertaining, challenging, provoking, gripping. An absolute joy to read. Why have I not come across this one sooner? I'm not really the target YA audience but this is easily on a par with Harry Potter and a million times better than Twilight and I heard of both of those.
I thought the first book had the best structure and pacing and was undoubtedly the best in the series. I raced to the end at breakneck speed and wanted to re-read it pretty much as soon as I was done. The world building was incredible - vivid, realistic and terrifying, it had interesting, likable and engaging characters, non-stop rollercoaster of a plot and the enchanting promise of more great things to come.
In the second book, I was expecting that we would learn more about the different districts and thet Capitol and the history of Panem. In fact one of the gripes I have for the series as a whole is that the political system is not really described in any of the books in any detail. We have President Snow and we have the Peacekeepers and that seems to be the extent of the political system. President Snow is the ultimate baddie here, the Hitler/Stalin of Panem and the peacekeepers are the brute force but he cannot be running the whole country single-handedly. A dictatorship requires a huge political machine to support and enforce it but, other than a single reference at the end of Mockinjay to some people being executed for their crimes in addition to President Snow, we see no description or mention of this. The second book with Katniss and Peeta doing a tour of the districts would have been the perfect opportunity to provide these sorts of details of the world that was so magnificently introduced in the first book and we did get some glimpses but I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with a re-run of the Hunger Games instead. It felt a bit repetitive.
In the third book, Katniss and a lot of the other major characters spend most of their time in a state of complete shell-shock, unconscious and/or recovering from injuries. A lot of the story happens in a daze and I felt not a little dazed and shell-shocked myself by the end of the book. It was still a great book but, for me, not completely satisfying. I had a real problem with the attitude that Katniss had to Peeta's condition and the resolution of their relationship was a complete flop. I wanted to see Katniss realise that she loves Peeta just as deeply as he loves her. I wanted a real punchline to their story with some underlining and exclamation marks. Instead, all I got was Peeta's feelings being wiped away, a couple of sentences where the both "grow back together" and their kids playing together in the meadow. That was a real let down. I was disappointed that Mrs Everdeen and Gale would just fade out of Katniss' life. I can understand the latter but her mum dumping her to go back to 12 alone was just weak. There was no resolution for Haymitch. He simply goes back to drinking and herding geese. Perhaps this is realistic. That some things people never fully recover from. But it irked me nonetheless. What happens to some of the other characters we never even find out. Effie, Johanna, Enobaria? We learn that Annie has a son but nothing else. Also, I am glad that there was no rosy utopia at the end but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the brave new world that Katniss had helped to usher in....more