I was lucky enough to receive a free digital advance copy of this book from the Penguin First to Read program. This was a fantastic fantasy novel setI was lucky enough to receive a free digital advance copy of this book from the Penguin First to Read program. This was a fantastic fantasy novel set in the far northern regions of historical Russia. The geographic location is crucial in this novel because while the family in the story is well-off, everyone in the family and village is endangered during the winter because of the severe isolation and cold. The story starts in the middle of the winter, with an old family nurse telling the four children of the family a fairy tale about the Frost-Demon and the Winter King Karachun, also called Morozko. It is a story reminiscent of Cinderella, with a cruel stepmother who sacrifices her stepdaughter to appease the Lord of Winter. The fairy tale at the beginning foreshadows the events which occur in the remaining portions of the novel. During the opening scene, the main character, Vasilisa (Vasya), has not yet been born. We find out that the mother is pregnant and expects the child to inherit the great powers of her witch mother, including the ability to tame animals, dream the future, and summon rain.
When Vasya is born, her mother dies. After some years, her father travels to the capital to find a new wife and a husband for his oldest daughter. Due to court politics, he is saddled with a well-born but less than mentally stable young wife. Also due to politics, he ends up returning home with a vain but charismatic young priest. The intersection of Vasya, the stepmother, and the priest serve to awaken ancient powers and put the whole community at severe risk with the onset of winter.
The central conflict between this book is between respect for the old household deities from ancient religion and the new one God of Christianity. The step-mother and Vasya both have the ability to see the household demons, which serve as protectors of the hearth, the stable, and their portions of the woods. Vasya views them as parts of nature with both good and bad sides that serve the powerful purpose of protecting humans during difficult times. For the step-mother, they are evil; she sees them but has become somewhat convinced that they are all in her mind. She spends a lot of time in the church, not because she is really very religious, but because it is the only place she can escape the demons. This results in an alliance between the stepmother and the priest trying to stamp out the worship of the old gods, which allows a much greater evil to almost flourish. Vasya ends up working with the Morozko to confront the ancient evil.
There are two quotes which for me sum up the potential for harm in the religious zeal being spread by the priest. On page 108 (pages and quotes are from an ARC), Vasya speaks to the priest: " 'I am only a country girl,' said Vasya. She reached again into the blackberry bush, wary of thorns. 'I have never seen Tsargrad, or angels, or heard the voice of God. But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.'"
On page 139; again, Vasya speaks to the priest: "And it seems to me we did very well before you came, for if we prayed less, we also wept less."
I loved this book because of the combination of the fairy-tale aspects with the religious themes. I also really appreciated the strong characterization and the haziness of the rest of the world. I feel like there are all kinds of interesting political and religious intrigues going on outside the scope of this book. We didn't need them for this story. I can't wait to read about them in the next one.
I finally read this book, which I won through the Goodreads First Reads program almost three years ago. I misplaced the book in a move, and have finalI finally read this book, which I won through the Goodreads First Reads program almost three years ago. I misplaced the book in a move, and have finally found it!
This was a charming book, for a fantasy novel. I see that many readers have marked it as young adult, and it does have an innocent feel. This is the story of a teen rebelling, running away, and growing up (a little bit) as she faces challenges to herself and her father's kingdom.
As an adult, I felt that some of the father-daughter interactions were cringe-inducing and stereotypical, with the mother on the outside as a wise onlooker. It has been to long since I've read the previous Landover books to remember if this is just how the characters are, or if this is how they are in this book because it fits the plot. It took a while for Mistaya's character to grow on me; she was a typical spoiled-brat, thoughtless teenager at the beginning of the book. I found the life lessons that she learned as the plot unfolded a bit unsubtle (like getting hit over the head with a two-by-four) but for a young adult audience, that might be a plus.
As I was reading this book, I felt like the magic kingdom was a cross between Oz and Wonderland. I was also reminded a bit of the The Enchanted Forest Chronicles as well.
