This book had a lot of potential that it just didn't live up to. There is so much to satirize about our current political and cultural climate, and ye...moreThis book had a lot of potential that it just didn't live up to. There is so much to satirize about our current political and cultural climate, and yet it never quite hit the mark. And what marks it did hit it hit over and over again, as if it were beating a dead horse. The part that really drove how far from the mark this book had come were an exchange of tweets between various Tafties that fully failed to either be humorous or even really get the feel of tweets. Otherwise, it's a cute, fast read, and a bit of a breath of fresh air in the midst of the election season, if just as vapid and superficial.(less)
After the second book in this series, and its strange dip into actually reading like YA, I was delighted to find a return to the very dark and dour to...moreAfter the second book in this series, and its strange dip into actually reading like YA, I was delighted to find a return to the very dark and dour tone of the first book. Although there were certainly some moments where I wasn't entirely convinced a character might do what they did (when did Will Henry get so damned blood thirsty?), I feel like it still worked in the overall story and well, it -could- happen. The writing more than made up for any of these moments, anyway. If possible, the monsters in this one were even more horrifying than the first and I found myself quite thoroughly disgusted on a number of occasions. But I loved it, and I love this book and I love the writing and the tone and the characters. I love the pacing and the ruminations, the descriptions and the plot. It just all works so well together that any faults it might have feel arbitrary. (less)
I still cannot fathom how this book could possibly be construed as YA. I have a high tolerance for the horrible and even I found myself disgusted and...moreI still cannot fathom how this book could possibly be construed as YA. I have a high tolerance for the horrible and even I found myself disgusted and horrified multiple times. I cannot imagine my younger self reading this and being any less disturbed. The YA protagonist isn't even truly YA - he's writing this story of his earlier life as a much older - and more informed - man.
But branding aside, I was delighted with this book on many levels. The characters were all fatally flawed, but intriguing and three-dimensional enough that I could still identify with them even as they made yet another bad decision. The plot was straight-forward and logical. The writing was exquisite - oftentimes in the same vein as Lovecraft and Poe, i.e. it was verbose but not boringly so. I loved the way it tackled - sometimes quite bluntly - the "morality of the moment." How men could as monstrous as the monsters they hunted.
That said, I felt the tie-in with a certain famous 19th century serial killer was a bit over the top and the most telling that this was intended - at least - to be a YA novel. I thought that character would have been just as strong without the possibility of him also being said famous man, but well. That seems like a small point against the greater writing of this novel.
If you like the grotesque - if you have a solid stomach - if you like studies of character - and if you like monsters, then this is probably a book you'd enjoy. (less)
This was a difficult book to rate. I ended up giving it 3 instead of 2 stars, though, because it really was a fun read and the characters were likeabl...moreThis was a difficult book to rate. I ended up giving it 3 instead of 2 stars, though, because it really was a fun read and the characters were likeable. I had a lot more fun with this than other similar YA books, primarily because the romance wasn't too forced, the concept was a fresher than most in the same genre, the protag's strengths and weaknesses made sense (for the most part), and, well, poisons! Assassins! I like these things. The writing, however, was very weak in several significant ways. One, there were occasional gaps in the narrative, as if someone had pruned too closely and cut out whole paragraphs without bridging the gap. Two, both the dialogue and the pacing read like a first draft. There was a lot of room for refinement and jiggery, a lot of room for making the dialogue actually sound like something someone would say. There were some very melodramatic moments and some plot threads which could have been plumped up - the book certainly wasn't too long, and it would have benefited greatly from even 10k extra words. That said, in the end, the real reason I'm giving this a three instead of a two is because I am leaning towards reading the next book. (less)
This was a delight in so many ways. I went into this book with only the assurance that Jo Walton is a brill writer - having been delighted by Among Ot...moreThis was a delight in so many ways. I went into this book with only the assurance that Jo Walton is a brill writer - having been delighted by Among Others previously - and not at all knowing that this was actually a riff on Victorian-era writing, which is not at all my thing. I'm glad I persevered through the first chapter despite my inclinations, though, because the rest was ridiculously wonderful. It caught the tone just right without becoming overly stuffy and there were so many interesting quirks of dragon society just thrown in without much undue explanation that, while you had enough information to enjoy the story, it left you feeling like there was a deeper and vaster world out there. Excellent writing, thorough characterization, careful choice of words, fun scenes, skillful use of tone, and a perfectly paced plot - this one most definitely won't disappoint.(less)