I essentially read this book as a stand-alone, since it has been years since I'd read the previous Landover books. I enjoyed it, but from the hints in the story, I am very interested in reading the previous book to learn about the encounters with Nightshade. ...more
This was an interesting story about a small town where citizens had made a compact with death. Two young adults with a personal history discover they'This was an interesting story about a small town where citizens had made a compact with death. Two young adults with a personal history discover they've inherited the roles of undertaker and graveminder. The idea had the potential to get really interesting...the conventions of the town and the hereditary roles would have made a good in-depth exploration of free will and choice, and how much freedom we are willing to exchange for security...unfortunately, the author got caught up in the immature emotional lives of the main characters instead. ...more
This was an ok read. It seemed that the author was trying to write a grown-up version of the Twilight series. Unfortunately, this did not have the samThis was an ok read. It seemed that the author was trying to write a grown-up version of the Twilight series. Unfortunately, this did not have the same "readability" as the Twilight books - it was clunky going sometimes. This story did have a couple of interesting plot points that will probably convince me to read the sequel when it comes out. ...more
I wish I had time to write a real review for this book - it deserves it. This was a nice companion/prequel to Graceling. I finished both books wantingI wish I had time to write a real review for this book - it deserves it. This was a nice companion/prequel to Graceling. I finished both books wanting to know more about the main characters. I'm hoping the two stories will come together in the future. When I read Graceling, I felt that it was a more mature YA book in the way it handled sexual relationships between characters. Fire is even more mature than Graceling. Neither book contain any graphic scenes, and I would have no problems with anyone in the intended teenage audience reading them. I just would not recommend either to precocious preteens. I will probably ask my almost 11 year old daughter to wait a few years to read these books....more
I enjoyed this book, although it was not as mind-bending as Perdido Street Station. It's much smaller in scope and in the complexity of the ideas explI enjoyed this book, although it was not as mind-bending as Perdido Street Station. It's much smaller in scope and in the complexity of the ideas explored. I've been reading quite a few mystery novels lately (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Anne Perry's Charlotte and William Pitt novels) so this one blended in with the rest of my reading. I liked the way the two cities were juxtaposed - it created a situation that reminded me in some ways of the North Korea/South Korea divide. It also made me think of hidden cultures within modern cities - and how much of what you see in any interactions is the facade. The idea of unseeing and unhearing is interesting as well. I would say that in urban and suburban areas that happens in our culture, without the formal divide between the cities in the novel. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was relatively short and quick to read. I was not challenged by the vocabulary as I was in Perdido Street Station. I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Without going into details, I felt like there was a bit of bait and switch going on...I was expecting more complexity in the resolution. To me, it felt somewhat mundane....more
This is the satisfying conclusion to the Abhorsen Trilogy.
In the prologue, Sabriel and Touchstone are victims of an assassination plot in AncelstierrThis is the satisfying conclusion to the Abhorsen Trilogy.
In the prologue, Sabriel and Touchstone are victims of an assassination plot in Ancelstierre. They've been trying to prevent hundreds of thousands of refugees from being sent to the Old Kingdom. The fear is that these refugees will be killed and become undead warriors for the powerful necromancer working in the western part of the Old Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Sameth and Lirael are attempting to rescue Nick from the necromancer Hedge. If that fails, they must prevent the two recently unearthed hemispheres from reaching Ancelstierre to be joined at Nick's Lightning Farm.
This book is fast-paced and exciting; I rushed through it in an afternoon. ...more
This is the sequel to Sabriel and starts nearly 14 years after the events in Sabriel. Lirael is a daughter of the Clayr, a mysterious group of women whThis is the sequel to Sabriel and starts nearly 14 years after the events in Sabriel. Lirael is a daughter of the Clayr, a mysterious group of women whose special powers allow them to see the future. Lirael does not feel like she belongs. She's black-haired and pale-skinned, while her cousins are all blond and tanned. Her mother died mysteriously away from the clan, and she doesn't know who her father is. And most important- she does not yet have the gift of sight. Sameth is a prince of the Old Kingdom, son of Sabriel and Touchstone, and presumably the Abhorson-in-waiting. He feels like he can't do anything right - all he is good at is inventing things. Nick is Sameth's friend from the boarding school in Ancelstierre. He is coming to visit but gets sidetracked by something that's happening in the west of the Old Kingdom.
Lirael and Sameth end up together on a quest to find Nick. Joining them are two free magic constructs - Mogget, the cat from Sabriel, and the Disreputable Dog, a friend Lirael has conjured.
This book is definitely not a stand alone; it ends in the middle of their quest. There is a surprise revelation at the end but it was fairly predictable.
Some of the best parts of this book are the descriptions of Lirael's early life as a librarian with the Clayr. Denied the sight, which would have allowed her to bond with the women around her, she instead develops her abilities as a Charter mage. And did I mention she was a librarian? In the library of the Clayr, this means constant danger from the books and other nasty old things confined in the library. I loved Nix's description of the dangers of being a librarian.
The Disreputable Dog was also a fun character addition.
In the early parts of the book, I was very disappointed at the minor role Sabriel and Touchstone played. I wanted to read more about them. It took some time to learn the new characters and how they fit in with the previous story.
I highly recommend this book, but if you're going to read it, make sure you have Abhorsen as well. You'll want to know the end of the story. ...more